FEDHASA urges Government to lift compulsory vaccination or PCR tests for children 5-12; and to lift the restriction on the number of people at events – which is halting the return of large events and conferences from to SA

FEDHASA has welcomed the lifting of the state of disaster, bringing an end to many of the rules that have burdened the hospitality sector, such as temperature checks and contact tracing, which have proven largely unscientific to stemming the spread of COVID.

Says Rosemary Anderson, National Chair FEDHASA: “The past 750 days have placed an extraordinary burden on South African residents and businesses, not least requirements that were proven months ago to have no effect on limiting COVID infections. We are pleased that these have now been repealed and we can go back to rebuilding our businesses and lives.”

Remaining as a hindrance to this, however, are the issues of gathering sizes and the PCR test requirement for children between the ages of five and 12 years, Anderson says.

“We hope that our industry will receive certainty sooner rather than later with regards to hosting big events as the current restrictions of 50% mean that many of the international events we would host in South Africa would simply not be viable.

“For any medium- to long-term planning to take place and events business to be secured, we need certainty. This is an opportunity for us to position South Africa as a leading meetings, incentives, conferencing and events destination,” Anderson adds.

Further, FEDHASA has reiterated its call for the urgent removal of the PCR test requirement for unvaccinated children between the age of five and 12 years as this is damaging inbound family travel to South Africa as well as hindering South African families from travelling.

The issue, says FEDHASA, lies in the fact that many countries do not offer vaccinations to children between five and 12 years, and neither does South Africa.

“This means even if parents are fully vaccinated, a family with children aged between five and 12 years has no choice but to have to pay for PCR tests, which we know in certain countries like the UK is not only logistically difficult and onerous to obtain, but also expensive. It is also difficult to do this when on a cruise holiday disembarking at one of our South African harbours or when returning from a visiting a remote bush camp either in SA or one of our neighbouring countries,” Anderson explains.

A Department of Sports, Arts and Culture Direction issued on 1 April, outlines that children under the age of 12 are excluded from the vaccination or PCR requirement in terms of “gatherings”.

“Why would we allow unvaccinated children between the ages of five and 12 to attend gatherings without having to furnish a PCR test, but not for entry into South Africa?” Anderson asks.

As we enter a new post-pandemic era, says Anderson, the tourism and hospitality industry understands the importance of meaningful engagement. “We hope that Government sees the benefit thereof and we genuinely want to establish a partnership with Government to develop a plan on how to grow the tourism industry, market the destination and create thousands of new jobs – the tourism industry being a key potential driver of the economy and job creation.

FEDHASA believes South Africa should be making it as easy as possible for travellers to visit South Africa to make up for the massive job losses and lost revenue over the past two years. If job creation is top of mind for the South African Government, all regulations without any scientific base that prohibit the private sector from creating jobs should be removed.

“Government needs to realise that hospitality and tourism are being stymied by government policies, inefficiencies and red tape, such as the slow processing of licences which directly impacts our ability to create jobs. The biggest obstacle to tourism creating new jobs is this,” Anderson concludes.

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