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Updated 3 August 2021

As the COVID situation in 2021 remains precarious, travellers looking to visit South Africa may want to familiarize themselves with the rules and requirements of entry into the country before packing their bags and securing their bookings.

So can anyone travel to South Africa now? What important things do travellers need to know if they are planning to fly to South Africa?

What is the current situation like in South Africa?

In the former half of July, South Africa was in the grip of another resurgence of Covid-19 driven by the Delta variant, hitting new record daily cases that centered in Johannesburg. Over time, with stringent lockdown and curfews in place, the country has been able to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

With a daily case count of 5575, South Africa totals an active case count of 150933 as of 2 August. Vaccination rate in South Africa has been promising, particularly since the third wave but is still behind most developed countries. As of August, over 15% of the population has been vaccinated. With the rollout of Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to be made available shortly, 31 million additional doses might help escalate the vaccination rates in the country.

Coronavirus variants in South Africa

South Africa is where the Beta variant (variant B.1.351) was first identified, but it’s currently not the only dominant variant in the country.

Officials from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases have also detected the B.1.617.2 and B.1.1.7 variants among the South African population.

The Delta variant of COVID-19 or B.1.617.2, identified in at least 85 countries and first detected in India, is likely responsible for the exponentially rising daily number of virus cases in Gauteng.

The second variant, B.1.1.7, or Alpha variant has been detected in 11 cases, South African officials said. This highly transmissible variant was initially detected in the U.K.

The Beta, Delta and Alpha variants are concerning due to their increased transmission rates. Officials have urged South Africans to be vigilant, as the nation battles to secure enough vaccines to achieve herd immunity.

 

Am I allowed to travel to South Africa now?

There is no strict international travel restriction in place right now, so anyone can travel to South Africa now.

International air travel is restricted to the following airports:
(i) Tambo International Airport;
(ii) King Shaka International Airport;
(iii) Cape Town International Airport;
(iv) Lanseria International Airport; and
(v) Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport.

Testing requirement

All international travellers must provide a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 test, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel.

Health screening on arrival

Upon arrival in the port of entry, the traveller will be screened for any COVID-19 symptoms or for contact with people who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Travellers will also need to provide proof of accommodation address should they need to self-quarantine at the time of arrival in the country. Should the traveller display any COVID-19–related symptoms or been in contact with an infected person(s), they will be expected to take a mandatory COVID-19 test. This test will be at the traveller’s cost.

If the COVID-19 test comes back positive, the traveller will be subjected to a 10-day quarantine at a designated site. The accommodation at a quarantine site will be at the traveller’s cost.

Travellers must also download and install the Covid Alert SA app for the duration of their South Africa visit. 

Transit passengers

A passenger in transit must be in possession of a negative PCR test certificate or a valid COVID-19 negative test certificate, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel, from an accredited laboratory

If the passenger displays symptoms of COVID-19 must, upon arrival and under the direction of Port Health-

  • be taken through primary and secondary screening, including COVID-19 testing, where applicable;
  • be quarantined, at own cost, if a positive test result is obtained; and
  • if travelling with family, be quarantined, at own cost, with the whole family

 

Do I need to quarantine if I travel to South Africa?

South African Government states that in the event of your failure, for whatever reason, to submit a certificate as proof of a negative PCR test certificate or a valid COVID-19 negative test certificate upon arrival in South Africa, you will be required to do an antigen test on arrival at your own cost. An immunity passport, risk-free certificate or passport immunity in respect of COVID -19 is not acceptable. In the event of testing positive for COVID-19, you will be required to isolate at your own cost, for a period of 10 days at a government-designated facility as contemplated for in Health Directions.

Upon arrival at the airport in South Africa, you will be screened for any COVID-19 symptoms or for contact with people who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus. 

Should you display any COVID-19–related symptoms or been in contact with an infected person(s), you will be expected to take a mandatory COVID-19 test.  This test will be at your cost. If the COVID-19 test comes back positive, you will be subjected to a 10-day quarantine at a designated site. The accommodation at a quarantine site will be at your cost.

You will also need to provide proof of accommodation address should you need to self-quarantine at the time of arrival in the country.

 

What are the things that are open right now in South Africa?

On 26 July, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lifting of certain coronavirus restrictions, including relaxation on inter-provincial travel, sale of alcohol and larger public gatherings. On account of the reduction in new cases and deaths, an announcement with immediate effect was made regarding the change to move South Africa from Level 4 to Level 3 of the five-level lockdown strategy.

As part of the Level 3 lockdown, a curfew will remain in place from 10 pm to 4 am and funeral services will remain restricted to a maximum of 50 people with strict protocols in place. Indoor venues will be allowed to cater for a maximum of 50 people at a time or for only 50 percent of their capacity if they are smaller, while events outdoor may not have more than 100 people attending. This includes religious, political and social gatherings. Schools reopened nationwide on the Monday following the announcement, after a month-long break. The President also announced that the sale of alcohol would be allowed from Monday to Thursday between 10 am and 6 pm. Non-essential businesses such as restaurants, taverns, bars and fitness centres are now open until 9 pm.

 

Are there airlines flying to South Africa now?

As per South African Government’s website, South Africa is currently on adjusted Alert Level 3 from 16 June, which means that international travel is allowed from all destination countries. However, it is mandatory to follow the protocols in place.

A search through Wego showed that there are currently a few international flight schedules in operation to South Africa, for its major cities Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

Domestic flights for business and leisure purposes are available from all commercial airports in South Africa.

 

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