Omicron! Red alert in Europe: ‘major incident’ in London, lockdown in the Netherlands, quarantine barriers around and contact restrictions in Germany. Well then: Merry Christmas.
Here in Namibia, on the other hand, serenity prevails. Although Omicron is already much more dominant. The government decreased the maximum limit for gatherings from 500 to 200 people. And had a million masks distributed – to bus companies that transport thousands of Namibians during the holidays (more). That’s it…
Why the difference? Obviously: In Europe, many more people live in a much smaller space. On average, people are much older. And it’s winter there right now.
Namibia, on the other hand, has summer and vastness to offer. Etosha. Waterberg. Sossusvlei. Naukluft. Kalahari. Places with 7-day incidences tending towards zero. Ideal places for people who want to escape Omicron and the constant stress of changing measures.
It is completely paradoxical, then, that many European countries are sealing themselves off from southern Africa. They should actually rather encourage their citizens to travel to countries like Namibia. Less risk of being infected in the great outdoors. And for the home country every citizen travelling abroad is one less person to whom the virus can spread ;)).
Another paradox: travellers are often treated with hostility as being irresponsible egoists at home. In fact, every vacationer helps countries like Namibia to recover from Corona and travel restrictions. Tourism is personal development aid on equal terms. Unique experiences for travellers, income for people as well as money for nature conservation in the host country.
Maybe Omicron will bring people to their senses a little. By making them realise
• that it is neither the first nor the last virus that makes the rounds worldwide,
• that we have to learn to live with viruses like Corona without barricading ourselves at home,
• that you cannot tell people for years what they have to do and what not to do without plausibly explaining, based on data, that these measures can have the desired effect,
• that a global pandemic cannot be successfully combatted if everyone thinks of nothing but oneself, be it regarding travel regulations or vaccine patents,
• and that it is thanks to Corona to have disclosed many hidden grievances between and within countries.
May Omicron prove to be a mild finale to the Corona pandemic and a transition to an annual flu wave, as virologists have forecasted under reserve.
May it enable countries like Namibia to achieve herd immunity without many fatalities, in a natural way, and without making rich biotechnology companies even richer.
But above all (this selfish wish should be allowed): May Omicron be done with Africa, Europe and the rest of the world by May.
So that from July after three years (!) Namibia can finally experience a reasonably normal high season again without unfair travel restrictions.
For the hundreds of thousands of Namibia fans all over the world. For the tens of thousands of Namibians who live from tourism. And for nature, which tourism helps protect and which is Namibia’s most valuable sustainable export article.
With this in mind, from the zero-incidence area of the Namibian bush, I wish you a contemplative festive season and a new year 2022 that will be coming to its senses.
Sven-Eric Stender, Bush Telegraph Namibia
(2x vaccinated and 1x boosted journalist & content marketer for tourism companies in Namibia)