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All hands on deck to fix damage caused by knee-jerk Omicron Covid-19 travel restrictions

Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC, David Maynier said they have been assisting stranded passengers at Cape Town International Airport. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC, David Maynier said they have been assisting stranded passengers at Cape Town International Airport. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Nov 30, 2021

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Cape Town - Several high level meetings are under way in the wake of damaging and knee-jerk travel restrictions implemented by a number of countries and international airlines against South Africa and several other Southern African nations.

Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu convened an urgent meeting on Monday to address SA’s return to the UK’s red list and assess how the private and public sectors could collaborate to mitigate the effects of the travel bans on the tourism sector.

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During a media briefing on Monday, epidemiologist professor Salim Abdool Karim believed that closing borders provided almost no benefits, and already 11 countries were reporting cases of the Omicron variant.

Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC, David Maynier said they have been assisting stranded passengers at Cape Town International Airport.

“We have convened a task team, which meets daily, to monitor the situation at the airport and provide support to airlines and passengers. I have been visiting the airport every evening to engage airline staff and passengers, and to provide support where necessary.

“We have deployed additional staff every evening to assist with transport and accommodation enquiries. And have been regularly contacting representatives from embassies and consulate generals who have been present to lend assistance,” said Maynier.

In a statement released on Monday, DA Western Cape spokesperson Finance, Economic Development, and Tourism Deidré Baartman said while at least 15 countries implemented travel bans risking the recovery of the tourism and hospitality sectors, there remained a strong need for provision of an urgent bailout for the sectors.

“With travel bans in place from the European Union, the UK and the United States, the Western Cape’s biggest markets have been cut off.

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“In 2019, 1.46 million international tourists arrived in the Western Cape with nearly 800 000 visitors from North America and Europe which helped to inject R18.6 billion into the regional economy,” said Baartman.

In his address to the nation on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa severely criticised countries that imposed travel restrictions.

Some of the countries included the United Kingdom, United States, European Union members, Canada, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Japan, Thailand, Seychelles, Brazil and Guatemala, among others.

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