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South Africa's private-sector tourism body, under the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), is keen on opening international borders of South Africa by September 2020, and will be presenting the appeal at the next Parliamentary Portfolio Committee meeting on 9 June

David ButcherThe strategy in South Africa, since the beginning, was based on preparation, primary prevention, lockdown and enhanced surveillance. (Image source: David Butcher)

TBCSA has been engaging with the tourism recovery strategy, which is currently being developed by South African Tourism. 

The move comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a lowering of the alert level from Level 4 to Level 3 in South Africa, allowing partial domestic air travel.

However, the relaxation of restrictions on movement will depend on the trajectory of the pandemic. South Africa has slowed down the rate of infection by implementing various lockdown measures, including a risk-adjusted strategy which aims at easing restrictions and opening up economic and other activities, with a five-level alertness yardstick.

When the risk-adjusted strategy was introduced in April, the tourism sector was placed at alert Level 1, with some operations permissible at alert level 2. However, over the last few weeks, much consultation and focus has been placed on de-risking the sector and putting health and operational protocols in place for the safety of tourists and employees.

After engaging in an industry-wide discussion, President Ramaphosa and the private sector leaders have agreed to work towards a phased reopening of tourism sector, starting at Level 3. 

“It is interesting to note the manner in which South Africa is bringing COVID-19 under control. The strategy in South Africa was based on preparation, primary prevention, lockdown and enhanced surveillance,” said Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization (WHO), during a press conference in April. 

With the availability of more data, safety and health measures are being upgraded in South Africa, with changes taking place on a regular basis. All updates about the reopening of tourism sector are being reviewed and revised regularly. 

“South Africa is following a risk-adjusted Strategy based on levels of lockdown, not dates. These levels are defined according to relevant epidemiological facts – parts of the travel and tourism sector have been earmarked for return in Levels 2 and 1, depending on their risk profile and the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa. However, we have already seen the inclusion of business travel in Level 3 as a result of successful lobbying for earlier reopening of this critical sector and we are confident that we are in a position to reopen inbound market in a safe and health-focussed manner at least by September,” said Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO TBCSA.