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Tourism minister 'hoping' SA borders will open to world ahead of festive season

The minister said every two weeks government was re-assessing the list of countries banned from visiting South Africa due to their high number of COVID-19 cases.

Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane visits the Limpopo province during the department’s domestic travel campaign. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Monday said she hoped South Africa's borders would be opened to all countries before the December holidays.

The minister said every two weeks government was re-assessing the list of countries banned from visiting South Africa due to their high number of COVID-19 cases.

Several European countries are currently battling a spike in the number of COVID-19 infections.

The minister visited several businesses in Limpopo last week, aiming to boost local tourism.

Eyewitness News joined the trip.

Although set in the tranquillity of the bush, the reality of COVID-19 has hit the Palala Boutique Game Lodge and Spa in Limpopo and the pandemic is a stark reminder of the crisis the world is facing at the moment.

“Do I need to keep my mask on?” asked one visitor.

“Unfortunately, yes mam - it’s the new times we live in,” said a staff member.

With 22 countries still not allowed into South Africa due to their high number of COVID-19 cases, the tourism sector is now counting on locals for an economic boost.

Kubayi-Ngubane said although the country needed the international economic boost, it could not afford a second wave of cornavirus infections.

“The tourism sector would lose a lot of jobs and a lot more businesses would go under. We do believe that we have a second chance to try and recover and anything that can happen can literally take us backwards (sic).”

The minister has urged South Africans not to let their guard down by practicing social distancing and keeping their masks on.

[GALLERY] The beauty of Limpopo

HUNTING SEASON

At the same time, Kubayi-Ngubane said she was concerned about the impact of the international ban on some European countries due to COVID-19 - with the hunting season also around the corner.

Limpopo - one of the country's poorest provinces - relies on this season, which starts in January - for a much-needed economic injection from European visitors.

“They need to get permits now for January so with the uncertainty of their own borders, it is worrying. We are watching closely at what happens there because from our side we are making progress for a number of countries to be able to come but we are worried about us opening 100% - you win that battle at opening 100%, only to find that other countries are closing (sic).”

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