New letter to government calls for changes to South Africa’s travel rules – here’s what it says

The Western Cape government says that it has received several complaints from business executives and immigration attorneys around South Africa’s level 1 travel regulations.

Provincial minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier, said that complaints primarily relate to business travellers who have been unable to access the country due to a lack of response from the Department of Home Affairs.

Under the regulations, business travellers must request permission from the department to travel for business from high-risk countries to South Africa.

Maynier said that some of these requests have not been answered since the reopening of international travel on 1 October 2020.

“I have written to the Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, to request his urgent intervention to ensure that the appropriate resource is allocated so that business travellers from high-risk countries who apply for permission to travel to South Africa at the ‘[email protected]’ email address receive a response within at least 24 hours,” he said.

“An easier fix, as per my recent submission to the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma, would be to simply scrap the risk-based approach to international travel and the ‘red-list’ of countries not permitted to travel to South Africa,” he said.

Instead, Maynier proposes that all travellers should be required to produce proof of a negative Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours from the time of departure, supplemented by vigorous screening on arrival and antigen testing at the airport should they fail to pass screening protocols.

At a time when economic recovery is critical and when there is clearly a high demand for business travellers to visit South Africa and stimulate the economy, it is unacceptable that we are putting measures in place that do not work and unnecessarily block investment, he said.

“Our proposed alternative to the risk-based approach for international travel would remove the unfair and unnecessary red tape currently in place to prevent business travellers from visiting South Africa, while also allowing leisure tourists to return unimpeded, bringing the investment we need to rebuild our economy following the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa,” he said.

Letter to Dlamini-Zuma 

In a letter to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma last week, Maynier said that the risk-based approach regulating international travel released by national government last week has created unnecessary confusion and uncertainty in the travel and tourism industry.

The current restrictions allow business travellers from high-risk countries to enter South Africa with a negative PCR test, but not leisure travellers. Maynier said that this makes no sense and is unfair.

“There is simply no greater risk for transmission of the Covid-19 virus based on the purpose of travel, yet the negative impact of continuing to limit the entry of leisure travellers to South Africa, especially from our key source markets, is severe and extreme,” he said.

“International markets are a key economic driver for the tourism sector in the Western Cape, and so the full reopening of our borders to leisure travellers, with stringent health protocols in place ahead of the summer season is absolutely critical to the sector’s immediate recovery, medium-term stability and long-term survival.”

In his submission Maynier proposes:

  • Doing away with risk-based country categorisation model;
  • Requiring all travellers to present a PCR test on arrival, conducted no more than 72 hours prior to arrival;
  • The PCR test result should not have to be signed by a medical practitioner (In many countries testing is conducted by a lab and results issued electronically);
  • Requiring all travellers to download the Covid-19 alert app and complete the tourist locator form to ensure that details of the trip, including accommodation and length of stay, are captured;
  • Screening all travellers on arrival at the airport by Port Health officials;
  • If a traveller displays any symptoms they will be referred to a dedicated private testing centre at the airport (these will need to be set up), which will be at the travellers own expense. This will prevent the use of public transport to reach testing facilities and therefore will limit the potential spread of the virus;
  • Any travellers who test positive will be required to quarantine at an accommodation venue of their choosing for 10 days and at their own expense;
  • Paperless processes need to be urgently developed for all visa applications and other home affairs processing;
  • Clear and easy to access information needs to be provided on government webpages, which need to be updated regularly;
  • Travellers who visit South Africa for business should be permitted to extend their stay for leisure purposes.

Read: South Africa’s state of disaster is set to end this week – but another extension looms

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New letter to government calls for changes to South Africa’s travel rules – here’s what it says