Speaking at his latest “Family Meeting” (these have become regular occurrences since the start of the pandemic), President Cyril Ramaphosa was very clear that the government is presently engaging with the Coronavirus advisory team on the appointment of a task team to start working on making vaccinations mandatory for all people, for entry into certain activities, facilities and locations.
The South African tourism, hospitality, travel and airline industries and their supply chains were holding their breath as they awaited Ramaphosa’s speech. Since last Friday (November 26) and the announcement of the UK’s high-profile and dramatic reaction to the news of the identification of the Omicron variant in South Africa, a tough lockdown over the festive season, an alcohol ban, a tighter curfew and beach bans have all been rumoured to be on the cards.
But, at this particular meeting, none of that came about. The President kept the lockdown level where it currently is, at Level 1, while sounding a warning that he would review the situation in one week. Referring to raising the level of the lockdown, as had been done in the past, the President said that that sort of restriction was all we had when South Africa did not have vaccines, but now it does, and all South Africans have access to vaccines.
Ramaphosa was unsparing in his criticism of mass gatherings, naming Matric Rage in particular as an example of the type of gathering that should be avoided.
The President also called to account the countries which have banned arrivals from Southern African countries to account, saying he was deeply disappointed. He said these bans were clear and unjustified departures from the declaration at the G20 last month in Rome, in which those countries made a commitment to support the return of tourism across the globe. He called upon those countries which had instituted travel bans against South Africans to immediately and urgently reverse their decisions and lift the bans.