The inability of governments to apply COVID travel regulations consistently – in alignment with one another and based on science-backed evidence – has left our travel industry reeling.
In a desperate attempt to plug the gap, individual sectors of the industry have each tried to come up with solutions. Unfortunately, although commendable, this effort has been disjointed and unco-ordinated, leading to further confusion among travellers.
What we need is for the travel industry to form an international coalition, to lobby governments around the world for the urgent instatement of a global standard of travel during the pandemic. This standard needs to establish an easy and safe way for international travel to reopen without the enforcement of unnecessary regulations that (A) aren’t backed by science, and (B) don’t result in solutions preventing the spread of COVID-19.
For example, multiple countries have banned or restricted travel to and from South Africa on the basis that one of our laboratories was skilled enough to discover a new variant of COVID. The research didn’t indicate that the variant originated in SA, or that only South Africans had been exposed to it. All it showed was how competent our researchers are. In fact, the variant was discovered in 31 countries, post our efforts.
A media frenzy ensued, reporting the finding as the ‘South African Variant’ and this catapulted South Africa to pariah status in COVID terms, prompting governments worldwide to close their borders to travellers from South Africa. Practically overnight, our travel and tourism industry was handed a massive setback. These bans and restrictions had no basis whatsoever in science, so where is the precedent for introducing them?
This is especially since governments already require testing to ensure that a traveller is found COVID-negative before they are allowed to embark on their journey. This test largely indicates whether a traveller is negative, regardless of the strain, and so it would seem rather nonsensical for an added ban or restriction to be put in place to prevent a small COVID-free group of travellers from entering your borders.
On a global level, the travel industry is further faced with governments enforcing different interpretations of COVID regulations; different processes around quarantine and different methods of testing. This needs to stop. Surely we have the science to establish a global norm?
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