Wednesday, 30 September 2020
Pretoria: 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.
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).
SA opens its borders to African travellers
“Travellers from all African countries are allowed and must possess relevant travel documents, and will also be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. To allow ease of travel from the African countries, 18 borders will be opened.
“Thirty-five border posts will continue to offer restricted services due to insufficient capacity for screening, testing and quarantine,” said International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor.
Lockdown travel: Government releases updated list of high-risk countries
Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, revealed the list of countries at a briefing on Wednesday on the reopening of borders and ports of entry for international travellers following South Africa’s move to level 1 of the lockdown.
*Leisure travellers from the following countries will not be allowed to travel to South Africa:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- North Macedonia
- Puerto Rico
- United Emirates
- United Kingdom
The list follows President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that the country’s borders will be reopened for business and leisure travel for international travellers, subject to a number of restrictions for travellers.
International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor said the decision taken with regards to high risk countries is “complex”.
She further said travellers to South Africa are required to have travel insurance.
The exception for travellers from high-risk countries will be business travellers with scarce and critical skills, including diplomats, repatriated persons, investors and people participating in professional sporting and cultural events, who will undergo the same health protocol screenings.
Also speaking at the briefing, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu said leisure travellers from these countries will not be barred from entering South Africa forever.
“For now they are not allowed. It doesn’t mean they won’t be allowed in forever because even the high risk characterisation of their country might change to low or medium risk,” he said.
Pandor said data will be reviewed every two weeks.
Resumption of visa sand ID applications
Motsoaledi announced that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) will extend the validity period of legally issued visas, which expired during the lockdown period.
The validity of these visas will be extended to 31 January 2021.
“When the lockdown started, we announced that all those who are on visas, which will expire intra-lockdown, were extended to 31 July 2020. We then extended it to 31 October. It is clear that by 31 October 2020, things would not have changed.
“All those with [legally issued visas] will be regarded as valid until 31 January next year. Anyone, who has a visa that has expired, has nothing to fear,” he said.
However, this only applies to visitors already in South Africa.
Holders of such visas are permitted to remain in the country under the conditions of their visit.
Those wishing to be repatriated to their country within this period can depart without being declared undesirable.
“We want to assure such people that if you arrive with a visa that has expired, because we deem it to be valid until 31 January 2021, you won’t be declared undesirable [when you leave],” said Motsoaledi.
In addition, the DHA is also resuming services for applications of identity documents (ID) or documents for all types of passports.
“People can now apply for IDs and passports,” he said.
* The Department of Home Affairs has just updated the list of high-risk countries at 8:41pm.