Government has relaxed South Africa’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.
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.”