Experts say sudden travel restrictions in South Africa over the past week over the Omicron version of the coronavirus have dealt a blow to an already struggling economy. The unemployment rate is approaching half the population and the tourism lost this month will have far-reaching effects beyond the travel sector.
The Hector Petersen Memorial & Museum, located at the center of the apartheid struggle in South Africa, is usually packed with tourists.
Since the recent discovery of the Omicron coronavirus virus, foreign visitors have disappeared. Britain was the first to halt flights to South Africa, with the United States and other countries quickly following suit.
People working in the tourism industry say the panic over the new edition is killing business, just as travel had started in the past two months.
Wayne Barnes is the Sales Manager for MoAfrika Tours.
“When the UK really opened up and took us off the red list, we started seeing growth” [in] Number [of] Travelers from all over the world started supporting us again. So, their decisions are definitely influencing, you know, everyone around the world on their decisions,” he said.
And the decision blinded many.
Barnes said his company lost more than $30,000 for refunds in just one day for canceled December bookings.
Tour guides like Thabang Moleya went from major groups of people over 40 last week to no one to date.
“I’m deeply hurt at the moment, because things were starting to look like we were starting to function normally, which would remind us of life before COVID,” Molya said.
It is not just the tourism industry that is hurting.
The collapse of travel is having an impact on the entire economy, from vehicle suppliers to website developers.
About 47% of South Africans were unemployed in the last quarter, according to government data released this week.
It’s a bleak scenario for parents and earners like Thabang Moleya, who are again facing layoffs.
“At some point, I wanted to come up with an idea of what one could do. Also, it was not easy for anyone to get a job. I am just hoping and believing that one day there will be work again, world Will travel again, ”said Molya.
But economists say the recovery is years away.
And locking down will only slow recovery and make life difficult for the poor.
Davy Rood is the chief economist of the Skilled Group in Pretoria.
“The biggest killer is not a virus or TB, or AIDS or anything, the biggest killer is poverty. It may be necessary for large crowds to gather together and stop things like that. But not necessarily airlines should be stopped from flying and people should be stopped from leaving, stay at home [and] Don’t go to work, or stay home and don’t go to the factory and things like that,” Rood said.
For those who have managed to stick to their jobs, such as Johannesburg tourism ambassador Mbali Nagma, the situation still feels like dementia.
“Previously, you had the thing to wake up in the morning to say I’m going to work, I’m going to see new people, I’m going to meet new people. But because of that, you just wake up and you Sit down and you do nothing,” Ngema said.
Until scientists better understand the Omicron version and politicians change their views on travel, the people of South Africa will have to wait for normal life to return.
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