Cape Town – South Africa’s international borders are expected to reopen from today, after being closed for nearly seven months.
On Wednesday, the government released a list of countries with high infection rates, from where travellers will not be allowed into the country.
International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor said: “As a country, we have adopted a gradual reopening of borders and ports of entry for international travel – for business, leisure and other travel – guided by the communique published by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The gradual reopening of borders and ports of entry, informed by a cautious approach, means that a limited number of ports of entry and borders will be opened from October 1, 2020. In reopening these selected ports of entry and borders, we will be guided by epidemiological and transmission rates, both in South Africa and the traveller’s countries of origin.”
Pandor said they have developed a risk categorisation model for different international travellers. This model classifies international travellers according to a scale of high, medium and low risk.
“High-risk travellers are those who come from countries with higher numbers of Covid-19 infections and reported deaths compared to South Africa.
“Medium-risk travellers are from countries with a relatively equal number of infections and death toll to South Africa, and low-risk travellers originate from countries with a lower number of infections of Covid-19 and a lower death toll than South Africa. Leisure travellers from high-risk countries will not be permitted,” she said.
The National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) will review the list every two weeks.
There are 57 countries that are considered high risk. Among these countries are Greece, the US, the UK, France, Netherlands, Venezuela, Monaco and the Dominican Republic.
South Africa moved to level 1 of the lockdown in early September and President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country’s borders would be reopened on October 1.
The lockdown has been particularly hard on the tourism industry. Tourism in the country contributes an estimated 8.6% to GDP and supports as many as 1.5 million people.
The Association of Southern African Travel Agents chief executive Otto de Vries said: “We see some logistical challenges, such as travel insurance and visa requirements, but are very encouraged to hear that the South African government has given the green light to travellers, based in South Africa, to travel for any reason they wish, to anywhere in the world.”
Mayco member for economic opportunities and asset management James Vos said: “While I’d love to welcome international guests from all countries, I understand the need to be cautious, to keep people safe.
“However, after two weeks, when the list of countries is reviewed, I hope to welcome more visitors from more countries.
“What is disappointing is how long it has taken to give certainty to our desperate tourism sector. Very little planning has been possible and, frankly, this may compromise the recovery.”