Ramaphosa to address the nation on the new variant

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President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation this evening at 8pm on developments in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ramaphosa’s address follows meetings of the national coronavirus command council, the president’s coordinating council and cabinet. Speaking to The Witness ahead of the presidents address, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Professor Mosa Moshabela said if people continued adhering to the health precautions in place there would not be any need for a hard lockdown but would be a right thing for government to move the country from the alert level 1.

Meanwhile, those in the tourism sector and ordinary citizens were anxious to hear what Ramaphosa was going say about the latest Covid-19 variant, Omicron. The variant saw South Africa being placed on the red travel list in countries such as the United Kingdom on Friday.  

Moshabela said: “What we are concerned about is whether it (Omicron) is going to behave differently and how much different. That’s the questions we are trying to answer,” he said. “We’ve been here before. This time last year we were in the same situation where a new variant was discovered and we went through processes of learning more about it and we were able to put in place measures to overcome it.”

Moshabela said the new variant did not change the health measures used to deal with Covid-19 so people still needed to get vaccinated. He also dismissed rumours about the vaccines not being effective enough. “The vaccines will work. We just want to be sure that the virus is not going to reduce their effectiveness,” he said.

A broad grouping of associations in the alcohol, consumer, tourism and leisure industries have appealed to the government to change its response to Covid-19 and focus on limiting further economic catastrophe. They said the new variant was the worst nightmare for tourism and the hospitality industry, which desperately need a successful holiday season to begin its recovery from previous rounds of restrictions. 

Vinpro CEO, Rico Bason said the wine sector which is very much linked to both international and domestic tourism has been highly affected by the latest developments. “With unemployment at a record high and many businesses still some way from a tentative recovery, protecting livelihoods to prevent further needless financial distress is critical, said Bason.” He said they called on the government not to compound the damage done by foreign travel restrictions by imposing unjustified restrictions on the local economy.

The group said they’ve called on government should involve them when considering any decisions that would impact the various sectors of the economy stating that sudden announcements with enormous commercial impacts caused unnecessary financial shocks to businesses and their employees. The South African National Parks’  Hapiloe Sello, said tourists from countries that have introduced travel bans to South Africa would not be charged fees or penalties for booking amendments and postponements for a 12 month period from the date of November 26 until travel bans were lifted. She said cancellations due to other reasons outside of travel bans would continue to be subjected to the standard cancellation terms and conditions. “We want to assure our visitors, particularly local travellers that our national parks remain open and quite likely among the safest destinations to travel to,” said Sello

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