SA re-opens its borders to international traveller amid restrictions

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Guided by the World Health Organisation’s regulations, South Africa will gradually re-open some its international borders from 1 October 2020 after a six-month closure to manage COVID-19 infection rates.

Business and some leisure travel will take precedence as the country welcomes international travellers in a staggered approach.

“Travellers intending to visit the country will be expected to produce a PCR [polymerase chain reaction] test that is not older than 72 hours from the time of departure from the country of origin to South Africa.

“This test must be conducted by a certified medical practitioner and should have the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted such test,” said International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor.

The Minister - together with her colleagues from the Home Affairs, Transport and Tourism departments - fleshed out details for international travel on Wednesday, during a briefing on the easing of international travel restrictions.

The briefing comes as South Africa moved to alert level 1 on 21 September 2020 as announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Expanding on the requirements for international travel, Pandor said upon arrival in the port of entry, travellers will be screened for any COVID-19 symptoms or for contact with people who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus. 

Travellers will also need to provide an address as proof of accommodation should they need to self-quarantine at the time of arrival in the country.

“Should the traveller display any COVID-19–related symptoms or have been in contact with an infected person, they will be expected to take a mandatory COVID-19 test. This test will be at the traveller’s cost,” said Pandor. 

If the COVID-19 test comes back positive, the traveller will be subjected to a 10-day quarantine at a designated site. The accommodation at a quarantine site will be at the traveller’s cost.

High, medium and low risk countries

To effectively deal with travellers, South Africa developed a risk categorisation model for different international travellers. This model classifies international travellers according to a scale of high, medium and low risk. 

High-risk travellers are those who come from countries with higher numbers of COVID-19 infections and reported deaths compared to South Africa.

Medium risk travellers are from countries with relatively equal number of infections and death toll to South Africa and low risk travellers obviously originate from countries with lesser number of infections of COVID-19 and death toll than South Africa.

“Leisure travellers from high risk countries will not be permitted. The exception will be business travellers with scarce and critical skills including diplomats, repatriated persons, investors and people participating in professional sporting and cultural events will undergo the same health protocol screenings,” said the Minister. 

The list of high-risk countries is set to be reviewed every two weeks.

If the passport of the traveller from a high-risk country indicates that he/she has spent 10 days or more in a low risk country before departure, he/she will be considered to be arriving from a low risk country.

Travellers from medium and low risk countries will only be allowed into the country subject to the prevailing visa requirements. 

Airlines from high-risk countries are not necessarily banned, but their crew will be required to isolate in facilities at designated accommodation at the cost of their employer.

Long-term visa holders who visit the country for business purposes will be allowed to travel to South Africa. These travellers will also be subject to health screenings for COVID-19 symptoms at the port of entry.  

Three airports open for travel by air  

Three airports will be opened and operational for international air travel. These airports are OR Tambo International, Cape Town International (in Cape Town, Western Cape) and King Shaka International in (Durban, KwaZulu-Natal).

To read the full list of high-risk countries click here. –


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