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Tourism sector urges SA to scrap remaining Covid-19 regulations

A woman wears a big smiley face mask in the Cape Town. Image, Henk Kruger, ANA.

A woman wears a big smiley face mask in the Cape Town. Image, Henk Kruger, ANA.

Published Jun 22, 2022

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South Africa’s tourism industry has urged the government to back the Department of Health’s proposal to scrap all remaining Covid-19 restrictions.

This comes after the department recommended the repeal of regulations that were put in place to stem the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, including mask wearing, entry limitations and restrictions on the sizes of gatherings.

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In a letter dated Monday, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla recommended regulations be changed due to a decline in the number of reported Covid-19 cases, the rate of hospitalisations, and a decline in the number of daily deaths.

The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa) yesterday welcomed this development, urging the government not to delay implementing these recommendations.

Fedhasa national chairperson Rosemary Anderson said this was long overdue, considering that these regulations were instituted in the first place to reduce pressure on the healthcare system.

Anderson said while tourist accommodation income was rising steadily, the industry had a long journey ahead to get to levels it enjoyed pre-Covid.

“The hospitality sector was among the hardest hit by regulations put in place during Covid. These regulations have continued to limit normal operations, such as venue capacity, contact tracing, etc, with restrictions of 50 percent capacity still in place,” Anderson said.

“When one considers the catalytic potential of the tourism and hospitality sector to create jobs in areas where this is most needed, we should be doing everything we can to help it get back on its feet swiftly so that it can get back to creating employment.”

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In April, President Cyril Ramaphosa terminated the National State of Disaster in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, certain restrictions were retained such as the wearing of masks indoors, 50 percent of capacity for gatherings, and proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours for international travel.

According to Statistics South Africa, income for the tourist accommodation industry increased 53.4 percent in April 2022 compared with April 2021.

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South Africa recorded 291 new cases with 16 deaths on Monday following 995 new infections and six deaths on Sunday and 960 cases and nine deaths on Saturday.

The business cycle in South Africa continues to show signs of a slowdown afflicted by the effects of the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal in April, in spite of a strong lift in economic activity to pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter.

However, Investec chief economist Annabel Bishop said that May should see the start of recovery from the impact of the floods in KZN, but be suppressed by slowing global demand.

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Bishop said South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) could surprise on the upside this year.

“Inflation figures have surprised on the upside around the globe this year on high food and energy prices, and the upwards interest rate hike cycle is likely to remain in place domestically and in many key economies globally, with increasingly more severe effects on growth as the year progresses,” Bishop said.

“We expect South Africa’s GDP growth above 2.0 percent year-on-year this year, but with the pace of activity slowing in the quarters from the first quarter.”

BUSINESS REPORT

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