World Travel Agencies Report High Demand After U.K. Lifts Restrictions on South Africa
Report: Corruption at S Africa health ministry during COVID
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A report into dealings by senior officials at South Africa's health ministry during the coronavirus pandemic was made public Wednesday, revealing corruption, fraud and the misappropriation of millions of dollars meant to aid the fight against COVID-19. The highly awaited report by the Special Investigating Unit, released by President Cyril Ramaphosa, found wrongdoing by former health minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize and others. TheThe highly awaited report by the Special Investigating Unit, released by President Cyril Ramaphosa, found wrongdoing by former health minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize and others.
Travel agencies in South Africa are reporting an increase in demand from British travelers Friday after the U.K. announced it will lift its COVID-19 travel restrictions to the county.
South Africa's biggest tourism source outside of Africa is the U.K., with more than 400,000 British travelers visiting every year. This figure dropped to less than 10,000 so far this year due to the pandemic, the Associated Press reported.
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Following the announcement from Britain, one of South Africa's biggest travel agencies could barely keep up with the surge in reservations.
"The minute the announcement came through we could see on our online booking tools as well as our email inquiries and telephone calls this morning that there was a big surge," Andrew Stark, Flight Centre Travel Group managing director, told the Associated Press. "It has been pretty manic."
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
The decision to keep South Africa on the red list had been criticized by the country's government, tourism operators and scientists, leading to a series of discussions between the leaders of both countries and their respective health experts.
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"We must work together to ensure that Australians can reclaim the lives that they once had in this country," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that pandemic travel restrictions would be lifted once 80 percent of the population aged 16 and older were fully vaccinated, the Associated Press reported.
The British rules banned anyone who had been in a red list country in the previous 10 days from visiting Britain. Only U.K. and Irish nationals or returning residents were allowed to enter from South Africa or other red list countries, and they faced a mandatory 10-day quarantine.
The rules also severely limited British tourists visiting South Africa as they were advised by their government they "should not" travel to red list countries and faced expensive hotel quarantine stays on their return home if they did.
Rosemary Anderson, chairwoman of hospitality association FEDHASA, said she is also seeing "a flurry of activity of South Africans wanting to travel to the U.K. and British people wanting to come to South Africa."
"We are going into summer, the U.K. is going towards autumn and many British people have not been able to travel to sunny places, so that makes South Africa a great destination for them," she said.
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As Desmond Tutu turns 90 on Thursday, he remains indisputably the moral voice of South Africa. Renowned for his radiating energy and infectious laughter, Tutu is expected to attend a special service Thursday at St George's Cathedral, where he once held the pulpit as South Africa's first black Anglican archbishop. Later that day, the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation will host an online lecture by the Dalai Lama, Ireland's former president Mary Robinson, rights activist Graca Machel and South Africa's ex-ombudswoman Thuli Madonsela, respected for her courageous exposure of corruption.
South African tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu also welcomed the British decision, which comes in time for the start of the country's peak tourism season near the end of the year.
"We look forward to welcoming our British visitors in time for the South African summer season and we will continue to work tirelessly with all our national and international partners to ensure the success of South Africa's tourism recovery," Sisulu said in a statement.
South Africa's important tourism industry has been decimated by the pandemic and the damage was prolonged by the U.K. keeping it on the red list, stakeholders said.
South Africa is Africa's worst-affected country by the virus, with more than 2.9 million cases and 88,000 deaths reported. It is also the country where the Beta variant was first detected. It has vaccinated 16 percent of its population of 60 million people, according to Johns Hopkins University, and started issuing digital vaccine certificates which may be used by travelers on Friday.
All of the 22 other African countries still on Britain's red list will also be removed on Monday, leaving the strictest travel restrictions in place for just seven countries: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
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The NYPD is the largest force in the U.S., but vaccination rates within its ranks are low compared to the city overall as some officers refuse to get the shot.The New York Police Department is the largest force in the U.S., but vaccination rates within its ranks are low compared with the city overall as some officers fully refuse to get the shot, the AP reported. By Wednesday, 68 percent of the NYPD's workforce was vaccinated, according to Commissioner Dermot Shea, in contrast to the 76 percent of adult residents of the city.
'It's not Satanism': Zimbabwe church leaders preach vaccines .
SEKE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Yvonne Binda stands in front of a church congregation, all in pristine white robes, and tells them not to believe what they’ve heard about COVID-19 vaccines. “The vaccine is not linked to Satanism,” she says. The congregants, members of a Christian Apostolic church in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, are unmoved. But when Binda, a vaccine campaigner and member of an Apostolic church herself, promises them soap, buckets and masks, there are enthusiastic shouts of “Amen!” © Provided by Associated Press Members of an Apostolic Christian Church group gather for a prayer meeting on the outskirts of the capital Harare, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021.