Government’s list of high risk countries deals a major blow to South Africa

The risk-based approach regulating international travel released by national government yesterday (30 September 2020) is a major blow for the tourism and hospitality sector in the Western Cape, says the province’s minister of finance and economic opportunities David Maynier.

Maynier said that the tourism and hospitality sector’s survival is dependent on international leisure travellers in the summer season.

For this reason, it is critical that the country looks at smart ways to open our international borders, especially for key source markets, so that it can save jobs and save the economy, he said.

“We will be engaging with the national government and preparing a further submission proposing an alternative to the risk-based approach for international travel.

“We believe firmly that the safety precautions of a 72 hours PCR test and screening protocols should be applied across the board, regardless of purpose of travel and country of origin.”

Maynier said this approach is already adopted by national government with business travellers and so it makes little sense to exclude leisure travellers in this way.

It is unfair to restrict leisure travellers from high-risk countries as there is simply no greater risk of transmission based on the purpose of travel, he said.

“South Africa’s airlines, hospitality and tourism companies have shown that travel and tourism can resume safely and, with stringent health and safety systems in place, it should not be necessary to impose additional country-based travel restrictions.”

Barrier to bookings 

Maynier said that there are also concerns that the two-week review period of the leisure “no-travel list”, together with the requirement that business travellers from high-risk countries email the Department of Home Affairs for permission to travel, will create a barrier to bookings from visitors in traditional key source markets during the critical summer season.

It also does not allow for enough lead time on which airlines can base their decisions to fly, creating further uncertainty for a sector that has already been hard-hit, he said.

“We have worked hard to ensure that Cape Town and the Western Cape is safe for travellers and ready to welcome international visitors, because our leisure travellers from key source markets such as the United Kingdom, United States, Netherlands and France make the most of our favourable exchange rate and have a high spending potential which positively impacts our local economy,” he said.

South Africa opened its international borders for the first time in over six months on Thursday (1 October) as part of the country’s move to a level 1 lockdown.

International Relations and cooperation minister Naledi Pandor said in a media briefing on Wednesday that government has developed a list of high and low-risk countries which will be allowed to travel to and from the country based on World Health Organisation Organisation guidelines over a seven-day period.

The full list of countries can be found here.

Read: Here is the full list of high risk countries that won’t be allowed to visit South Africa

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Government’s list of high risk countries deals a major blow to South Africa