South Africa passport

According to the latest Nomad Passport Index Ranking, the South African passport ranks outside the Top 100 in the world. Image: DA Abroad

South Africa Covid-19 travel restrictions update

A growing list of countries are limiting travel to and from South Africa since the more transmissible variant of the virus, dubbed 501Y.V2, was announced in December.

South Africa passport

According to the latest Nomad Passport Index Ranking, the South African passport ranks outside the Top 100 in the world. Image: DA Abroad

Several international airlines have streamlined flights to South Africa this week following travel restrictions meant to limit the spread of a new coronavirus variant driving a rapid infection resurge.

The new border closures have forced major airlines to either suspend or significantly scale down flights in and out of Africa’s most industrialised hub.

The latest being Dubai-based Emirates, who Friday announced a 13-day halt on all South Africa routes citing “operational reasons.”

United Kingdom

UK Health Minister Matt Hancock announced the suspension of direct flights from South Africa on 24 December 2020.

“This new variant is highly concerning, because it is yet more transmissible, and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant that has been discovered in the UK,” Hancock said.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands considerably tightened its travel restrictions for visitors entering from South Africa, the UK, and Ireland.

While essential travel is still permitted, South Africans, from Friday 15 January, will need to submit two negative Covid-19 test results before departing.

The Netherlands briefly closed its borders to South African travelers shortly after the discovery of the more infectious Covid-19 variant announced on 18 December.

The travel ban was reversed two days later, but with strict conditions, including a mandatory quarantine period of 10-days for anybody who had traveled from or through South Africa.


Germany’s Federal Minister for Health Jens Spahn said flights from South Africa and the UK would be suspended from Monday 21 December.

“Because of the reported coronavirus mutation, the federal government intends to restrict travel options between Germany and Great Britain and South Africa,” added government spokeswoman Martina Fietz.

Lufthansa told AFP it was “adjusting its flight program” to South Africa because of “reduced demand.”

The temporary ban on travellers from South Africa to Germany was lifted from 14 January 2021.

But with South Africa considered a high risk country, all travellers have to present a negative COVID-19 test result upon entry in Germany (a PCR or Antigen-test).

Hong Kong

In a bid to keep out the two mutated strains of Covid-19 raising considerable worldwide alarm, Hong Kong’s government announced on Jan.11 that all commercial flights from South Africa will remain suspended until further notice. 

The Chinese territory is one of the few jurisdictions that now bars long-term residents and citizens from returning, specifically if they have spent as little as two hours in either South Africa or the UK within 21 days of travel.

Switzerland (revised 24 December)

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Civil Aviation “suspended all air traffic connections” with South Africa and the UK on Sunday 20 December 2020.

“Switzerland is reacting to the appearance of a new variant of the coronavirus, which, according to initial findings, is significantly more contagious than the known form,” the authority said in a statement.

This decision was revised, allowing for limited flight operations from Thursday 24 December to “allow persons resident in the UK and South Africa to return home for Christmas.”

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health confirmed that departures would be closely monitored and that persons leaving Switzerland will be kept separate from others using the airport.

Additionally, return flights into Switzerland, from the UK and South Africa, are only offered to Swiss citizens or holders of a Swiss residence permit or type D visa from Switzerland.

These flights will need to be preapproved by the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation and citizens looking to return home have been urged to contact their preferred airline directly. 

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has lifted the temporary travel ban imposed last December as a precautionary measure following the detection of the mutated type of Covid-19 in South Africa and the UK.

However, it imposed restrictions including asking non-Saudis coming from South Africa and the UK, and other countries where the Covid-19 variant had been detected, to stay at least 14 days in their respective countries before traveling to the Kingdom.


On 5 January 2021, Denmark’s justice ministry announced that “foreigners residing in South Africa will be refused entry” as part of a travel ban expected to last until at least Monday, 17 January.

Exceptions include travel for child care purposes and family visits for people who are sick or dying.

Access under these circumstances will still be subject to a negative Covid-19 PCR test.


On 20 December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that all commercial flights from South Africa, Britain, and Denmark had been suspended. 


The same day, Vietnam’s health and transport ministries announced an immediate suspension of flights from both South African the UK.

“The risk for the disease to penetrate and spread in Vietnam is very high, especially from people entering from infected countries,” the health ministry said in a statement.


Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced a temporary ban on all flights from South Africa Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, and South Africa, also citing dangers of the new Covid-19 variant.

“It has been reported that the rate of transmission has increased with the mutation of the coronavirus.”


On Jan.6, Mauritius confirmed that any person who had resided or travelled through South Africa or the UK in the previous 15 days would be banned from entering the island nation.


The Central American nation announced that travellers from the UK and South Africa would be barred entry, effective Monday 21 December.

New variant driving infections

The measures come amid worrying resurge in South Africa’s coronavirus infections – widely attributed to 501Y.V2 – that forced authorities to impose a new set of restrictions in December.

South Africa has recorded the highest infection and death rates on the continent.

More than 240 000 infections and 6 000 deaths were reported in January alone.

On Saturday, Helath Minister Mkhize announced the latest Covid-19 numbers.

“As of today, the total number of confirmed COVID19 cases is 1 325 659, the total number of deaths is 36 851, and the total number of recoveries is 1 083 978.”