Photo: Adobe Stock
Photo: Adobe Stock
As the growing coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt life around the globe, the South African public is bracing for the impact of the virus’ spread as the government announced emergency measures on Sunday 15 March.
Most noteworthy for this particular piece are the travel inclusions and how they affect us and our family and friends trying to get in or out of South Africa.
As is the case with the virus, this seems to be in a state of constant flux. So prepare for change and uncertainty within the travel space, until we have a better idea on how the next few weeks of the coronavirus emergency is controlled within our borders.
Following our president’s recent announcement regarding our own travel bans, the questions and queries have been rolling in — and all our future travel plans have been put on ice.
For those feeling a little overwhelmed by this information overload, we’ve summarised a few travel points below to help decode the where, when, how long and what not to do.
Recent measures have been taken to close 35 land border posts between South Africa and our neighbouring countries, as well as two seaports, which may affect your travel planned within these parameters.
Lesotho, eSwatini, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia are all affected, but this does not necessarily mean that it’s a no-access zone if you have to travel urgently, have not recently travelled to a high-risk area, or are homeward bound.
With various border post options for travelling between most of these countries, you’ll just have to make sure you stay on top of all developments and travel ban updates to see how this will affect you and any plans you or your loved ones may have to get home.
Immigration currently remains open at all three main South African airports: OR Tambo International, Cape Town International, as well as King Shaka International.
It’s probable that the 11 airports in the country will not be closed, but we are already seeing the number of daily flights being hugely affected.
From both a domestic and international perspective, it must be said that this could all change — very quickly, with a spike in the number of cases reported locally and with the Easter holidays upon us.
On Sunday 15 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a travel ban on the following countries:
“We are imposing a travel ban on foreign nationals from high-risk countries, such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, United Kingdom and China, as from 18 March 2020. We have cancelled visas to visitors from those countries from today and previously granted visas are hereby revoked.
“South African citizens are advised to refrain from all forms of travel to or through the European Union, United States, United Kingdom and other identified high-risk countries such as China, Iran and South Korea.
“This is effective immediately. Government will continue to regularly issue travel alerts referring to specific cities, countries or regions as the situation evolves based on the risk level. Any foreign national who has visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa,” the president added.
So, as of Wednesday 18 March, South Africa’s borders are closed to foreign nationals from high-risk countries. Currently, China is topping this list, followed by Italy, the UK, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Spain, the US, Iran, and Germany.
The Presidency has said that any foreign national who has visited a high-risk country in the past 20 days, will be denied a visa into South Africa. Passengers arriving from Hong Kong, Portugal and Singapore will also be subject to undergoing “high-intensity” screening and are currently deemed as medium risk.
Thermal screening seems to be the preferred mode of testing for the virus in airports across the world and is reportedly also being used — and ramped up — at South Africa’s ports of entry.
Although there are no defined travel prohibitions for South Africans as yet, Ramaphosa also advised citizens to refrain from all forms of travel to or through the European Union, the US, the UK and other identified high-risk countries, such as China, Iran and South Korea.
“This is effective immediately” he reported during his recent address.
Here are some of the countries with travel restrictions in place and currently affecting entry for us as South Africans. This could mean issues with access being granted, access to enter at all, or in most cases, the need to self-isolate for a set number of days before entry is granted.
This list will most likely grow and is subject to a state of change, according to the situation: