Experts say the reopening of international and regional borders immediately poses no added risks to South Africa. Picture: Maria Tyutina/Pexels
Experts say the reopening of international and regional borders immediately poses no added risks to South Africa. Picture: Maria Tyutina/Pexels

International vs regional travel: Experts say phased reopening ’not logical’

By Travel Reporter Time of article published Sep 15, 2020

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With the announcement of regional travel soon becoming a reality, experts say a phased reopening is “not logical”.

Professor Alex van den Heever, Chair in the field of Social Security Systems Administration and Management Studies at the Wits School of Governance, believes that all borders should be reopened as there are no additional risks posed by an industry that is well organised, has stringent health and hygiene safety protocols in place and operates in low-density settings.

In his view, the risks lie in superspreading events, i.e. large gatherings, where one person infects many. “You typically don’t get superspreading events in tourism provided health protocols are maintained and, to the extent where there are any failures, you address them. You don’t keep an entire industry closed because of some failures. As an economic sector, if the evidence doesn’t indicate that you are a major vector for spreading the disease, you should be open,” he explained.

Tourism specialist, Gillian Saunders said there was no reason to differentiate between a foreign tourist or visitor from an African country compared to an overseas country. “The Covid risk and mitigation measures are the same and the approach to people travelling to South Africa from an African country or from an overseas country should be identical. The new Covid management situation with different behaviours and following protocols applies equally to nationals from any country,” she said.

Van den Heever said if protocols are not working, the industry should change them. “Where things are working, leave them open is the initial approach followed by the government which involved closing by default and opening by exception, has been our big strategic mistake to date.”

“The industry is well prepared and has been geared for some time to manage the situation. It just needs the green light. We are about three months overdue for tourism’s full reopening.”

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