Here’s the latest on the Covid travel bans for South Africa

Domestic tourism will be South Africa’s ‘bread and butter’ for the foreseeable future as the country continues to face international restrictions, says South Africa Tourism chief executive Sisa Ntshona.

Talking to CNN, Ntshona said businesses will need to recalibrate and establish a balance between serving domestic and international tourists.

While South Africa hopes to see a rebound in tourism once  Covid-19 vaccinations are more widespread, the suspension of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout has led to further delays.

This has been furthered hampered by the stigma attached to the Covid-19 502Y.V2 variant which was first discovered in the country, according to airline booking app Hopper.

“Searches on April 7th were the highest they’ve been since December 18th, 2020. Searches are up 15% Week-over-Week (WoW) so far this week,” said Adit Damodaran, Economist at travel booking app Hopper.

But the stigma around the 502Y.V2 variant might not be that easy to shed. Hopper’s data shows searches for South Africa had relatively fewer searches compared to other international destination since February.

Meanwhile, a number of countries have indicated that travellers from South Africa will still be barred from entering – a sign that the country could be facing reputational damage because of the variant.

Research from Oxford Economics for April shows that of the three ‘major’ Covid variants to be spreading, the 502Y.V2 variants – referred to as the ‘South African variant’ – is the second most prominent, with the UK variants being far more widespread.

Despite this, the UK has fewer travel restrictions imposed on it than South Africa.

Where can you fly right now? 

mapping tool developed by travel website Skyscanner shows that as of 18 April, South Africa has 84 ‘major restrictions’ from other countries in place.

These countries have suspended travel, may be closed to entry, or entry may only be possible if you are a citizen/meet strict entrance requirements.

By comparison, there are currently 68 moderate restrictions in place on South Africa, where travel is possible, but only if travellers meet certain entry requirements which can include taking Covid-19 tests.

Just two countries have ‘low-risk restrictions’ meaning that travellers likely won’t have to face enforced quarantine periods. This includes the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.

A number of countries have also indicated that travellers from South Africa will be barred from entering – a sign that the country could be facing reputational damage as a result of the 501Y.V2 variant of Covid-19, which has been referred to as the “South African variant” abroad.

Red countries are those with major restrictions on South Africa, with yellow countries denoting moderate restrictions.

There are currently no restrictions on domestic travel within South Africa.

Vaccine passports 

The introduction of vaccine passports is expected to accelerate the return of global travel.

This week, European Union governments reached a deal on technical standards for so-called vaccine passports, advancing the effort to boost travel to and within the bloc in time for the summer season, Bloomberg reported.

Envoys meeting in Brussels agreed to support a draft legal text setting out specifics for “digital green certificates,” according to an EU statement Wednesday.

The documents will provide proof their holders have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, tested negative or have recently recovered from the disease and are considered immune.

The deal could allow the resumption of hassle-free travel, without quarantine requirements, for vaccine-pass holders by June.

Airlines and industry groups have already introduced apps that are capable of incorporating information on tests and vaccine status.

People vaccinated before the new rules take effect will be entitled to the passes, according to the draft. Those who contract the disease should be recognized as immune from day 11 for about six months.

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Here’s the latest on the Covid travel bans for South Africa