'Going backwards again': Omicron hits SA tourism

Cape Town's Table Bay Harbour is usually bustling with boats and tourists.

But on Wednesday (December 1) it was nearly empty - just a few locals frequenting its bars.

The docking of the Europa passenger liner on Tuesday (November 30) was meant to be a ribbon-cutting celebration to mark the official start of the cruise ship season following the damage wrought by the global health crisis.

But international travel curbs on southern Africa, where the new Omicron coronavirus variant was first detected, have blown expectations of a bumper tourist season out of the water.

“I’m disappointed and upset."

Tour guide Christopher Sityata says the new season was supposed to "kickstart our finances".

"...but now with this Omicron came out now, we are going backwards again, so we starting all over again. We are losing out on private charters and tourists that use to come, that was supposed to come actually, we are losing out on them."

Also missing out are these music lovers.

Having departed on Tuesday for the Ballito Rage music festival on the eastern coast, they will now be heading home.

It's one of various festivals taking place across South Africa, aimed at high school leavers who have just taken final exams.

But organizers canceled the event on Wednesday after getting positive results for COVID-19 from 36 people out of 940 tested in the first eight hours.

It's not known whether they were infected with Omicron or another variant.

A fourth wave in South Africa is expected to be triggered by Omicron, with daily infections topping 10,000 by the end of the week.

New cases were at 4,373 on Tuesday, up from 2,273 the day before.

That rise in infections meaning that, for students and tourism-dependent businesses alike, the party may be over before it's begun.

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