Covid evolution is at its higher level in South Africa. In the meantime, more and more people are tired about it, saying things they will regret later. Business is slow, tourism is dead, and protests happen everyday. Uncertainty and waiting too long are already leading to despair, bankruptcy and huge unemployement increase. Africa can’t afford to wait and South Africa too. We can let the scientist heal but tourism people need to build the future, inspired by scientists knowledge about Covid and the various mistakes and success made in other countries in the world… Opening SA is not idea, it became an obligation… Now, how can we open ? 10 decision/solutions to open now, safely for SA and South African people, are listed below…
South Africa is communicating every day a very high number of new Covid cases. Meanwhile, the whole country is not working as normal, stuck in that crisis for too long now. Protests happen everyday, unemployment increased and most important, the lack of crisis issues leads to uncertainty, fear and lack of hope ; restaurants, trade, guest houses, hotels, guides, car rental can’t breathe anymore and the consequences could be very high to the people, far worse than the virus. The question is not to choose business against health but how travel business can restart and keep saving lives. According to this the decision to reopen must be made now ! A date must be given now too, as Namibia did by saying 18th September would be the borders openning day. This will allow tourists to make their plans. South Africa being a long haul destination to most travelers, they need to see when they can start again to travel and start booking their trip. I would recommend a reopening on 18th September the latest. But it needs to be said now.
In Europe, unconsistency (and unilateralism) in governments decisions led to a big mess this summer. Open, close, test, no test etc… this inconsistency led to worry travelers and to discourage them. Inspired by the various decisions made worldwide, we could recommend to ask traveler to provide a test made 72h before arrival for people coming from outside Southern Africa. It must not be the same if foreign travelers come from a southern african country… not manageable (see point 7). The test before the travel in such a short time can be an issue in some countries ; Authorities could also organize a Covid test center at the airport in order to provide a test. No quarantine, which would lead to block tourism, but a tracking could be a solution.
This can be considered as an extreme decision but it could reassure authorities (and people). If people work through a DMC based in SA, travelers can easily be voluntarily tracked during their trip. If a test is made at the airport, tracking can start with help of DMC or the traveler himself in order to contact him directly and quickly if a case happens (which will not happen much if airport rules are respected). This decision is not really necessary but politically unavoidable.
In SA where Covid is very much around, wearing a mask is very much necessary… according to the information I got, this is not only a matter of money, area, but this is an everyone subject. This is important and generally agreed that wearing a mask is one of the best way to prevent from the virus ; all places inside and all crowded places outside must ask to wear a mask… as an obligation. Hydroalcoholic gel must be provided at the entrance of each place, shop etc. Every place, even outside, where there are too many people (like Waterfront Capetown for example), wearing a mask is a must do.
As an other solution, keeping social distance is also key. In the cities, restaurants must reopen, keep tables outside and use less tables inside ; All shops must have a limit of people inside as well as all inside shops (and offices). In bush lodges, it also means less people in the 4X4 car during game drives. For guided tours in the cities, it also means the same. I am not sure about bus tours which are big and closed, but if people wear a mask, windows opened, and gel available… but this kind of tours will be tough. I would recommend tours for only 1 party at a time (which some lodges already applied). We also have to consider that tourism will be very low and lodges will hardly be full.
It already exists in SA and is available for all businesses. Helped by other countries experiences, it is efficient and not that difficult to implement. It is work and cost, it also involves management and consistency, training and explaining this to staff… which is not nothing. Hotels, restaurants, petrol station, airport, shops etc… everyone can easily adapt its business and get back to « normal » by respecting these protocols.
Don’t follow the example of Europe where each country works apart from the others ; A lot of travelers in SA also travel in other southern african countries ; American and English, the first 2 markets are mostly combining countries. If Southern African countries don’t agree, it will block all of them from a restart. For example, if a foreign traveler needs to provide a Covid test on arrival In SA, he can travel to Namibia without being asked another test (or they can provide a test on arrival without asking for a quarantine).
It is now admitted that Covid doesn’t hit countries but areas. Blocking travelers from 1 country is then not a solution. A special attention can be given to people coming from « red » area but the same rools applies to everyone. By blocking or opening such or such country, it will create uncertainty and worries. If other rules are respected, everything should be fine ; Today, SA is « red », but tomorrow (the soonest hopefully) it will become « green » again and authorities will be worried about importing new cases from abroad… if the above rules are applied (to all travelers and not only foreigners), it should be fine and pandemic should be under control.
The risk is not the same and we see it in South Africa map. Mostly, Cities are targeted and Covid expansion places. Consistency in respecting the above mentioned rules and regulations must apply everywhere. But we do know that in the bush, the risk will be less. In spite of this, operators, lodges, rangers and guides must be very aware that respecting these rules is key. Rules must be the same in the whole country with no exception.
The real control that rules and laws are respected and applied, is key. Trust and civism are one thing but control must be very intense. We saw that SA government gave a lot of energy to control lockdown or alcohol sales, they could move that energy to expand controls everywhere. It would mean more police control, more people at the airport too in order to prevent from unbearable traffic jam at the custom queue. If control happens, it could also help to prevent part of criminality and improve the police control where it is not (as a bonus); It will also give a feeling of security to everyone, travelers included.
If each of these decisions are made, opening can happen as soon as possible ; If we wait the world to get rid of this virus, it won’t work and the economy (and people) won’t survive ; Hopefully SA reached its peak and will now, slowly but surely decrease ; at the same time, influencers, CEO, ministers, every influent and public person must be examplary and wear a mask… this is a nation fight and challenge… SA can make it, but needs to make it now. #southafricaistravelready won’t only be a # but a reality…