The Southern African Tourism Services Association (Satsa) has rejected the government’s Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers.
Satsa has labeled the government’s continued negative PCR testing requirements as “irrational, incomprehensible and harmful to the rebuilding of South Africa’s tourism industry.”
From current regulationsvaccinated travelers must present a negative PCR test to enter the country.
However, it is recognized that people who have recently recovered from Covid-19 will continue to produce positive PCR test results for weeks to come.
In that case, travelers must apply for an exemption.
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Change on the map – but when?
Last week, Health Secretary Joe Phaahla said: Covid-19 regulations were revisednotably, removing the state of disaster, with findings said to have been presented to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) this week.
Phaahla hinted that travel changes are also being made, but Satsa pointed out that no definite date was given, which the ailing industry†
In February 2021, Statistics SA reported an overall fall in income of 72.7% for the tourist accommodation industry. Housing income decreased by 74.5% year-on-year.
Satsa cited the reasoning of Professor Marc Mendelson, Head of Infectious Diseases and HIV Medicine at the University of Cape Town, Groote Schuur, that there was “no scientific rationale for the PCR testing requirement for inbound travelers”.
“Unless we test every The Vanir-exodus and visitor every three to five days, the PCR testing requirement for travel is meaningless. We don’t have a travel-related surveillance program and we don’t act on it, even if we did,” Mendelson explains.
PCR test requirements ‘unreasonable’
Satsa CEO David Frost said promises were made months ago about a revision of PCR testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers, with no significant updates to the tourism industry.
“As there is no scientific basis for this claim in the first place, we find it unreasonable that the government’s intransigence over this decision has widespread implications for the survival of tourism businesses and, consequently, for the preservation and growth of jobs.” said Frost.
PCR testing requirements only made travel more expensive and uncomfortable, creating perceptions of uncertainty about possible postponements and cancellations if a member of a tour group tested positive, Satsa said.
The association argued that the government has already practical approach internal Covid-19 restrictions, abolishing quarantine requirements for Covid-19 contact cases, discontinuing contact tracing and shortening isolation periods.
Frost says this approach should be extended to the tourism industry regarding PCR testing.
“Our government was rightly outraged by the… Governments’ Reflexive Response to Omicronputting South Africa on red lists overnight without basing the decision on science.
“But when the same compelling evidence is presented, South Africa is moving at an icy pace to lift a requirement that other countries have recognized as completely redundant.”
Frost also said the delay in changing the PCR testing requirements stunk of “double standards.”
“If our neighbours, such as Botswana, who understand their reliance on tourism as an economic sector, remove testing for vaccinated travelers and we still need testing, they will gain a competitive advantage over us as a destination.”
Curated by Nica Richards.