South Africa will not allow tourists from countries with higher coronavirus infection and death rates, including Britain, the United States and France, to enter when its borders open up on 1 October, ministers said on Wednesday.
But business travellers with scarce and critical skills including diplomats and investors from countries considered “high-risk”, which also include the Netherlands, Russia and India, can enter, Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said.
“We will review the data every two weeks,” Pandor told a news conference, saying the government would be guided by epidemiological data when deciding which countries were deemed high-risk.
President Cyril Ramaphosa this month loosened pandemic restrictions in South Africa, which had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns at the height of its COVID-19 outbreak. The easing included opening up to air travel, bringing relief to the badly battered tourism industry.
“Airlines from high-risk countries are not necessarily banned, but their crew will be required to isolate … at the cost of their employer,” Pandor said.
The tourism sector accounts for almost 9% of gross domestic product of Africa’s most industrialised country in indirect terms and employs nearly three-quarters of a million people, according to the country’s tourism marketing agency and the statistics office.
SA Tourism, the marketing agency, has said nearly 440 000 tourism jobs are at risk because of the pandemic.
Last year, South Africa welcomed over 10 million foreign visitors. The top 10 origin countries, which accounted for 73% of overseas tourist arrivals, include the United States, United Kingdom, France, India and the Netherlands, all of which are on the “high-risk” list read out by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
Travellers to South Africa still need to show a COVID-19 test result not older than 72 hours and will be screened on arrival. If they show any COVID-19 symptoms they will be expected to take a test and if that comes back positive they will be subjected to mandatory quarantine at their own cost.
No African countries will be subjected to restrictions in the high-risk category.
The tourism sector had welcomed a government decision to allow international travel from 1 October but expressed concern that restrictions on key markets could curtail any recovery.
From most countries, South Africa is a long-haul destination popular for its beaches, game reserves and tourist sites like Cape Town’s Table Mountain and Robben Island, where anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades.