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Tourism industry welcomes the repeal of Covid-19 regulations

Hotels and other buildings on the Durban beachfront. File Picture: REUTERS/Rogan Ward/Files

Hotels and other buildings on the Durban beachfront. File Picture: REUTERS/Rogan Ward/Files

Published Jun 23, 2022

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Durban -The tourism industry has welcomed the announcement today by Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla that Covid-19 regulations would be repealed this week, including the wearing of masks indoors, limitations on gatherings and travel into the country.

Dr Jeremy Nel, head of the Infectious Diseases division at Wits University, said that it is the right time to end Covid-19 restrictions.

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“This is what many other countries have already done, and what the Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee recommended to the Department of Health several months ago. Due to both vaccination and previous infections, there is now a high enough degree of immunity in the country that most people are protected from getting a severe infection, although we will probably continue to see lots of mild infections occurring in waves for the foreseeable future.”

Nel added that Covid won’t go away any time soon, possibly ever, and so it’s important to normalise our response to it, now that the worst is over.

“Also, large-scale cloth masks and limitations on public gatherings haven’t made a huge dent in the Covid case load in South Africa. Huge numbers of South Africans have got infected despite them, probably around 90% of the country overall, and 60% just since Omicron started.”

The tourism industry welcomed the ending of Covid-19 restrictions.

Rosemary Anderson, of the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa, said: “We are absolutely thrilled that the government has lifted the restriction of 50%-only capacity in conferences, events, exhibitions, musical events and big stadium events.

“This will really help our industry get back on its feet because we now have clarity and certainties. We can plan in advance, which is exactly what our industry needs. We’ve got lots of work to do to catch up with all the events and conferences that we lost, especially in the international market, but our industry is resilient and we are determined to try to do that. We are absolutely thrilled that we can get on with doing what we do best, which is create jobs and add handsomely to the economy.”

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In a statement from the tourism industry, Guy Stehlik, CEO of BON Hotels, said they were grateful that “sanity” had eventually prevailed.

“The hospitality industry has been the hardest out of every industry in this country. I don’t think there’s any other industry that has been hit harder than us. So many of the rules have been absolutely nonsensical and have cost thousands upon thousands of jobs. We’d like to urge the government to consult with industry stakeholders more widely so that we can offer our perspectives into major decisions that are affecting everyone in our industry and in the country.”

Carol Weaving, managing director of RX Africa (Reed Exhibitions), said that the lifting of the existing restrictions is a “much-needed boost” for both leisure tourism and business tourism live events and exhibitions.

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“The capacity is a commercial issue and it’s affecting all businesses. For us to be able to get back to some sort of normality, which in turn helps feed the economy, is really important. This is a very welcome announcement.”

Jeanneret Momberg, CEO of Visit Stellenbosch, said: “This is such a joyous occasion that we can celebrate the end of restrictions to group gatherings. The MICE industry has really suffered greatly and we are deeply relieved by this decision and we look forward to the opportunities that await.”

THE MERCURY

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