South Africa Opens For International Travel From All Countries: Updated COVID-19 Regulations

The South African Government has relaxed the country’s level 1 lockdown rules around international travel, allowing visitors from any country provided they follow health and safety guidelines.

In an address on Wednesday evening (11 November), President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the easing of these restrictions is to enable all parts of the economy to return to full operation as quickly and as safely as possible.

“(We are) opening up international travel to all countries subject to the necessary health protocols and the presentation of a negative Covid-19 certificate. By using rapid tests and strict monitoring we intend to limit the spread of the infection through importation,” he said.

While the decision has been welcomed by the local tourism industry, it may be hamstrung as several key target markets are experiencing a second wave in coronavirus infections which will prevent potential tourists from visiting South Africa.

“From 5 November to 2 December 2020, travelling away from home, including internationally, is restricted from England except in limited circumstances such as for work or for education,” the UK’s foreign office said.

The foreign office also advises against all but essential travel to the whole of South Africa based on the current assessment of Covid-19 risks.

Some restrictions are also in place for Germany and France, with both countries also re-entering lockdowns in recent weeks. A ban on overseas travel from Australia is also in place.

Despite existing international restrictions, local tourism has praised the decision to ease restrictions, especially the removal of the ‘high-risk list’ which saw travellers from specific countries prohibited from entering South Africa for leisure travel.

“We have been calling for the ‘red list’ to be scrapped from day one, as it was killing our key source markets for tourism in the Western Cape ahead of the summer season and causing much confusion and uncertainty for the travel and tourism industry which has been hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the Western Cape’s minister of finance and economic opportunities David Maynier.

Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, chief executive of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa has also been lobbying the government to abandon the ‘red list’ as it was not necessary because travellers had to present a Covid-19 test before entering the country.

“We have worked hard with determination and persistence for the sake of the tourism industry,” he said. “As the president has just announced, all borders will be open subject to Covid-19 negative certificate for all passengers. No more high-risk list of countries. Let’s all go to work.”

Partial re-opening of borders

The 18 land borders which were partially operational, will be fully operational, and the 34 land borders which were closed, will remain closed.

Travelling to and from South Africa is allowed, subject to:

  • The traveller providing a valid certificate of a negative test which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel;
  • In the event of the traveller’s failure to submit a certificate as proof of a negative test, the traveller will be required to quarantine him or herself at his or her own costs.

International air travel remains restricted to the following airports:

  • OR Tambo International Airport:
  • King Shaka International Airport;
  • Cape Town International Airport.

The resumption of services for visa applications shall be determined in directions issued by minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi.

The minister is also expected to work with the Department of Health and the Department of Transport on international travel containment protocols to ensure that entry into South African ports of entry will only be allowed subject to adherence to ensure Covid-19 positive travellers are not allowed into the country.

Liquor sales 

The gazette states that the sale of liquor is permitted:

  • By licensed premises for off-site consumption, is permitted during licensed trading hours – subject to the laws governing such licenses;
  • By a licensed premises for on-site consumption is permitted, subject to strict adherence to the curfew.

Since the start of alert level one on 21 September 2020, licensed outlets have only been allowed to sell alcohol for home consumption on weekdays from 09h00 to 17hoo.

The amended regulations effectively mean that liquor trading returns to pre-lockdown hours, with bottle stores and other retailers now able sell liquor for off-site consumption over the weekend and during all licensed trading hours.

Any person who does not follow these regulations is liable to be fined or faces imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.


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Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].