What to expect from South Africa’s new international travel list: minister

Government faces a balancing act as it selects the countries which will be allowed to travel to and from South Africa under the new level 1 lockdown.

Senior government sources have told the Sunday Times that there are serious discussions about which countries to allow travel, and which to place on the high-risk list, amid concerns that barring South Africa’s closest trading partners could risk “diplomatic issues”.

Specific discussions have centred around the country’s BRICS partners — Brazil, Russia, India and China — and whether they should gain access as a bloc.

This is compounded by the fact that Brazil and India have the second and third-highest global infection rates. The restrictions would also place the US and some of the major EU countries on the high-risk list.

Tourism minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, told the paper that South Africa is using World Health Organisation guidelines to determine which countries to allow in when international travel resumes.

This includes factors such as transmission patterns, national public health and social measures for controlling outbreaks in both departure and destination countries, and public health capacity.

The high-risk list will be reviewed every two weeks. If a banned country’s infection rate declines, it will be moved off the list, she said.

Kubayi-Ngubane said individuals from countries considered high risk can be allowed into South Africa if they can prove they have investments here, or are coming for strategic work.

“If country A has been categorised as high risk, someone who has invested in South Africa and has to come and check their project, they are able to apply to the home affairs minister to say I have an investment and want to check on it.

“The minister can approve for that person to come, provided they produce a negative test within 72 hours of travel,” she said.

Tourism

The list of countries selected will also be of vital importance to South Africa’s travel industry which has been decimated during the lockdown.

Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, chief executive of Tourism Business Council South Africa, told Reuters that a lot will ride on the list of countries selected.

“If we do not allow (people from) certain countries to travel (here) there has to be a proper scientific, statistical explanation and modelling. This can become a PR nightmare,” Tshivhengwa said.

These concerns were echoed by David Maynier, the provincial finance minister of Western Cape, who said that ‘the devil is in the details’ and that upcoming regulations will play an important part in tourism’s recovery.

The Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) said authorities should move to accommodate business and leisure travellers and remove barriers to entry such as visas and quarantine.

“We cannot afford to have requirements that deter travel,” said Chris Zweigenthal, chief executive of AASA. The list of countries that will be allowed for international travel is likely to be limited when travel restarts again on 1 October.

The list

South Africa’s official level 1 lockdown regulations, published by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Friday, confirms that country’s borders will reopen on 1 October.

On this date, all travellers from the African continent and from countries outside the African continent with a low rate of Covid-19 infection and transmission, will resume.

This will be subject to:

  • The traveller providing a valid certificate of a negative test which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel; and
  • In the event of the traveller’s failure to submit a certificate as proof of a negative test, the traveller will be required to quarantine at his or her own costs.

To temporarily control entry into South Africa from countries outside the African continent, the relevant cabinet members shall, after consultation with the cabinet member responsible for health, determine in directions:

  • Criteria for controlling entry into the Republic, from such countries with a high Covid-19 infection and transmission rate;
  • The list of such countries with a high Covid-19 infection and transmission rate, which list may, from time to time, be amended.
  • International travel from countries listed as having a high Covid-19 infection and transmission rate, will remain prohibited except for business travel which may be allowed with the approval of the Cabinet member responsible for home affairs.

Read: Here are the official level 1 lockdown rules for South Africa – including opening borders and limits on gatherings

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What to expect from South Africa’s new international travel list: minister