Updated lockdown rules for South Africa – including travel, self-quarantine and repeat testing

 ·3 Dec 2020

Government has updated its Covid-19 rules relating to travel and isolation under South Africa’s level 1 lockdown.

In a series of gazettes published on Thursday (3 December), the Department of Health and Department and Transport outlined updated rules for both entering and leaving the country, the tests required, as well as the quarantine periods.

Government has also extended the validity date for driver’s licences which expired during the lockdown period.

You can find the key changes outlined in more detail below.

Persons exiting the country

  • A person exiting the country through a point of entry must be subjected to screening, including the completion of a traveller health questionnaire;
  • A person who, during screening, is found to have had exposure to Covid-19 or is presenting with any signs and symptoms of Covid-19 must be subjected to a medical examination which may include testing;
  • Based on the outcome of this medical examination, the director-general of Health or any delegated person may make a decision on whether or not the person is allowed to exit the country;
  • Persons found to have contracted Covid-19 pursuant to testing, must be placed under mandatory isolation or hospitalisation;
  • Persons placed under isolation may be permitted to self -isolate at their own private residence if they comply with the prescribed criteria.

Persons entering the country

  • A person entering the republic must be subjected to screening on arrival at the point of entry, including the completion of a traveller health questionnaire;
  • A person who, during screening, is found to have had exposure to Covid-19 or is presenting with any signs and symptoms of Covid-19, must be subjected to a medical examination which may include testing and isolation;
  • A person entering the republic must on arrival at the point of entry, provide to the port health official the following – a completed Traveller Health Questionnaire; and a valid negative Covid-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test result, not older than 72 hours from the date of departure from the country of origin;
  • A person who is not in possession of a valid negative Covid-19 PCR test result will be subjected to antigen testing at the point of entry and may be subjected to quarantine at an approved facility at his or her own cost;
  • A person who is subjected to quarantine must, on arrival at the point of entry, complete and sign a written declaration committing to adhere to quarantine requirements; (b) will be liable for all costs related to testing, quarantine and transportation;
  • Persons entering the Republic are encouraged to install the Covid Alert SA mobile application on their mobile phones;
  • A person who experiences any signs and symptoms consistent with Covid-19 whilst in the country, must seek medical attention and inform the medical practitioner of his or her travel history;
  • The gazette makes special dispensation for airline crew, daily commuters, freight operators, medical staff and children.

Cost of quarantine

The gazette states that a traveller entering the republic or his or her employer must bear the cost of quarantine and isolation.

  • The employer must bear the costs of the quarantine and isolation of airline crew and cross border freight operators;
  • Employers who wish to have their employees in quarantine or isolation facilities of the employers’ choice must pay all costs incurred;
  • Monitoring and testing of travellers in quarantine or isolation facilities remain the responsibility of the traveller or employer.

Self-quarantine and self-isolation

The 10-day period of quarantine and isolation applies to persons:

  • Entering the country without valid (health documentation) who are subjected to quarantine;
  • Who upon entry, have been screened and found to be Covid-19 positive or suspected of having contracted Covid-19;
  • Who are inside the Republic and have to be quarantined, either because they are suspected of having contracted Covid-19 or of having been in contact with a person who is a carrier of Covid-19, or isolated because they are confirmed as clinical or laboratory cases having contracted Covid.

Repeat testing 

Repeat testing is not required in order for a person to de-isolate. A close contact who tests positive (symptomatic or asymptomatic) must be managed as a confirmed Covid-19 case.

If testing cannot be conducted, a symptomatic close contact must self -isolate and be managed as a probable Covid-19 case.

Masks and other travelling requirements 

  • A passenger is required to wear a face mask at all times, may only remove a face mask during an emergency or when instructed by cabin crew to take it off and must observe social distancing, hand washing and sanitize regularly;
  • A child under the age of five years may be exempted from wearing a face mask;
  • A passenger who is unable to wear a face mask due to an underlying medical condition, must submit a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner to the operator prior to depar
  • Flight deck crew are required to wear masks for the purpose of embarking and disembarking;
  • An “immunity passport”, “risk -free certificate” or “passport immunity” in respect of Covid-19 is not acceptable;
  • An (airline) operator is allowed to provide catering on -board aircraft provided that they take all risk mitigation, health and safety measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, including the provision of pre-packed meals.


International scheduled operations and charter flights carrying passengers are allowed at the following airports:

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

Domestic passenger flights are permitted at the following domestic airports, as approved:

  • Bram Fischer International Airport;
  • Cape Town International Airport;
  • East London;
  • George Airport;
  • Hoedspruit Airport;
  • Kimberly Airport;
  • King Shaka International Airport;
  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport;
  • Lanseria International Airport;
  • Margate Airport;
  • Mthatha Airport;
  • OR Tambo International Airport;
  • Phalaborwa Airport;
  • Pietermaritzburg Airport;
  • Pilanesburg Airport;
  • Plettenberg Bay Airport;
  • Polokwane Airport;
  • Port Elizabeth International Airport;
  • Richards Bay Airport;
  • Sishen Airport;
  • Skukuza Airport;
  • Upington International Airport.

Read: Ramaphosa to address the nation tonight on Covid-19 pandemic

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter