Vaccinate to save lives and livelihoods – Flight Centre adds voice to call

covid vaccine

Vaccinate to save lives and livelihoods – Flight Centre adds voice to call

Tourism, travel and hospitality amongst those most affected by slow roll out and uptake of vaccination
Government must accept help from private sector to get to 300,000 jabs a day

Flight Centre Travel Group has added its voice to the call for South Africans to get vaccinated as the Department of Health announces that it will be extending the vaccine roll out to those aged between 35 and 49 years from August 1.

“We welcome the news that vaccinations will surpass 250,000 jabs per day by next week, according to acting Health Minister Mmamaloko Kubayi-Ngubane. Along with following the non-pharmaceutical protocols like mask wearing and social distancing, it is our only defence against the loss of life and livelihoods we have experienced in the past 16 months,” says Andrew Stark, MD Flight Centre Travel Group Middle East and Africa.

Without a robust and swift vaccine roll out, South Africa will lurch from wave to wave resulting in untold tragedy for those who have lost loved ones, but also those whose livelihoods have been decimated by the unintended consequences of restrictions put in place to stem the spread of COVID.

The tourism, travel and hospitality industries, and their deep and broad supply chain, are amongst those most affected with thousands of jobs already lost and many more at risk if we don’t push the re-set button, throw the rule book out the window and make the herculean effort to get those shots in arms.  

“We would hope to see Government lean even more on its private-sector partners to employ a proactive approach to the vaccine roll out with additional private-sector vaccination sites and establish a more consistent environment which allows people to plan for the short to medium term.

“Every Flight Centre store in the country is willing to act as a vaccination site. We simply cannot afford more unemployment caused by the opening and closing of our economy. Rather, we must be sensible, practical, and work together to fight this pandemic,” says Stark.

With the announcement that the vaccine programme will gain further momentum, Flight Centre calls on all residents to protect themselves and their loved ones and get vaccinated. “We have to work together to make sure that South Africans are vaccinated as quickly as possible, not only to keep our nation safe, but to protect our people from the negative economic fallout of restrictions and lockdowns aimed at stemming the spread,” Stark adds.

In the case of the tourism, travel and hospitality industry, and its supply chain, we are deeply reliant on the widespread vaccination of South Africans if we are to get back on our feet by October 2021. “The only way to give our international source markets – travellers and airlines – confidence in reopening the door to South Africa is to have upwards of 40 million people vaccinated and fast. We’ve started slow, but I have hope that we can play the leading role we should be on the African continent and ramp it up swiftly so that we can be removed from the ‘red’ lists and get back on the radar of international airlines planning their routes. That airlift is critical as aviation has a catalytic effect for economies.”

Getting back on track and introducing some certainty in this uncertain environment for the benefit of travel and the wider economy, is not an impossible task. With private sector stepping up to flex its large distribution muscle, we could reach the ambitious goal of vaccinating 30 million people in 100 days.

“We must be ready, as private sector, to help Government expedite their vaccination programme. And Government must know when to ask for help. We are ready,” concludes Stark.