Stench for thanks, South Africa considers the flying bans that countless countries have put in place because of the omikron variant. Those restrictions are unfair, unscientifically substantiated and are going to weaken our already hard-hit economy even further, President Cyril Ramaphosa said last night.
He received acclaim from the World Health Organization (WHO). It praised the speed and transparency of South Africa, where the new corona variant was first established. The anti-country travel restrictions can only help to a limited extent to curb the spread of omikron, said WHO Director of Africa Matshidiso Moeti, “and place a heavy burden on the population”.
South African Ray de Vries from Cape Town shares the frustration of his president. “Some call those entry bans against our country a slap in the face, but I call it a kick in the stomach.” The 61-year-old South African and his 52-year-old Dutch wife Linda are two of the millions of people in the country who are financially dependent on the tourism sector.
De Vries produces and supplies water to hotels and restaurants, his wife rents out accommodations. After the dramatic expiration of 2020, they had hoped to recoup the losses made this summer, which has almost started there.
But since the end of last week, the cancellation of mainly European tourists has been raining. Before the pandemic, the couple employed about twenty people together. De Vries wonders if one will be left later. “And you have to remember that for every person who gets wages here, twelve people have to live out of it.”
Unemployment in the country is high: more than one in three adults is out of work. “Many people don‘t have financial reserves here, that may be difficult to grasp in Europe,” says doctor Hugo Tempelman from South Africa. According to him, the limit for a family to make ends meet on a single salary, or fall into deep poverty, is thin.
Tempelman works in a clinic where some of the virus samples of the omikron variant are examined. According to him, the new variant is more contagious, but the big question remains to what extent omikron is more sickening.
He expressed his misunderstanding earlier in this video:
Currently, in the country, the number of infections has increased sharply over the past few weeks. “We are on 3,000 registered infections a day at 60 million inhabitants: cause for concern, but not to panic,” Tempelman believes. According to him, no major increase in corona patients is visible in hospitals or in the ICU. Only in the coming weeks will it be clear what impact the new variant has on the hospitals.
The Dutch couple Gert-Jan Stoop (52) and Ingrid Kerssen (42) also feel the blow that the South African tourism industry has to deal with. They have been living in the country since 2016 and now have a bed and breakfast just southeast of Cape Town.
“In no time, all bookings were canceled, about 45 by heart. Yes, it makes you absolutely despondent, but you can’t do anything about it yourself.” He does understand the fear of his customers from Europe. Yet he finds this fuss abroad about the corona situation in South Africa difficult to rhyme with the current corona figures and his experience world. “I don‘t have the idea that a lot of people are walking around here with fear.”
Stoop and his wife can happily fall back on her work as a self-employed person in Cape Town. For entrepreneurs without a plan b, and for the staff who depend on them, will be very exciting in the coming months. “I think the country can’t afford a fourth wave,” says Doctor Tempelman. “Then the economy will be completely shreds.”
Some owners of a tourist company are near despair, says De Vries after a conversation with a friendly restaurant owner. “He had just called for two hours with the owner of a bed and breakfast to tell him the idea of suicide by heart.”