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Third wave cases mount as tourism jobs crash

For the second year running, many of the continent's most popular tourist attractions have been shuttered by the pandemic

While case numbers and deaths from Covid-19 continue to rise across Africa, the devastating costs of the travel restrictions that have been imposed on visitors as a consequence continue to grow (AC Dispatches 02/07/21, Pandemic's third wave batters health services). The economic damage caused by the closure of the tourism economy in Southern and North Africa last year is continuing, perhaps worsening, this year.

Namibia and Tunisia now have the highest number of Covid-19 cases per capita in the world. Along with them, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe reported the highest numbers of new infections.

In the first week of July, 254,000 cases were reported on the continent, a 22% increase compared with the last week of June, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), surpassing the second-wave peak.

According to medical experts, the biggest threat to lives, health services and economic recovery on the continent, is the desperately slow pace of vaccination programmes. Vaccine deliveries from the Covax international vaccine facility slowed in May and June and the number of fully inoculated Africans stands at 1%.

Because of the low vaccination rates and increasing case numbers, travel to and from almost all African countries to Europe has been closed for the bulk of this year, and there is little sign that restrictions will be eased any time soon.

A report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) published at the end of June suggests that South Africa will be the continent's biggest single loser from lost tourism to the tune of between 7% and 8% of its GDP this year, while East Africa will be the worst hit on a regional basis, losing 9.3%. IHS Markit, meanwhile, has warned that tourism revenues in sub–Saharan Africa will not return to pre–pandemic levels until 2025/2026.

Unctad's assessment is based on the direct impact of lost income to tourist spots such as hotels and restaurants, as well as the knock-on effects of lost spending on food, drink, transport and communications.



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