OPINION | We need to stop glorifying celebs who travel during the pandemic

29 January 2021 - 08:00
By deepika naidoo AND Deepika Naidoo
Shona and Connie Ferguson on their 2020 trip to Dubai.
Image: Instagram/Shona Ferguson Shona and Connie Ferguson on their 2020 trip to Dubai.

This pandemic shouldn’t be a time for leisurely international travel, especially for SA’s rich and famous celebrities.

As a lover of all things travel and a self-proclaimed “wanderlust” fanatic, the coronavirus pandemic has put travelling the world on hold for me and many others. However, it seems like SA celebs didn't get the memo.

Scrolling through Instagram this past festive season, I found that while Covid-19 cases increased at an alarming rate, that didn't deter several celebs from hitting the skies. And Dubai seemed like the place to be. 

Mzansi's power couple, Connie and Shona Ferguson, were among those who packed their bags and escaped the hustle and bustle of Joburg. 

Even our very own Queen B, Bonang Matheba, was living it up on the beaches of the UAE and partying the night away. Businesswoman and reality TV star Shauwn Mkhize and model Rosette Ncwana were among other public figures who also went on Dubai getaways this holiday season.

You might be thinking, why does this even matter? Given that it’s their money, time and lives at risk.

Travel has been labelled a “superspreader” activity. Even though air travel isn't banned, celebs should take into consideration that they have the power to drive public opinion and trends, which could have dire consequences.

Here’s a few other reasons why celebs shouldn’t encourage travel for leisure in a whole pandemic:

Travel is more than just a flight

Though it has been found that air travel is safe due to the effective ventilation systems in aeroplanes themselves, travelling is more than just hopping on a flight.

Experts agree that aircraft are safe. Speaking to TimesLIVE, aviation analyst and pilot Guy Leich reassured those wanting to travel during this time that aeroplanes are well-ventilated and it is unlikely you will contract the virus midair.

According to the Disaster Management Act (during the current adjusted level 3 of the lockdown), international travellers must provide a valid Covid-19 negative test certificate to leave the country and board a flight. Masks should be worn at all times throughout your journey and social distance should be carried out when applicable. When returning to SA, travellers will be screened thoroughly and tested for Covid-19.

Most of the danger is when you are off the plane, but there are still potential points of contact on an aircraft. In a study from Harvard, researchers suggest that there are many points of contact with people on a flight: in-flight entertainment, luggage handling, standing in the aisle, using the restroom and so on.

And what kind of holiday would it be without fun activities? Moving around is the whole point of a holiday! Being in public spaces puts a person at risk of exposure. Even though partying it up with sushi and Gucci may have been fun for Queen B, it’s still very risky business, considering SA has a whole new strain of the virus.

Travel bans are still happening across the world.

It should not come as a shock that South African travellers are banned from entering certain countries. Just recently, the Netherlands and Dubai have implemented travel restrictions on SA and many other countries. Lockdowns and restrictions have been renewed due to the new strain of the coronavirus which has been found in SA.

Though the country may have opened (some) borders and relaxed its restrictions, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is safe to hop on a plane and enjoy yourself.

No mask = bigger implications.

Looking at the pictures of our favourite celebs' vacations, it's clear that many of them were not wearing masks.

While it is common practice to remove a face mask for a photo op nowadays, it paints a different picture when on social media. The Fergusons were seen taking it easy poolside at a luxurious hotel sans masks. 

Granted, no-one wants a collection of face-mask photos to look back on - but it can leave a different impression on fans.

Bonang was also seen on her Dubai trip without a mask. Of course, there is no way to expect a star to wear a mask in a photo shoot. However, the photos of her trip paint an undeniable picture: Covid-19 protocols don’t appear in a life of luxury.

It is not about whether they were wearing masks and social distancing or not: It's what the camera sees. What celebs choose to put on their social media curates an image they want to promote: and an image of a life without face masks and socialising during the coronavirus can encourage others to do the same.

Lack of empathy

Overall, it shows that our celebrities' lack empathy when it comes to their fellow South Africans. Considering that we were coming into the second wave during the festive season and cases were on the rise, celebrities should have considered that travelling was a smack in the face for South Africans who are dying daily.

SA is now sitting on more than 1.43 million total cases and about 42,550 deaths (according to NICD figures).

Celebs have the privilege of taking a quick escape from the violence of the coronavirus pandemic while their fans face its wrath daily. 

We also must not forget that the virus came to SA with holiday-makers back from a ski trip overseas – the coronavirus’s dark cloud hangs over us because of someone returning from a holiday with the virus in their back pocket.

Cancel your flights and stay home - for the sake of the rest of the country.