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The ins and outs of travel to SA during the pandemic

South Africa is ready to welcome back international travellers to its shores. Yet, considering the country's strict coronavirus controls, don't expect all plain sailing when you visit.
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Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Which countries are cleared for travel?

After suspending all travel during March this year, the South African government reopened the borders for foreign travel from 1 October. However, people traveling from a long list of high-risk countries found themselves excluded from the deal.

With the survival of the tourism and hospitality sector largely dependent on international leisure travellers, particularly in the Western Cape, the two-week review period of the ‘no-travel list’ for leisure travellers and the risk-based approach are “a major blow for the sector”, says David Maynier, Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities.

In the last few days, mixed messages have created confusion and chaos for international travellers as South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi reinstated free visas for those traveling from some countries.

These include the UK, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Portugal, Spain, Singapore, South Korea, Iran, Italy, and the United States.

Five of these countries are still red-listed in South Africa which means that leisure travellers are not allowed into the country! For France, USA, Iran, Portugal and the UK, only diplomats, business people and other specified travellers will be able to utilise their renewed visa-free status.

Regulations for traveling to South Africa

Despite extending the welcome to these major players in the country’s tourism industry, travellers will still need to jump through hoops before they can enjoy their long-awaited safari or seaside vacation.

Every traveller must download the Covid contact tracing app on their phone and needs to produce a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) Covid test less than 72-hours old. Those who fail to present the required test face a mandatory 10-day quarantine at their own cost.

Relief for South Africa’s embattled travel industry

These exemptions come just in the nick of time for South Africa’s struggling tourist industry which has been hardest hit by the sweeping lockdown restrictions.

South Africa is the premier African destination for travellers all around the world, and the tourism industry contributes a staggering 8% towards GDP every year. The industry employs hundreds of thousands of people directly, and thousands of related industries rely on tourism for their income.

Despite permission for local travel issued months ago, few South Africans have been able to afford the luxury of an annual holiday this year, placing the industry under even further strain.

While the larger hotel groups and established lodges have certainly experienced great difficulties keeping their heads above water, for many smaller operators, this was the final blow.

Already suffering under the impact of ongoing recessions worldwide, South African tourism finds itself in dire straits indeed.

So, we can expect to see the ongoing effect of 2020s dearth of tourist activities for years to come.

Should you travel to South Africa?

Traditionally, traveling inside an aeroplane is one of the safest places to be during a pandemic.

All the major airlines that fly to South Africa, like Emirates, British Airways, and Delta Airlines, have imposed even more severe safety protocols since the pandemic began.

Ultimately, there’s an element of risk involved whenever you travel to a foreign country but it’s still best for high-risk individuals to remain safely at home until scientists come up with a vaccine for Covid-19.

So, if you’re aged 65 or older, rather stay at home. People of all ages who suffer from the following conditions should also avoid unnecessary travel:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD
  • Heart conditions
  • A compromised immune system
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

hile South Africa boasts exceptionally high recovery rates and seems to have escaped the devastation first predicted by escalating numbers, there’s been no slackening of safety protocols across the country.

These stringent measures, coupled with plenty of wide-open spaces to enjoy, certainly make this a destination for your bucket list. If not right now, soon.

9 Oct 2020 15:55