A ‘hidden’ Covid rule is hitting travel in South Africa

 ·5 Apr 2022

The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa) has asked the government to relax its rules around travel to South Africa as some hurdles continue to prevent a full recovery for the sector.

South Africa’s recent lifting of the PCR test for fully vaccinated inbound travellers, aligned with regulations around the world, is a step in the right direction, but there’s a nuance that will have a lingering impact on family travel, the group said.

According to the new regulations, announced on 22 March 2022, only children under the age of five are exempt from having to furnish either a vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test to travel to South Africa.

The issue, says Fedhasa, lies in the fact that many countries do not offer vaccinations to children between five and 12 years, and neither does South Africa.

“This means even if parents are fully vaccinated, a family with children aged between five and 12 years has no choice but to have to pay for PCR tests, which we know in certain countries like the UK is not only onerous to obtain, but also expensive,” said Rosemary Anderson, Fedhasa national chairperson.

Anderson said it is logistically prohibitive to obtain these PCR tests in certain countries. In the UK, one of South Africa’s largest source markets, it can cost as much as £150 (R3,000) for a PCR test issued within 12 hours because clinics are only located in major centres.

“So, unless you live in a major centre, a family wanting to travel to South Africa has to leave home a day early and incur the additional cost of a night in a hotel and then bear the additional worry that their travel plans will be derailed entirely if their child tests positive.

“This doesn’t make sense when South Africa’s regulations state that if you are Covid positive, yet asymptomatic, there is no need to self-isolate.”

Anderson highlights the ire that South Africa felt when other countries red-listed it at the end of 2021, making it exceedingly difficult and, in some cases, impossible to travel to South Africa. This caused untold damage to the tourism and hospitality sector and job losses.

“A few months later and it would appear we’re scoring our own goal by precluding families with children between the age of five and 12 years from visiting South Africa because of this inconvenient rule.

“This when we should be doing the exact opposite: making it as easy as possible for families to visit South Africa to make up for the massive job losses and lost revenue over the past two years,” said Anderson.

If job creation is top of mind for the South African Government, regulations without any scientific base that prohibit the private sector from creating jobs should be removed, she said.

Read: Why do some people not get Covid? They could be key to beating the virus

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