South Africa minister of tourism, Lindiwe Sisulu, has confirmed the country remains open to tourism despite the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant.
Authorities in the UK temporarily banned flights and reintroduced quarantine for arrivals from a number of destinations in southern Africa in response to the discovery.
Japan, Israel and the European Union have all also moved to impose stricter measures against South African travellers.
The response was branded “disappointing” by officials in South Africa.
Sisulu explained: “While this is most disappointing South Africa will continue working with policy makers in the UK, Japan, Israel and European Union to ensure that the best possible interventions are put in place.
“I would like to commend the South African scientists on their diligence and all the work they have done and remain confident that all measures will be put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus.”
She added: “We remain open for business and tourism travel, and we appreciate the continued support from various partners across the world and are confident that through the tourism recovery plan in place, we will reignite demand and once more be tourism strong.”
South Africa president, Cyril Ramaphosa, earlier condemned travel bans enacted against his country and its neighbours over the new coronavirus variant Omicron.
He said he was “deeply disappointed” by the action, which he described as unjustified, and called for the bans to be urgently lifted.
Omicron has been classed as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Kgomotso Ramothea, acting hub head at South African Tourism for the UK and Ireland added: “The news of South Africa being put back on the UK red list is devastating for the tourism industry which was just beginning to get back on its feet.
“We were starting to make progress in welcoming visitors back to our wonderful country as we headed into the destination’s summer season.
“We respect the UK government’s need for caution around the new variant, however we are disappointed that South Africa will again be missing out on tourism during the peak season this year which will further delay tourism recovery.
“We would urge the UK government to reconsider current managed quarantine rules to ones that will cause minimal disruption to travel plans while ensuring that people are equally as protected.”
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