Should those who refuse the jab be allowed to fly?
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Almost all the seats on the plane are taken. My anxiety is at its peak, and I find myself sanitising every few minutes. Behind me, a Frenchman asks if I am wearing perfume; he’s clearly irritated that my sanitiser is filling the plane with a strong scent.
Not wanting to upset the passenger, I tone down my sanitiser use and keep my hands away from any nasty surfaces.
It is unclear whether all the passengers are vaccinated, but there is a sense of calm as everyone on the flight has tested negative for Covid-19. Travellers leaving and returning to South Africa will require a negative Covid-19 PCR test.
Still, masks are mandatory as you can never be too careful.
As travel slowly reopens, the debate of whether the unvaccinated should travel abroad continues. Some say it is fine provided they take a PCR test, while others oppose unvaccinated people travelling altogether.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, are urging unvaccinated travellers to delay travel until they are fully vaccinated. And, if they are not fully vaccinated and must travel, they need to get a test 1-3 days before their trip and take another one 3-5 days after travel.
They also recommend travellers stay home and self-quarantine for 7 days after travel, regardless of their Covid-19 status.
The UK has also imposed a few regulations for unvaccinated travellers.
According to www.gov.uk, passengers who aren’t recognised as being fully vaccinated with authorised vaccines and certificates under England’s international travel rules will need to take a pre-departure test, a day 2 and day 8 PCR test.
They also need to self-isolate for 10 days when they return home from a non-red-list country.
South Africa hasn’t yet imposed any restrictions on unvaccinated travellers but does require a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival.
And unvaccinated travellers from South Africa can travel abroad, depending on the requirements of their destination.
Speaking at the International Air Transport Association (Iata) 77th Hybrid Annual General Meeting in Boston this week, Willy Walsh, the organisation’s director-general, says that vaccination is the issue that will cause the African market recovery to lag behind.
“The pandemic will only truly be overcome when vaccines are available worldwide and available to everyone.
“It is one of the reasons why we (Iata) don't want a situation where people cannot travel unless they are vaccinated but they can’t access vaccinations,” he says.
Rosemary Anderson, the national chairperson of hospitality trade association Fedhasa, says some countries implemented their own legislation on who can access big sporting or entertainment events and airline travel.
“This usually comes with the requirement of being fully vaccinated or undertaking a series of PCR tests before and after the event or flight.
“Currently, this seems to be a fair option as it allows anyone who has not vaccinated the opportunity to attend big events, access places of entertainment, dining in public spaces and travel,” she said.
She says some destinations have implemented or are in the process of introducing health or vaccine passports.
“It is becoming part of the norm in many countries to require health or vaccine passports. It is regarded as a form of protection to the general public. It allows these countries’ economic activities to continue with a lesser risk of Covid-19 transmission.
“It will be interesting to see if the Covid-19 vaccine becomes an accepted norm in the future,” adds Anderson.
Otto de Vries, the chief executive of Association of Southern African Travel Agents (Asata), is adamant that anyone who is vaccinated should be free to travel without additional restrictions, including any testing or quarantine.
He believes those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated should provide a negative PCR test when they embark on trips.
“We are pleased that South Africa will be instituting a digital vaccine certificate. We are liaising with the Department of Health to ascertain the extent to which it delivers on the requirements set by our primary markets.
“It is imperative that this certification is aligned with international standards and that the government policy of accepting digital vaccination certificates of inbound travellers similarly be aligned with international best practice. This helps us facilitate smooth and seamless inbound and outbound travel to and from South Africa,” he said.