When Americans might travel to sub-Saharan Africa is covered in two reports available today, one from a consortium of American scientists and one from the South African government.
I remain personally convinced that our travel abroad will be dictated by when we are vaccinated and for most EWT-type travelers this will be in the first few months of 2021. The South Africans disagree on two fronts. First, they believe they can provide safe tourist services before a vaccine is available, and second, they do not project American travelers will be vaccinated before July, 2022, at the earliest.
The South African policy report is a prediction of future policy, not current policy, and is based on progress in that country towards contact tracing and new infrastructure in the tourist industry. The government is confident that it can operate tourist services safely for foreign visitors before those visitors or their own citizens are vaccinated.
According to this prediction Americans will be welcome into South Africa for tourism around February, 2021. This does not reflect the policy of any other country which in these very early days of forecasting reopening suggests vaccinations will be mandatory.
Foreign visitors to South Africa will still have to prove recent, negative Covid-19 tests, be screened at the airport on arrival and be subject to mandatory quarantine at their expense if officials believe they may be infected.
A secondary section of the report advises South African citizens when their government believes it will be safe to travel to other foreign countries, like the United States:
According to South African scientists the United States is the third most unsafe country in the world for future travel after Portugal and India. “Safe travel” to the United States is predicted to be possible sometime between July, 2021 and January, 2022. (Travel to China, for example, is considered safe now.)
I think this is specially important because virtually all the rest of the countries in Africa lack South Africa’s capabilities to create a tourist industry that can actually operate during a pandemic. Countries like Kenya, for example, are strongly hinting that American visitors will not be welcome unless they are vaccinated.
Contact tracing in South Africa – as in virtually all the rest of the developed world – is already far better than in America. New infrastructure in hotels and other tourist services like safari vehicles maximizes distance between simultaneous users or isolates them. It’s actually quite impressive, particularly with hotels that are right now being used domestically.
Each individual customer must carry a smartphone with appropriate apps. Reservations and payments are all done digitally. Sensors throughout the hotel determine whether the guest can proceed from one place to another and often include automatic temperature checks.
Yesterday’s release of the “Discussion Draft of the Preliminary Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine” starts the legal requirement for public comment before the National Institute of Health decides whether to adopt it as policy.
As drafted the policy allocates the vaccine in four phases: first to first-responders and high risk health workers; second to persons with high risk health problems and older adults living in dense habitation; third to older adults; and fourth to everyone.
The policy does not discuss when a vaccine would be available or the time intervals between the phases.
A third bit of news yesterday could be specially disappointing to Americans wishing to travel. If the most efficacious vaccine of the 150 being developed worldwide turns out not to be an American one, Americans will be further delayed in their future travel.
The Trump administration confirmed that it will not rejoin WHO or its consortium of 170 countries that agrees to be governed in part by WHO’s allocation of a worldwide vaccine. If an efficacious vaccine is developed in America quickly, all this underscores is America’s global immorality but will probably not extend the future date Americans travel.
On the other hand if American vaccines prove suspicious or not efficacious then Americans will be last on the list for obtaining a good vaccine.