Thursday marks the first day South Africans can journey abroad since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the government’s media briefing on the matter mostly raised further questions, as the new international travel rules – and laws regarding high-risk destinations – were unveiled amid a jumbled frenzy of backtracking and corrections.
Which countries are on the high-risk list?
What we do know is this: A total of sixty countries have been deemed ‘high-risk’. That means their citizens will not be allowed to travel to South Africa for leisure purposes. There are exemptions for business travellers, repatriations, and even diplomats. Every visitor to these shores will be subject to a COVID screening and must prove they are virus-free.
The guidelines regarding entry to the Republic have been tidied up on Thursday. But one particularly thorny issue has raised its head in the past 24 hours: Do these travel bans work both ways, and are we as South Africans banned from going to nations that feature on this list?
International travel: South Africans CAN travel to high-risk countries – but only at each government’s discretion
The government’s rules only apply to inbound visitors. Therefore, the international travel list does not stop South Africans from going to one of the 60 countries that are in the high-risk category. Cabinet was slow to clear things up, but in explaining themselves yesterday, they stated that the restrictions apply to those ‘visiting the country’.
The only limitations we face are from the potential destinations. If a foreign government decides that South Africa must be put on its own banned travel list, none of us will be allowed to visit there for leisure purposes.
“Leisure travellers from high-risk countries will not be permitted. The exception will be business travellers with scarce and critical skills including diplomats, repatriated persons, investors and people participating in professional sporting and cultural events will undergo health protocol screenings.”
“These restrictions included that all travellers visiting the country will be expected to abide by the regulations which include mandatory wearing of masks at all times, practising social distancing in public spaces, regular washing or sanitizing of hands and presenting a negative COVID-19 test result not older than 72 hours from the time of departure.”
SA Government Statement