South Africa will open its international borders for the first time in over six months on Thursday (1 October) as part of the country’s move to a level 1 lockdown.

International Relations and cooperation minister Naledi Pandor said in a media briefing on Wednesday that the country’s infections rate has gone down and the country can return to a ‘more normal’ situation.

She said that the government has developed a list of high and low-risk countries which will be allowed to travel to and from the country based on World Health Organisation Organisation guidelines over a seven-day period.

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 relatively equal number of infections and death toll to SA.

Low risk travellers obviously originate from countries with lesser number of infections of Covid-19 and death toll than SA.

This list will be updated on a regular basis, reviewed every two weeks, Pandor said.

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, events will undergo the same health protocol screenings.

“Travellers that intend to visit the country will need to produce a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test not older than 72 hours from the time of departure from the country of origin,” Pandor said.

“The test must be conducted by a certified medical practitioner and must have the name and signature of the person who conducted the test.”

Upon arrival, travellers will be screened for any Covid-19 symptom s and will also be screened for contract with people who have been in contact with others who could have had Covid-19.

Travellers will also need to provide proof of accommodation addresses in case they need to self-isolate. International travel around the world has been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Those who are found to have Covid-19 after entering the country will be required to isolate for 10 days at their own cost.

Travel insurance will be mandatory for all travellers.

If the passport of the traveller from a high risk country indicates that they spent 10 days or more in a low risk country before departure, they will be considered to be arriving from a low risk country.

The “high-risk” countries, as at October 1, 2020, are the following:

  1. Albania                 
  2. Argentina                 
  3. Armenia                 
  4. Austria                 
  5. Bahrain                 
  6. Belgium                 
  7. Bolivia                 
  8. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  9. Brazil             
  10. Chile             
  11. Columbia         
  12. Costa Rica         
  13. Croatia             
  14. Czech Republic     
  15. Denmark
  16. Ecuador         
  17. France            
  18. Georgia         
  19. Greece             
  20. Guatemala         
  21. Guyana            
  22. Honduras         
  23. Hungary        
  24. Iceland             
  25. India
  26. Iran
  27. Iraq
  28. Ireland
  29. Israel
  30. Jamaica
  31. Jordan
  32. Kuwait
  33. Lebanon                 
  34. Luxembourg                 
  35. Maldives               
  36. Malta              
  37. Mexico                 
  38. Moldova                 
  39. Montenegro                          
  40. Nepal             
  41. Netherlands       
  42. North Macedonia       
  43. Oman            
  44. Palestine         
  45. Panama       
  46. Paraguay          
  47. Peru             
  48. Portugal        
  49. Puerto Rico         
  50. Qatar             
  51. Romania      
  52. Russia  
  53. Slovakia                                
  54. Suriname
  55. Switzerland
  56. Ukraine
  57. United Emirates
  58. United Kingdom
  59. USA
  60. Venezuela    

For South Africans looking to travel elsewhere, the rule is that they are free to travel to any country that is currently allowing travellers from South Africa to visit.

Travellers from African Countries

To facilitate free movements of people, goods and services from South Africa, SADC and the African continent, travellers from the neighbouring countries are allowed to visit our country, said Pandor.

Travellers from all African countries are allowed and must possess relevant travel documents, and will also be screened for Covid-19 symptoms.

To allow ease of travel from the African countries, 18 borders will be opened. 35 border posts will continue to offer restricted services due to insufficient capacity for screening, testing and quarantine. Travellers who present themselves at borders which are unable to accommodate them will be directed to the currently operational border posts for processing.

Daily commuters who reside in cross-border areas/towns and those who are from neighbouring countries including those with relevant work permits and school children and teachers will be allowed to enter and exit the borders for work purposes.

These commuters will be screened for Covid-19 symptoms and where necessary will be subjected to quarantine and isolation. Furthermore, these commuters will be expected to wear face masks, wash hands and sanitise regularly and practise social distancing measures.

Additional rules 

In an analysis of the new level 1 lockdown regulations, Ahlisha Yesmariam of  law firm Baker McKenzie outlined the following points which will also need to be followed by travellers:

  • The 35 land borders that are currently closed, will remain closed and the 18 land borders which were operating on a partial basis will be fully operational.
  • International air travel will be restricted to the following airports:
    • OR Tambo International Airport
    • King Shaka International Airport
    • Cape Town International Airport
  • Travel to the Republic of South Africa will remain prohibited for travellers from high-risk countries (countries with high Covid-19 infection and transmission rates).
  • International travel from high-risk countries will remain prohibited except for business travel, which may be allowed with the approval of the Home Affairs Cabinet member.
  • Travel to and from the Republic of South Africa will be allowed, subject to those travellers entering the Republic being from low risk countries only, and who adhere to the below requirements:
    • The traveller must provide a negative Covid-19 test that has been obtained no more than 72 hours prior to the date of travel;
    • If the traveller is unable to produce a negative Covid-19 test, the traveller will be required to quarantine at their own cost.
  • All commercial seaports will be opened.
  • Subject to the compliance protocols for entering and exiting the Republic of South Africa, daily commuters from neighbouring countries who attend or teach at a school will be allowed to enter and exit the Republic.
  • Certain visa application services on offer will resume at Home Affairs from this week. This list will be under review and will be amended as required.