Are we really on the track to recovery from COVID-19?
“We will bounce back by 2021”, “Tourism will recover and when it does be ready…” “The increasingly promising news of the vaccine finally offers a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel”, “We predict the worst is behind us as we slowly recover…”, Looking back to 2020, we have navigated through the toughest time in tourism’s history”. These and several other similar ‘stay positive’ sentiments have been periodically expressed, since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, by industry leaders, across various global forums.
But Are we really on the track to recovery from COVID-19?
Only last month, Singapore confirmed 1,009 new infections on one Saturday and 1,012 new cases on Sunday, according to data from the health ministry. These numbers were the highest since April 2020 in that country.
The science is clearly telling us that the key to getting past the pandemic is vaccination of everyone who’s eligible. However, we see this selfishly uneven global distribution of vaccines, where at one end of the spectrum, some countries like the US which has purchased enough doses to vaccinate its population three times over, whereas, at the other end of the spectrum, many lower-income countries are still struggling to roll out the 1st doses of the vaccine.
Building a global tourism recovery requires a truly global vaccination system.
According to reports less than 1% of almost 6 billion vaccine doses have gone to low-income countries. If we are serious about halting this pandemic and preventing new variants, leaders will have to face these challenges – not just work within geographical silos, but cohesively and collectively come together with a common goal; to vaccinate at least 70% of the world’s population within twelve months. A recent study reveals that as the pandemic widens inequalities, many developing countries will spend more on debt than health – thus stroking the long term spread and existence of COVID-19.
The haves’ could travel…but not everyone and not everywhere.
Nowadays, the talk is about vaccine passports (VPs). If you want to travel overseas you are going to need it and that means those living in countries that are yet to receive the 2nd jab - let alone the 1st, will have to stay put. Some countries require a VP as a condition of entry. Even then, each country in Europe has its own requirements. For instance, the EU has a COVID-19 vaccine passport valid in member states and within the Schengen group of countries, but countries within the EU also have local variations.
The refusal by certain countries to recognise vaccines given across Latin America, Africa and south Asia not only smack of discrimination but are also hinder seamless global travel.
Which country would you rather be travelling to?
Both the US and the UK, are currently recording around 450 daily new COVID-19 cases per million of their populations. In France, Italy, Sweden and Canada – all of which require a vaccine passport either to enter the country or to sit down in a restaurant or attend a event - the number is less than 150 new infections per million per day. Israel's infection rate has blown out to over 600 new cases per million each day (Fully vaccinated travelers can visit Israel – but only in groups of five or more). In Sri Lanka, the daily new cases currently hovers around 65-70 cases per million.
Hospitality Sri Lanka