By: Justicia Shipena
Although Namibia has completely scrapped all other Covid-19 restrictions, the tourism industry remains affected by travel restrictions.
The newly gazetted regulations in terms of travel show that a person may not enter Namibia unless they present a vaccination certificate and a negative PCR test result which is not older than 72 hours calculated from the date that the sample for testing was taken.
The regulations also saw that a de-isolation certificate, not older than three months from the date of discharge from isolation, issued by the health authority in the country of departure, is required.
These regulations are to remain until 15 January 2023.
However, the industry has welcomed the steps taken by the government, with some stating that it’s a step toward opening up the country.
Environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta says the new amendments are acceptable for the industry.
“The restrictions are okay for us as a tourism industry for now. The industry is very happy,” he said.
Shifeta added that Namibia does not want to take any chance, adding that the industry wants to have visitors coming to the country.
“Right now, if all things remain the same, we might reach million travelled visitors in Namibia. We just want to relax the restrictions step by step, but as an industry, we are contained with what is happening now.”
Namibia Wildlife Resort (NWR) spokesperson Nelson Ashipala says anything beyond not opening up the country wouldn’t be a good move.
“It is a welcome message. Eventually, countries are starting to open up. We are seeing good numbers of tourists that can come into the country,” he said.
This, he said, is evident in the number of tourists visiting hotspots across the country, such as Etosha and Sossuvlei.
“We are seeing good results for it. The concept should be we learn to live with this pandemic and continue to monitor the situation.”
Founder of Namibia Travel And Tourism Forum Nrupesh Soni stated that the industry has to cater for everyone and not limit the audience.
“The regulations go back to what it was at the beginning of Covid-19, which was accepted by the travel fraternity. We were used to it, so it was not really of a big problem,” said Soni.
Soni said some airlines still require PCR tests when travelling.
“These new regulations did not impact as much as it created confusion. I think the intention behind this whole amendment was that they make it easier for Namibians to come back, and then next update, they would have done more for tourists,” he adds.
According to him, many European countries have completely opened up, but they still have a lot of Covid-19 cases.
“The uncertainty is there, so as a small country with small industry, I feel we should definitely keep an eye out for it. So far, nobody has complained about the regulations.”
Soni added that the tourism industry’s stance remains in advocating for vaccination.
Meanwhile, the chief executive officer of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN), Gitta Paetzold, argues that Namibia should follow in the steps of South Africa and remove all Covid restrictions.
Last month South Africa scrapped all regulations requiring travellers to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test. Travellers were previously subjected to an antigen test if they hadn’t complied.
“Ideally, moving forward, we should do what South Africa is doing and take away all Covid-19 restrictions,” said Paetzold.
Paetzold paints the amended regulations as a step forward for the industry.
In March this year, President Hage Geingob announced that wearing masks in public and a negative PCR test for vaccinated visitors were no longer required.
Last week Friday, Geingob removed all relating Covid-19 restrictions, and the decision was based on the epidemiological downtrend the country has been experiencing during the current variant.
The government, he had said, will intensify vaccination campaigns to fight new variants that may occur. Despite the removal of restrictions, Geingob had encouraged a continuation of voluntary public health hygiene.