SA tourism and hospitality welcome ‘long overdue’ move to scrap Covid-19 regulations
South Africa’s tourism and hospitality sectors have welcomed recommendations to repeal Covid-19 regulations, citing existing entry limitations and restrictions on gathering sizes as being detrimental to economic recovery.
Mandatory mask-wearing, travel requirements for entry into South Africa, and limited public gatherings could soon fall away if the minister of health’s recommendations are adopted. In a recent letter to the country’s MECs of health, Minister Joe Phaahla pointed to a decline in the number of reported cases, hospitalisations, and deaths – coupled with exiting the fifth wave, which proved to be the weakest since the pandemic started – as reasons to repeal Covid-19 regulations.
And while Cabinet is scheduled to discuss these recommendations before the week is through, South Africa’s tourism and hospitality sectors say that current regulations should be scrapped without any further delay.
The Covid-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions have been especially brutal for tourism and hospitality businesses.
Travel restrictions, particularly those focused on movement to and from South Africa thanks to the country’s scientific discovery of new coronavirus variants, suppressed the country’s tourism sector. It’s estimated that the industry bled close to 500,000 jobs – a third of all people employed within tourism – in the first year of the pandemic alone.
Although the sector is showing signs of recovery, with more international arrivals in the first quarter of 2022 compared to any other time during the pandemic and hotel occupancy rates climbing, it’s a long way off pre-pandemic levels.
The 50% limit on social gatherings has done little to help South Africa’s events industry, which is closely tied to tourism and hospitality. The latest recommendation to repeal these limitations, if adopted, would greatly assist the sector’s recovery, says the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA).
“This is long overdue, considering that the reasons these regulations were instituted in the first place were to reduce pressure on our healthcare system,” said Rosemary Anderson, FEDHASA national chairperson.
“It has been clear for months that not only does Covid no longer threaten to overwhelm our hospitals but that these regulations also have no effect on limiting Covid infections. The phase of the pandemic in which we find ourselves is one that sees us learning to live with Covid like the rest of the world has been doing.”
Dropping the remaining regulations will also go a long way in bringing jobs back to the tourism and hospitality sectors, added Robert More, CEO of MORE Family Collection, which owns and manages private luxury safari lodges and boutique hotels in South Africa.
“With unemployment sitting above 30% and the hospitality being a key player in reducing this, we really need to lift all regs and get back our lives and, more importantly, our livelihoods,” said more.