Southern African countries are cautiously relaxing lockdown regulations and reopening borders after months of lockdown.
For nearly half the year, the only airplanes flying into the region were those mostly carrying returning residents and medical consumables.
With most SADC countries reliant on tourism for revenue, the lockdowns have been keenly felt across economies.
According to a recent SADC report, Sectors that have severely been impacted by COVID-19 include the tourism and leisure, aviation and maritime, automotive, construction and real estate, manufacturing, financial services, education and the oil industry.
South Africas Tourism Business Council says not less than US$4 billion has been lost; and Zimbabwes Tourism Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu puts the countrys losses at around US$1 billion.
Zimbabwe, according to its Environment,
With growing realisation that the new coronavirus is not going away anytime soon, authorities are trying to find the delicate balance between stimulating economic activity while also saving lives.
This has seen several countries in the region making tentative steps to facilitate as much normal economic activity as possible in decidedly abnormal times.
The early bird
Namibias comparatively early move to reopen its airspace is already paying dividends.
Major carriers Qatar Airways, Kenya Airways, Lufthansa and Ethiopian Airlines could all land in Windhoek in coming weeks.
Namibias President Hage Geingob this week said the country had to maximise on its traditional peak tourism period of September to January.
His Environment and Tourism Minister, Pohamba Shifeta, said: This is the beginning of a long process in finding a solution to the financial problems that have been experienced by the important sector.
The Namibian Airports Company is busy making sure that the airports are up to standard. So far we expect to see Qatar, Ethiopian and Lufthansa arriving in the country in the next two weeks after we opened up the ports of entry.
Government has also been involved with several intervention including the unveiling of financial resources to players in the tourism industry to assist them to keep their lights on and also pay salaries to their employees during the difficult period.
The reopening to international travel, Minister Shifeta said, would be done in co-ordination with health, immigration and security authorities.
We are working closely with health officials and when the tourists arrive they will be screened through a process.
One of the key processes is the presentation of COVID-19 free certificates obtained from their home country within 72 hours of travelling.
We will also see to it that the tourists will check into hotels and lodges that have been approved by the government to meet the safety guidelines where they will be retested again in a few days before being allowed to move freely in the country, he said.
In a good year, Namibia receives more than two million visitors while the industry employs tens of thousands of people.
Fortune favours the bold
Tanzania, which has been the least bothered country in the world inasmuch as COVID-19 is concerned, reopened its borders in July.
Tanzania National Parks Assistant Conservation Commissioner (Business Development) Ms Beatrice Kessy said the country had received more than 30,000 visitors since reopening.
Seychelles is another country which has taken the bold move to quickly reopen its borders to tourists.
The Indian Ocean archipelago could not afford to continue blocking out international travelers when 67 percent of GDP comes from tourism.
Recently, Seychelles Public Health Commissioner Jude Gedeon laid out the rules tourists have to abide by.
Visitors are permitted to stay in not more than two approved establishments for the first seven days. When they change accommodation, we must be able to track where they are going to stay next, he said.
While Zimbabwe has not been so bold as to completely fling open its borders, it has been pushing domestic tourism while exploring the possibility of accepting international visitors.
The country has removed quarantine requirements for returning citizens and permanent residents provided they are willing to have a PCR test. If they test negative they can proceed, if otherwise, they are places in isolation.
The country`s biggest tourist attraction, the Victoria Falls Rainforest, was recently reopened, an indication that international tourists may not be far off.
South Africa has remained closed though it too has been on an aggressive domestic tourism drive.
Reporting by Leroy Dzenga in Harare and Tiri Masawi in Windhoek
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