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Island retreats for South Africans - What's on and what's off

The latest round of travel bans implemented at the end of November put paid to travel plans to many people hailing from southern Africa or intending to visit these countries. It was a move that pushed an already depressed travel industry almost to the brink of extinction.
Island retreats for South Africans - What's on and what's off

Fortunately, the restrictions were retracted after a few weeks (with terms and conditions) but for many it was too late to resuscitate their festive season plans.

All is not lost for those with more flexible schedules though, as two top island destinations relax travel bans between their countries and many southern African destinations.

Maldives drops quarantine in favour of stricter Covid regulations


Maldives scrapped their entry ban along with quarantine requirements for seven southern African countries at the end of December. These are:
  • Botswana
  • Eswatini (Swaziland)
  • Lesotho
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • South Africa
  • Zimbabwe

So, those who hanker for a break from routine to kickstart their year, have one more option.

Instead of banning visitors outright, Maldives is stepping up its measures against Covid-19, hoping to rescue its largest industry in the process. Tourism contributes well over 20% to the country’s GDP, employs tens of thousands of people, and brings in 60% of foreign income into the country.

The New Rules for Travellers to Maldives

According to the latest updates from Maldives’ health officials, all travellers must produce a negative PCR test less than 96 hours old on arrival, regardless of their vaccination status. Earlier, Maldives had scrapped the test in favour of proof of vaccination.

Other precautions include mandatory testing within five days of arrival for all travellers excluding tourists. Unvaccinated Maldives residents and work permit holders must still undergo a fourteen-day quarantine period on arrival.

Instead, tourists must complete an online health declaration form within 24 hours of departure.

Seychelles

The Seychelles has also reversed the ban imposed following the discovery of Omicron by South African scientists. Travellers from the same seven countries unbanned by Maldives are now welcome to make their way to this island paradise too.

Now, travellers must meet the following criteria before boarding a plane to this island nation off Africa’s east coast:
  • A negative PCR test no less than 72-hours old
  • A completed Health Travel Authorisation form
  • Proof of COVID-19 travel insurance

Vaccination is strongly encouraged, but there are no extra conditions for unvaccinated travellers.

Visitors who choose to stay at establishments other than those certified by health officials must submit themselves to a second PCR test after five days.

Anyone who has come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 must self-isolate. Only those who test positive for Covid-19 must undergo compulsory quarantine.

Mauritius takes on-again-off-again approach

Those planning a trip to the sunny shores of Mauritius are out of luck. Authorities have extended travel bans, originally set to expire on 31 December, until 31 January.

That means travellers from the following countries could only book flights to Mauritius from February onwards:
  • Botswana
  • Eswatini
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Namibia
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Originally, Mauritius lifted its flight and entry bans in October 2021, paving the way for South Africans to plan their summer break in Mauritius. Yet, the relief was short-lived, with travel bans back on just a month later when Omicron raised its head.

A host of airlines serving travellers from the above countries had to put their flights on hold until further notice. Affected airlines include SAA, FlySafair, British Airways, and Air Mauritius.

This comes in the wake of FlySafair announcing on 28 September that it would offer its first flights to Mauritius commencing on 11 December 2021. Then, out of the blue on 6 January 2022, Mauritius reversed its decision, reopening travel from Friday 7 January for those who can still travel.

Upon arrival, travellers must present a negative PCR test less than 72 hours old, undergo a free Covid test on arrival, and self-administer an antigen test five days after arrival. All visitors must also have Covid-19 health insurance cover.

FlySafair and SAA have yet to confirm when flights will resume.

Planning Ahead

Thanks to information provided by the World Health Organisation regarding the ineffectiveness of travel bans in containing viral transmissions, the tourist industry can breathe a sigh of relief as restrictions start to ease up.

What remains to be seen is whether it’s a case of too little, too late for this industry.

SA Airlines
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