South Africa loosens Covid restrictions to bring back tourism

By Jaysim Hanspal
Posted on Wednesday, 23 March 2022 19:10

South Africa's President gestures during his response to oral questions in the National Assembly, in Cape Town
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa gestures during his response to oral questions in the National Assembly, at the Good Hope Chambers in Cape Town, South Africa, March 17, 2022. Elmond Jiyane/GCIS/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT.

Covid-19 restrictions in South Africa end today as President Cyril Ramaphosa promises the national state of disaster will also soon end.

South Africa announced its first case of Covid-19 on 5 March 2020, and currently has one of the highest numbers on the continent. The country has reached nearly 100,000 deaths and more than 3.7 million infections since the outbreak started in 2020.

The country will now remain on Alert level 1 from today (23 March), the lowest of a five-tier system, with restrictions in place to continue to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Bring back tourists, boost the economy

The move is intended to boost tourism that suffered greatly due to the pandemic as the rate of foreign arrivals to the country dropped by 71% to less than 5 million in 2020, from over 15.8 million in 2019.

Tourism contributed to 6.9% of South Africa’s GDP in 2019, and dropped to nearly half in 2020 to 3.7%.

The president has pushed forward more policies to encourage vaccination:

  • Travellers entering South Africa will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours;
  • All unvaccinated travellers entering the country who want to be vaccinated will be offered a vaccination.

Fitch Solutions forecasts growth in 2022, “driven by favourable base effects wearing off. Over 2022, consumer spending will be supported by the easing of Covid-19 restrictions and the ongoing rollout of vaccines.”

‘We are returning’

In a national address made on 22 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We are returning, as far as possible, to the lives that we lived before the pandemic.”

“It has shattered many livelihoods and devastated our economy, leading to the closure of many businesses and the loss of some two million jobs.”

The loosening of restrictions means that South Africans will no longer have to wear masks outside, with larger gatherings permitted indoors and outdoors, as well as at wakes and weddings.

Drive for the jab

The move to maintain restrictions has received some backlash from the public and anti-vaxxers who accuse the president of forcing their hand to get vaccinated.

 

In an effort to normalise certain activities, Ramaphosa said that both indoor and outdoor venues can now “take up to 50% of their capacity provided that the criteria for entrance are proof of vaccination or a Covid test not older than 72 hours.”

The president also drew attention to the pressure that the pandemic put on South Africa’s health system since it first erupted in 2020.

The country has been hit by four waves of different variants, but levels have been rapidly decreasing in the past few weeks. Covid-19 hospitalisations continue to decline and are now at their lowest levels since the onset of the first wave back in May 2020.

The President attests that this change is due to the fact that “some 60 to 80% of the population has some form of immunity to the virus, either from previous infection or vaccination”.

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