Today, the world faces another public health crisis with the detection of a yet little-known but potentially highly contagious and more dangerous Omicron strain of the coronavirus. The strain originated in South Africa, and has been detected also in an isolated case in Hong Kong and Belgium.
23.8% of the population in South Africa is fully vaccinated, and in many parts of Africa, this number is only in the single digits, with not enough vaccine available.
Tourism needs world unity now more than ever in which nations help their fellow nations.
Dr. Peter Tarlow, President of the WTN, reminds the world that all nations share this small planet and that we must work together to eliminate COVID-19 everywhere on the planet.
Fighting COVID is not the job of only any one country, but of all countries and territories working together for health and a peaceful world.
WTN Chairman Juergen Steinmetz added: “An equal distribution of vaccines in all countries is key. Let us remind the world: No one is safe until everyone is vaccinated!”
This was known from the beginning when US President Biden said just after his inauguration, No one is safe until everyone is safe.
By not following scientific rules, more out-of-control variants of the virus such as the Omicron strain can easily develop. Such variants may one day evade our current vaccine protection, forcing the world to start all over.
This is a risk humanity cannot and does not have to sustain.
Specifically, in countries where the vaccine is not as available, the threat to trigger such a nightmare scenario is high.
The emerging situation in South Africa is now isolating 8 countries overnight from international travel and tourism and is interrupting economies. This should be a wake-up call for all of us.
Simply closing borders between countries is only a very short-lived fix. This world is interconnected, and the virus doesn’t respect borders. The key known to humanity at this time is the vaccine.
This includes a wide and hopefully complete distribution everywhere, independent from financial gain or restraints, political standing, and other earthly reasons.
The World Tourism Network once more calls for the relaxation of patent regulations and international agreements to assure a wide and complete availability of an effective vaccine everywhere.
The World Tourism Network, as a key partner of the African Tourism Board (ATB), feels for the people in Southern Africa, and specifically to friends and members in the travel and tourism industry.
ATB Chairman Cuthbert Ncube has been outspoken on issues of equal vaccine distribution and relaxation of patent requirements to facilitate this.
This situation takes serious leadership way beyond tourism, and all of us need to push and support any initiative that assures this human goal of vaccine availability.
Effective non-selfish leadership in UNWTO, the WHO, in governments, and in key industries is more important than ever today.
WTN supports a vaccine mandate if so supported by Science and Health Authorities, and for those who are able to receive the vaccine safely.
More on World Tourism Network and membership: www.wtn.travel