South Africa has been globally lauded by key COVID-19 experts for handling the pandemic in an effective manner, slowing down infections and implementing various lockdown measures through a risk-adjusted strategy aimed at easing restrictions and opening up the economy and other activities over 5 alert levels.
“It is interesting to me the manner in which South Africa is bringing the disease 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.
When the risk-adjusted strategy was initially 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, a lot of consultative work and focus has been placed on both de-risking the sector and putting health & operational protocols in place for the safety of all tourists and employees. These have been benchmarked against measures being rolled out globally.
Following industry-wide engagements, there has been a commitment by the South African government, led by President Ramaphosa and the private sector, to work towards a phased reopening of the sector, starting at Level 3.
In his recent address to the nation, President Ramaphosa announced that the alert level for the whole country will be lowered from Level 4 to Level 3, with effect from 01 June 2020.
Therefore, domestic tourism has opened for business travel and other limited activities, with partial domestic air travel for business purposes allowed. The movements across the levels (including duration & timelines) are dependent on the trajectory of the pandemic.
Along with global trends, it is expected that in South Africa, domestic tourism and business travel will lead the recovery followed by regional and international (long-haul) travel. It has been noticed that some global destinations are now assessing entering the regional phase of reopening through AirBridge/Travel Bubbles between regional countries.
As more data becomes available and more safety & health measures being put in place in South Africa, the impact of COVID-19 on the country is being updated and refined. It is therefore extremely important to understand that changes do happen on a regular basis. As such, the tourism sector phases of reopening are reviewed and revised regularly and updates are informed from time to time.