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South Africa trade slams new travel ban

Published:  29 November, 2021

The international communities’ decision to prohibit travel to South Africa will have “significant implications” for the nation's struggling wine and tourism industries, according to oversight body VinPro.

As reported in the BBC, South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa said he was “deeply disappointed” by the action, in a speech he delivered to the nation yesterday (28 November).

News of the travel ban came after the transmissibility of a new Covid-19 variant – B.1.1.529 – was widely covered in the global press last Thursday (25 November). As a result, the UK, EU and US have banned tourists from entering the country.

“This is really a worldwide health emergency, which should be treated as such…we must work together, rather than punish each other. If we’re going to be on a witch-hunt or blame-game, it won’t benefit anybody,” minister of health Dr Joe Phaahla told the South African press last Friday.

“The reaction from some countries in terms of travel bans and other such measures are completely against the norms and standards as guided by the WHO,” he added.

A series of prohibitions on the domestic sale of alcohol, combined with the travel restrictions enforced for most of 2020/21, have severely damaged South Africa’s once thriving hospitality sector.

“The problem is that Covid-19 has exposed existing structural weaknesses in the wine industry,” said Alexander Waibel, owner of Constantia Glen. “A large proportion of the Cape's wine farms have been too reliant on tourism and domestic sales, either lacking the resources – or drive – to build up a reputation in the export markets. The pandemic has forced people to consider the future sustainability of their business model.”

As it stands today, Ramaphosa has refused to impose stricter domestic measures in light of the new variant. However, Vinpro has called upon the government to remain in constant dialogue with the industry, if new measures are to be considered in the future.

“It is extremely important that government consults thoroughly and is informed about the impact that any decisions regarding Covid-19 and possible restrictions may have on the respective sectors, their workforce and communities,” said Vinpro MD Rico Basson.

“In the run-up to the festive season, and in light of a looming fourth Covid-19 wave, we call on Government to take the lead in the country’s response to the Omicron variant at an international level, by intensifying vaccination efforts, ensuring the health system is properly prepared and enforcing strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols such as mask wearing, sanitising and social distancing,” he added.

A representative from Vinpro noted that due to the unilateral travel bans imposed over the past few days, the tourism sector has lost virtually 100% of its lucrative inbound international tourism market overnight.

“Whilst the domestic leisure holiday season is of utmost importance for the survival of our tourism industry, any further negative impacts of restrictions on the domestic tourism industry will be catastrophic to businesses and jobs.”