The fact that the latest variant of the Covid virus, B.1.1.529, was identified in South Africa does not mean it originated here. With our country already back on the red lists of the UK and Israel yesterday, and more likely to follow, the difference seems to have escaped the attention of authorities in those countries.
The fact that the latest variant of the corona virus, B.1.1.529, was identified in South Africa does not mean it originated here.
With our country already back on the red lists of the UK and Israel yesterday, and with more countries likely to follow, the difference seems to have escaped the attention of authorities.
The onus is therefore on local tourism and health authorities to spread the correct information expeditiously, and especially to our largest tourism markets. The discovery of the latest variant, coupled with rising infection numbers here, could not come at a worse time for the country, and the tourism industry in particular.
Still rising from the ashes of the multiple, protracted lockdowns, the industry was anticipating a bumper holiday season.
However, these hopes could be dashed if a fourth wave is declared and travel into, out of and within the country is restricted.
The travel industry has condemned the “knee-jerk” reactions of the UK and Israel, but with the paramount need to protect their own populations, one can hardly blame those countries for taking such drastic steps.
Of particular concern locally is that most of the new infections are in Gauteng, from where millions will soon head to the coast for the holiday season, potentially carrying the virus with them.
Clarity is therefore needed urgently.
One of the most important interventions required to keep our own populace safe, and to spread confidence locally and abroad, is ramping up the vaccination drive.
Less than a third of South Africans have been vaccinated, and with vaccination hesitancy still very much a factor, it is evident the Health Department has failed to launch an effective communication strategy which convinces people to get the free jabs.
The department also needs to take its vaccination drives to where people live and gather in large numbers, instead of hoping they will travel to medical facilities.
We also need to follow the example of other countries which make it difficult for the unvaccinated to move around.
If common sense won’t prevail, then other coercive tactics must be employed.
The Independent on Saturday