Traveling to South Africa during Covid-19: what you need to know before you go

Editor’s note – Coronavirus cases remain high around the world. Health officials warn that travel increases your chances of contracting and spreading the virus. Staying at home is the best way to contain transmission. Below is information on what to know if you’re still planning to travel, last updated on June 29.

(CNN) – If you plan to Trip in South Africa, here’s what you need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

South Africa reopened to travelers at the end of 2020 and the country relaxed its strict daily restrictions on February 28. However, this is not all good news. The South African variant of Covid-19 is believed to spread faster and vaccines are potentially less effective against it, meaning many countries have imposed flight restrictions. Additionally, the Delta variant, first discovered in India, has now reached South Africa and is wreaking havoc there.

What’s on offer

Breathtaking coastline, bustling towns, a wine country and, of course, the Big Five – South Africa is a true bucket list destination. Most tourists combine a safari – the 7,523 square mile Kruger National Park in the northeast of the country is one of Africa’s largest game reserves – with a city break on the Cape Town coast. But there is so much more to offer: the huge tree-lined Johannesburg is one of the world’s largest man-made forests; by the beach, Durban, home to much of South Africa’s Indian population, is one of the best places in the world for a curry; and other natural havens are all over the country, including iSimangaliso Wetland, whose Zulu name, “something wonderful”, is the perfect description. And of course, there’s Soweto, the township outside of Johannesburg, whose museums are reminiscent of the horrors of apartheid and whose restaurants are some of the best in the city.

Who can go

Anyone can visit, subject to usual visa regulations, although not all borders are open and there are strict protocols to follow – see below.

What are the restrictions?

International arrivals must arrive in Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town during curfew hours. All travelers must complete a screening form within 48 hours of their trip to produce on their device at the airport. Upon arrival, they must present a hard copy of a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours of arrival. It must be signed by the person who took the test. You should take multiple copies, in case you have to hand them over at different stages. Those who arrive without testing will be subjected to an antigen test and will be quarantined for 10 days at their expense if they are positive.

Checks are ongoing at all entry points.

Transits are also allowed, but again you must present the same negative PCR test.

Business travelers traveling between South Africa and the Southern African Development Community 15 other southern African states must also produce the same negative PCR test, but are allowed entry multiple times over 14 days.

On South Africa’s land borders, 33 are closed and 20 are open, including Beitbridge, Lembombo and Ficksburg.

What is the situation of the Covid?

South Africa recorded 1,941,119 infections and 60,038 deaths as of June 29.

While by no means the highest death or infection rate, the South African variant – now known as the beta variant – of the disease appears to spread more easily. There are also concerns that vaccines may be slightly less effective against it – although it is believed that they still offer protection against serious illness.

Countries around the world quickly decided to ban flights when the variant was discovered.

Additionally, the Delta variant (first discovered in India) has now reached South Africa, where it is causing a devastating third wave.

On June 28, the country was once again confined.

What can visitors expect?

On June 28, South Africa tightened its regulations following the eruption of a third wave caused by the Delta variant. Infections are currently concentrated around Gauteng, but scientists said it was only a “matter of days” before the impact spread to other provinces.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said this third wave appeared to be worse than the previous two.

There is currently a curfew in place from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.

All indoor and outdoor gatherings are prohibited except for funerals, and alcohol can no longer be sold.

Travel to and from the worst-affected Gauteng province is prohibited and restaurants will only be allowed for take-out and delivery.

Schools are also closed.

Wearing a mask is compulsory on public transport and inside public buildings, and fines are imposed for those who do not comply. Public transport is capped at 70% of its capacity.

Numerous health professionals from the private and public sectors in Johannesburg, Gauteng’s largest city, have described to CNN how hospitals are approaching capacity and are struggling to accommodate the sick. Beds are limited, they say, but there is also a lack of trained staff to treat patients.

Some severe patients were evacuated to other provinces to access intensive care.

South Africa’s world-famous beaches were closed in previous closings, but are currently open. However, gatherings on them are prohibited.

Useful links

Our last blanket

If you’ve been wondering what South Africa has been like lately, here’s a look at its summer on lockdown starting in January.

CNN’s Julia Buckley, David McKenzie, Nimi Princewill and Barry Neild contributed to this report


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