US downgrades South Africa’s travel risk level

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has lowered South Africa’s Covid travel risk rating from level 3 to level 2.

While South Africa and many other countries have pushed for a return to normal following the 2020/21 Covid pandemic, new infections are still happening, and scientists are still looking out for new variants and other developments.

Countries and Europe and in Asia have suffered from outbreaks in the last few months, which have continued to put pressure on industry and travel to and from these areas.

South Africa, which is estimated to have high levels of immunity to the virus due to vaccination or previous exposure, has fared better, with just under 6,000 active cases in the country, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

On Tuesday, 19 July, the country recorded 263 new cases, and 13 new deaths.

The US CDC actively tracks and monitors Covid risks in 235 countries, territories or regions, and places them on a 4-level scale. While the US does not currently have any stringent travel restrictions in place, the risk levels guide travel advisories and may dissuade tourists from booking trips to high-risk countries.

The highest level – level 4 – is reserved for special circumstances, such as an outbreak of a new variant or where extremely high case counts are recorded. There are currently no countries at level 4, the CDC said.

Level 3, where South Africa was placed until this week, is for high-risk countries, which travellers are generally advised to avoid. Level 3 is now the defacto highest level, and refers to areas where there are more than 100 cases per 100,000 people in the past 28 days.

Level 2 – South Africa’s new designation – is seen as “moderate risk”, with 50 to 100 cases per 100,000 people.

The CDC has no level 2-specific travel advisories but recommends that travellers with a weakened immune system or who are at increased risk for severe disease delay their travel plans to South Africa and other level 2 countries.

For travellers going to the US from South Africa, proof of vaccination is still required.

  • If you are a non-US citizen who is a non-immigrant, you will need to show proof of being fully vaccinated against Covid-19 before you travel by air to the United States from a foreign country.
  • All air passengers to the United States are also required to provide contact information to airlines before boarding flights to the United States.
  • After Arrival in the United States, travellers are required to get tested for current infection with a Covid-19 viral test , three to five days after arrival.
  • If you are not up to date with your Covid-19 vaccines, stay home and self-quarantine for a full five days after arrival.

“Non-US citizens who are non-US immigrants and meet an exception to the requirement for proof of Covid-19 vaccination, may be required to take additional steps after arrival. If your test result is positive or you develop Covid-19 symptoms, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected,” the CDC said.

Read: 105 countries you can travel to visa-free on a South African passport right now

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US downgrades South Africa’s travel risk level