The World Health Organization had begged world leaders not to engage in knee-jerk reactions and warned against imposing travel restrictions when news of Omicron emerged.
This is particularly damaging for the global tourism industry at a time when a bright light of recovery was shining. The World Travel Market in London or IMEX in Las Vegas has just ended successfully. A sense of optimism has sparked new international flights, hotel openings and tourism promotions around the world.
That optimism was dashed in a matter of hours just two days ago, when European countries immediately began banning travel to southern Africa. This was followed by a travel ban on the United States imposed by President Biden.
According to a press release issued by the South African Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, the new strain was first detected in Botswana and then in South Africa.
He has already traveled to Germany, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, brought by passengers on international flights. This one-day virus is no longer an isolated South African problem.
Even though countries, including the UK, responded within hours by closing borders, canceling flights between the UK and South Africa, that couldn’t stop this virus from crossing the world. . It was already in Europe and Hong Kong before the rest of the world even knew it.
New York state, the South American country of Colombia, has declared a health emergency based on this new strain of the virus, although they still have no cases.
This trend to restrict flights to southern Africa now isolates southern Africa, shutting down its travel and tourism industry. As recently as today, Qatar and even Seychelles announced the closure of borders and air links.
Saudi Arabia, however, has just declared that it will allow entry for travelers from all countries, provided they have received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the Kingdom has suspended flights to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini.
The Netherlands and a number of other countries lock in.
Anita Mendiratta, adviser to UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili, wrote this tweet for her boss yesterday, which he posted on his Twitter account:
Experience has shown that a scientific risk-based approach is a way forward: to ensure the safety of people without cutting the lifeline of tourism.
Travel restrictions stigmatize entire countries and regions, endanger jobs and damage confidence. They are the last resort, not a first response.
Obviously, anyone who enjoys traveling or provides travel services must agree with Zurab’s statement made days before an yet to be canceled UNWTO General Assembly in Madrid, but such talk has no solutions. concrete.
The World Tourism Network wishes to propose a new approach, based on scientific rigor, and the objective of keeping travel and tourism functioning.
This recommendation from the WTN comes on top of the organization’s pressure for equal access to the vaccine by all countries and the requirement of vaccination to travel.
There may not be enough vaccines in the United States and Europe, with a refusal rate of 30% or more, when there is an average of only 7% vaccinated in many parts of Africa, and that people are desperately seeking access to that life. -save the vaccine.
A low vaccination rate due to the availability of the vaccine is also true in countries located only a few miles from the US borders, including many countries in the Caribbean.
The Global Tourism Network urges UNWTO, WHO, WTTC, IATA, governments and the travel industry to push for a slightly different way to tackle the problem. WTN believes that this approach would not destroy the vital travel and tourism industry, and allow an optimistic approach for this industry to function and thrive with COVID-19.
Such an approach has worked for some countries, including Israel.
How? ‘Or’ What?
- Before each international flight, a rapid PCR test should be performed at the airport or within 24 hours of departure, even for fully vaccinated individuals.
- Make sure everyone on an international flight is fully immunized.
- Influenca is a type of coronavirus and often cannot be distinguished from COVID-19, causing passengers to get a flu shot, especially during flu season.
A rapid PCR test is a new test method for Covid-19 that was recently approved by the FDA. Rapid PCR tests are an exciting new form of Covid testing because it combines the precision of a PCR test with the rapid turnaround time of a rapid test. These Covid tests typically only take about 15 minutes to provide results.
Rapid PCR tests are an ideal option for anyone who needs accurate results quickly, such as someone who needs results to travel within 15 minutes of departure, or if they have symptoms of Covid-19.
Rapid PCR tests are nasal swab diagnostics. They work by detecting specific genetic material belonging to the virus. PCR tests look for material that is inside the virus at the molecular level, rather than looking for proteins that are on the surface of the virus, as antigen tests do.
The rapid PCR test is expected to become standard within 24 hours of international travel and be available at airports when checking in for an international flight, according to this the new Global Tourism Network recommendation.
With such an approach, the words of the UNWTO Secretary-General to use travel restrictions as a last resort become more realistic.
Without it, each country will pull the emergency brake to protect its citizens. In most cases, it’s too late, even if it’s done in a day or two, or while you’re waiting to understand a new strain.
WTN President Dr Peter Tarlow said:
“We need to learn from this situation. There is no time to panic, we need to use our brains and put this industry, health care and governments on the same page. “
This approach requires enormous effort on all parties. Countries, including Saudi Arabia, have taken the lead in global tourism and invested the money behind great ideas.
Now is the time to invest in implementing a system, making it available anywhere in the world.
This is necessary for all of us to be protected and for travel and tourism to thrive even when new health threats from COVID emerge.