SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT PUBLISHES OFFICIAL LIST OF HIGH-RISK COUNTRIES FOR INBOUND LEISURE TRAVEL TO SOUTH AFRICA
With hours to go before the reopening of some borders following the easing of lockdown restrictions, South Africa has released a list of countries from which inbound leisure travel to South Africa will not be allowed into the country.
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.
Inbond leisure travel from the following countries will not be allowed to travel to South Africa:
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
- Puerto Rico
- San Marino
- Trinidad and Tobago
These restrictions include that all travellers visiting the country will be expected to abide by the regulations, which include the mandatory wearing of masks at all times, practising social distancing in public spaces, regular washing or sanitising of hands and presenting a negative COVID-19 test result not older than 72 hours from the time of departure.
Should a traveller display any COVID-19–related symptoms or have been in contact with an infected person(s), they will be expected to take a mandatory COVID-19 test.
This test will be at the traveller’s cost. 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.
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 and 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 for travel to South Africa.
“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
Minister Naledi Pandor’s full briefing statement can be read here.
Government to roll out antigen tests at all ports of entry
Government has released a statement stipulating that antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2 detection will be rolled out to all ports of entry in South Africa with immediate effect.
The purpose of this rollout is to alleviate the logistical complications that a point of entry COVID-19 PCR test poses, including cost, time and capacity.
Antigen tests (different from antibody tests) are immunoassays that detect the presence of a specific viral antigen. The advantage of the antigen test is that it costs about R150-R170, opposed to R850 for the PCR test, and the results are available in 15 minutes.
The statement outlines the procedure for travellers arriving at a port of entry without a certified negative PCR test, the administration of the antigen test, and requirements should a test come back positive.
Government wishes to reassure all affected people that these measures are put in place not to penalise travellers but to protect each other from the devastations of COVID-19.
However, we have raised queries regarding some of these measures as we wish to ensure that travellers are treated fairly upon arrival and that those who are safe to enter, are able to do so without unnecessary burden.