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Fresh travel ban scares industry

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The Ministry of Health recently issued a directive to close the country’s borders and airports to all travelers except returning citizens and essential travelers, a move that some private sector players, especially in the hospitality industry, fear would affect on business.

This comes as pangs of the first and second waves of Covid are still being felt as most businesses are almost on their knees.

The tourism sector was almost recovering from losses as well, as Minister of Tourism Culture and Wildlife Michael Usi recently said.

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In March, Usi told Parliament that, as of mid-2020, the tourism and hospitality industries had lost over K42 billion through cancellations of confirmed bookings owing to the Covid pandemic.

Tourism is the country’s third foreign exchange earner after tobacco and tea, contributing considerably towards economic growth and level of gross domestic product, any down-turn in this sector would negatively impact the country.

Malawi Tourism Council Executive Director Richard Mdyetseni said in an interview that the travel ban has been effected without thorough consultations and would be bad for the economy.

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“Largely, we depend on foreign tourists, so the bracket closure without selective aspects will choke us, as we are already in a precarious situations with businesses having closed we were picking up and this will be the final nail in the coffin of the business sector,

“We understand the precarious situation the government is in, but there are other ways around this ban,”Mdyetseni said.

He added that the government could adopt routes other countries have taken such as enforcing strict Covid screenings at airports, ensuring large crowds no longer gather in events or political rallies as has been the case recently, and driving agendas that ensure more people in the country take the vaccines.

Economist from the University of Malawi Laston Manja said arrival of vaccines provides the possibility of survival for businesses.

“Given that some economic agents have possibly learnt to adapt to the pandemic a need,” Manja said.

He, however, added that the possible third wave could erode the strides recorded towards recovery.

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