Cork woman expects to remain stranded in South Africa for Christmas

Travellers in countries seen as hotspots for the new Covid variant were cut off without warning from much of the world within just a few hours
Cork woman expects to remain stranded in South Africa for Christmas

Artist Jane Bendon and Mel Bendon from Glandore are worried they will not be able to return from South Africa for some time. Picture. John Allen

A Cork woman in South Africa says the sudden shutdown of travel from the country means she's unlikely to see her family this Christmas.

Jane Bendon, an artist from Glandore, West Cork, is currently in South Africa, where she regularly travels for business with her husband, Mel.

She says everyone in South Africa got “one hell of a shock” when they realised they were cut off from much of the world within a few hours.

“I know countries are fearful, but they’ve just suddenly called a complete stop on flights in and out.

All my family and my husband's family live in Ireland and the UK and we now can’t see our families for Christmas, and we don't know how long this is going to last. 

"Family and friends can’t get home, and people who came on holidays or who came on business can't leave,” she said.

Ms Bendon and her family arrived in South Africa two weeks ago, and had planned to return to Ireland for Christmas until March, but now those plans have been shelved. 

“My honest opinion is that we have to live with the virus and move on. Do testing and allow people to live their lives. If you keep stepping on people and pushing them down and telling them what they can’t do, then eventually there is going to be a reaction,” she said.

Ms Bendon regularly travels between Ireland and Africa, from Cape Town to Nairobi, and says it is a wonderful place full of amazing, resilient people. 

Resilience wearing thin

But she says this resilience is wearing thin as the variant leaves people isolated from the rest of the world.

“On the ground here, South Africans are hugely disappointed, the economy will suffer big time. There are lots of businesses that have already gone, hotels and guest houses.

“And we must not forget the game parks, which rely on money from tourists to safeguard our conservation of animal life and our village life. All of the workers on those game reserves are from local villages,” she added.

Ms Bendon said she is concerned that countries will see how South Africa has been treated, after being upfront about the presence of a new variant, and be reluctant to come forward with variants that develop in the future.

“People here are disappointed and disgusted. 

I admire the South African scientists who have done a wonderful job and were very upfront, but I don’t think for one minute they expected the reaction to happen as quickly as it did, to stop all flights within a couple of hours.

“The trouble is then, will countries push things under the carpet and avoid telling the facts in future?” she added.

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