Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, the chief executive officer of TBCSA (Tourism Business Council of South Africa), has written an open letter to the head of EU delegation: South Africa, Riina Kionka.
The letter requests an urgent briefing meeting to discuss the critical issue of the EU travel restrictions on South Africa, which remain in place despite the UK removing SA from its red list last week.
In his letter, he said the travel ban is now less effective in “slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad”.
He said: “While we recognise the rapid introduction of a travel ban was an early necessity to buy governments time to assess the Omicron risk, we are now calling for the EU to reinstate travel between South Africa and your countries on the basis that high infection rates in over 50 countries across the world, mean a person is as likely to catch the Omicron variant in Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels or Paris or as they are in Johannesburg or Cape Town.”
Tshivhengwa said the travel bans “become redundant in the face of this reality”.
He emphasised the need for tourism in the country and how the €16 billion (R285.2bn) national income supported 726 000 direct jobs.
He further motivated that the sector lost €51 million in the first 48 hours due to cancelled international bookings caused by the travel bans.
“We estimate this could increase to €1.4bn if the bans continue, resulting in 205 000 fewer annual jobs supported by the tourism industry.
“While we fully recognise the risk Covid continues to present and the understandable concerns around the transmissibility of Omicron, I would draw your attention to the recent findings from the first real-world assessment of the variant which was published this week by South Africa’s largest private health insurer, Discovery Health in collaboration with the South African Medical Research Council.
“This research revealed that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine continue to confer a 70% protection against severe complications from Omicron and that the risk of hospitalisation among all adults is 29% lower for those with the Omicron variant, compared to the ancestral variant that originated in China.
“Particularly encouraging is that the data indicates that 70% of hospital admissions are unvaccinated and that there are clear signs that hospitalisation rates are not tracking community transmission in the way they did in the previous three waves,” he wrote.