KwaZulu-Natal Tourism MEC Ravi Pillay says that they’re concerned about the newly detected coronavirus variant, Omicron, in South Africa ahead of the festive season.

The new variant has triggered a travel ban on the country by some European nations including the UK.

KwaZulu-Natal is a popular festive season holiday destination among local and international travellers.

MEC Ravi Pillay on worries about impact of the new variant on tourism:

Pillay says that they were encouraged by the recent influx of visitors to the province during the Inter-Africa trade conference. He says they are concerned that the new variant will affect the current increase in hotel bookings.

“I think we are more concerned about the reaction of the UK and the European countries in restricting travel. And we had been very encouraged by what we thought was going to be a good recovery, our hotels were for after a long time, were starting to get filled and it was a real boost to our tourism sector. So, we are concerned about the impact on our tourists on an international level.”

Possible lockdown

The Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA) is calling for a direct meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday, amid rumours of a possible lockdown on the cards.

The association says it can’t afford another lockdown as it will financially cripple members and result in massive job losses.

They are calling on President Ramaphosa to meet them so they can outline their plans to facilitate COVID-19 compliance while keeping their doors open.

Rumours of a possible lockdown have been making the rounds, following the detection of a new variant and a rise in COVID-19 infections.

RASA spokesperson Wendy Alberts says they need to keep the economy down.

“The most important thing now is while the numbers are low we need to do everything to keep the economy open. We need to take the pressure of small businesses like restaurants and we need to ensure that we continue not to go into other restrictions and use this time to build the economy and keep people employed and to ensure that as we move through the stage of lockdown we continue to show that we are compliant and do everything we can as an industry to follow through with the protocols as well as the regulations.”

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 technical lead, Maria van Kerkhove, says the Omicron variant contains many mutations.

She says researchers and scientists are studying the variant to understand its behaviour and those mutations.