Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane says that government is hopeful of opening the country’s borders to all countries before the December holidays.
Speaking to EWN, Kubayi-Ngubane said that opening the country for international tourism would be a major boost to the economy – but stressed that government has to balance this with the potential risk of enabling a second wave of Covid-19 infections.
If infections were to climb once again, the tourism sector would lose a lot of jobs and a lot more businesses would go under, she said.
“We do believe that we have a second chance to try and recover – and anything that can happen (with Covid infections) can literally take us backwards.”
Her comments follow warnings from KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala, who said that a return to a hard lockdown is on the cards for South Africa, unless the country sees a decline in the number of daily coronavirus cases.
South Africa’s red list
Kubayi-Ngubane said she was concerned about the impact of the international ban on some European countries due to Covid-19, but noted the problem of opening up the borders to countries that were again entering lockdown.
“We are watching closely at what happens there because from our side we are making progress for a number of countries to be able to come but we are worried about us opening 100% – you win that battle at opening 100%, only to find that other countries are closing.”
Government reassesses the list of countries banned from visiting South Africa every two weeks. The Department of Home Affairs most recently updated its list of high-risk countries which will be restricted from entering South Africa on 19 October.
Under the current system, leisure travellers from high-risk countries will not be permitted to enter the country.
The exception will be business travellers with scarce and critical skills including diplomats, repatriated persons, investors and people participating in professional sporting and, events will undergo the same health protocol screenings.
The previous list of high-risk destination had 60 countries. The latest update carries only 22 with Germany the most notable addition.
The new list as follows:
- United Kingdom
Government’s list has come under scrutiny from the tourism industry and opposition parties who have pointed out that tourism and hospitality sector’s survival is dependent on international leisure travellers in the summer season.
The Western Cape’s minister of finance and economic opportunities, David Maynier, said 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.
“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.”