Inter-provincial travel for leisure resumed on Monday as South Africa moved to adjusted alert level 3 lockdown. But what about international travel?
Addressing the nation on Sunday, president Cyril Ramaphosa said the overall decline in new Covid-19 infections made it possible to gradually ease some of the restrictions on gatherings, movement and the sale of alcohol.
The president said in the last few weeks, the country’s vaccination campaign has also gained momentum, with more than 240,000 vaccines being administered every weekday. “As a result, we have now administered more than 6.3 million vaccines, with over 10% of our population having received a vaccine dose.”
The president said in the coming weeks, the government will substantially increase the rate of vaccination. This, as the government increases the number of vaccination sites and improves the vaccination registration system. It will also increase vaccination capacity on weekends.
The pool for vaccinations will also be opened up to allow people between the ages of 18 and 34 to be vaccinated from 1 September 2021. “This will be in addition to the age groups that are currently eligible, which is everyone over 35 years of age,” the president said.
People will also be able to present themselves at a vaccination site without an appointment and be registered and vaccinated, for the first time.
This comes as good news for those looking to travel soon, as more European countries are lifting restrictions for South Africans, especially for those who’ve had their jabs, according to Andrew Stark, managing director of Flight Centre Travel Group.
Where can I travel if I’m vaccinated?
Stark noted that quite recently Switzerland was the first to make an announcement that vaccinated South Africans are welcome to visit, followed by France and Canada. All vaccinated South Africans are welcome to enter France, with Canada opening its borders on 9 September 2021, he said.
Many South Africans are also eagerly waiting to jet off to paradise when Mauritius fully opens for vaccinated South Africans from 1 October 2021, just in time for the popular December holiday season.
Travel and business leaders have welcomed the speeding up of South Africa’s vaccination process with open arms, despite its slow start, Stark said.
“We’re incredibly excited by the ramping up of the vaccination process with the over 35s flooding in to get their jabs,” said Stark.
“In the case of the tourism, travel and hospitality industry, in particular, and its far-reaching supply chain, we are deeply reliant on the widespread vaccination of South Africans to protect against the devastating loss of life and livelihoods.
“The only way to give our international source markets – travellers and airlines – confidence in reopening the door to South Africa is for us to reach the herd immunity threshold of vaccinating approximately 67% of our adult population as quickly as possible.”
And it’s not only destinations that are beginning to open their borders to vaccinated South Africans. Many popular cruise lines, such as Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) are welcoming vaccinated passengers onboard.
“As cruising resumes, all guests and crew must be fully vaccinated at least two weeks before departure. Guest vaccination requirements are currently for all sailings embarking through October 31, 2021,” said Nick Wilkinson, regional vice president of Business Development Middle East & Africa for Norwegian Cruise Line.
“Along with proof of vaccination, all guests will be required to take a Covid-19 antigen test, administered and paid for by the cruise line, and receive a negative result before boarding. Our guests’ safety is our number one priority,” he said.
Struggling to find reliable information on where you can go?
The Flight Centre Travel Group reports that the most enquiries they are dealing with in recent months are still for international travel. Commonly asked questions are around a destination’s entry and quarantine regulations as well as required travel documents.
Travellers can get the latest Covid travel restrictions worldwide in real-time by searching the newly revamped FCTG Travel News website, said Stark
The site is powered by Sherpa providing real-time information, although Flight Centre advised travellers that the information changes day to day, and sometimes even hour to hour.
According to the latest data, 52 countries are open for travel with required Covid testing, or proof of vaccination, while 28 countries require Covid-19 testing and quarantine upon arrival.
Entry is restricted to 112 countries.
What you need to know:
The situation is fluid and changing incredibly rapidly. Entry regulations and required documents differ from country to country and airline to airline, Flight Centre said.
Vaccines that are accepted for entry also vary, as do the required documentation proving one’s vaccination status. If you’re travelling to Europe, both the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved by the EMA – the vaccines currently distributed in South Africa.
“As yet, there is no industry or Government standard in place when it comes to an approved vaccination document required for international travel,” said Kim Taylor, customer experience director at the Flight Centre Travel Group. “
Flight Centre recommends that a passenger reviews the specific entry requirements of the country they are visiting to determine how their proof of vaccination should be presented or captured before travel.
It said that for those who have yet to be granted the opportunity to get vaccinated, it does not mean that international travel is completely off the cards. In many countries, entry is open, and
quarantine is not required as long as South Africans get an RT-PCR Covid test done before arriving.
These countries include:
- Albania and North Macedonia: Open to travellers regardless of their vaccination status.
- The Maldives
- SADC countries, such as Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe
“Despite recent hopes around travel to Seychelles, the ministry made an abrupt U-turn on a decision around travellers from South Africa. As it stands currently, Seychelles welcomes travellers (vaccinated and non-vaccinated) except for those who have travelled to or those who reside in South Africa, up to two weeks before their arrival,” Flight Centre said.
According to Skyscanner’s live interactive map, South Africans can travel to 41 countries that have low restriction rates for South Africans, meaning that you can visit these countries, however, you will need proof of a negative Covid-19 test or a vaccination.
Skyscanner is a metasearch engine and travel agency based in Edinburgh, Scotland. The data shows that 28 countries have moderate restrictions – visiting these countries is possible, but you may have to quarantine on arrival or return. You may also need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.
According to Skyscanner, 86 countries still have in place ‘major restrictions’ – travel to these countries is not advised as their borders may be completely closed to non-residents.