Many Namibia fans from the United Kingdom and other European countries have been cancelling their trip since Friday. Some who were already in the country broke off their tour and tried to fly back as quickly as possible.

The reason is the measures taken by many European countries to restrict travel from southern Africa. South African virologists announced three days ago that they had discovered a new variant of SARS-CoV-2. It is now called omicron. The World Health Organisation (WHO) criticised the restrictions as ineffective and counterproductive.

Quarantine for returnees

The United Kingdom banned all direct flights from southern Africa the day before yesterday. (Update: The ban was lifted from 2 December.) Germany declared South Africa and its neighbors Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Swaziland/Eswatini to be virus variant areas. From midnight yesterday, travellers from these countries are no longer allowed to enter.

German citizens are an exception. They must be quarantined for 14 days, even if they are fully vaccinated or recovered. For citizens of other countries transit is still allowed – in contrast to the regulation last June, which forced returnees from neighboring countries to cancel their return flight with Eurowings and book a different return route.

In its communication on the new Omicron variant, however, the WHO recommended no travel restrictions.

Criticism of the WHO

The WHO’s special envoy for Covid-19, David Nabarro, described border closings as ineffective. The past has shown that viruses and bacteria cannot be stopped this way, Nabarrro says. Countries should rather implement measures such as mask requirements, distance, hygiene and vaccination.

Nabarro also warned of a possible counterproductive effect: the measures that are severely damaging southern Africa, which has already been badly hit, could discourage other countries to timely report newly discovered variants in the future.

Contradictory action

The Namibian travel industry again complained about obviously imbalanced measures in Europe. While travel will be restricted, soccer games and Christmas markets are allowed with tens of thousands of visitors.

It’s indeed a fact that around 300 travelers from Namibia land in Frankfurt per day. Today the incidence in Namibia was 3.0. Germany, on the other hand, reported over 50,000 new infections and an incidence of more than 440.

Airlines continue flights

The Frankfurt office of the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) pointed to the low incidence in Namibia in interviews. In addition, the real risk of infection is very low due to the fact that the majority of tourists are individual travellers who mainly visit the great outdoors.

Eurowings Discover will continue to fly to Namibia five times a week. The parent company Lufthansa made this clear in a press release yesterday. Ethiopean Airlines is also sticking to its five connections a week.

Damage to tourism

Large German tour operators such as TUI, Studiosus and Chamäleon cancelled all trips planned until the end of December, DERTour only until the middle of the month for the time being.

According to a quick survey within the industry in South Africa, the travel restrictions resulted within just three days in cancellations of tours booked for the period from December to March amounting to 1 billion rand (54.8 million euros).

This report will be published, in a slightly modified form, with further news stories on travel and nature in Namibia, in the column “Reise Aktuell” in the print edition of Namibiamagazin no. 4/2021 (in German only).

Information on entry requirements for the UK and other countries can be found on the website of IATA Travel Centre.

Corona Situation in Namibia and countries worldwide