South Africa’s travel ban commences

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula has said that travellers arriving from countries classified by the World Health Organisation as high risk will be banned from entering South Africa from today (Wednesday March 18), as the travel restriction commences. 

On Monday, the minister said a 24-hour system was in place to check passengers’ itineraries to determine if any of them had transited through high-risk countries. If they had done so, then those passengers would be required to go back. 

Mbalula provided more details about this system and other steps that the transport department is taking in terms of the travel ban at a media briefing on Tuesday night. 

The ban was instituted by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday as a means to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. South Africa has imposed travel bans on people from countries that have been heavily impacted by Covid-19, including China, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

Citizens of most of these countries used to be able to visit South Africa without obtaining a visa in advance. This has now changed. All visas granted to people from Iran and China since the beginning of this year have now been revoked (except for people already in South Africa).


Extra screening measures will be conducted on travellers arriving from Hong Kong, Portugal and Singapore, with those countries viewed as medium risk in terms of  spreading Covid-19.

Mbalula said the travel restriction will provide the aviation entities with powers to decline authorisations for aircraft to land.

The minister said the regulations will be gazetted today and a ministerial order will be effected to officiate them.

In cases in which passengers from high-risk countries arrive in South Africa while transiting to neighbouring countries, a robust assessment will be conducted and quarantine measures might be taken, depending on each individual’s case. 

“It’s important to note that quarantine will be based on travel history and not nationality,” said Mbalula.

He added that chartered flights would be treated in the same manner, particularly if they arrive from high-risk countries.

Mbalula also mentioned that official communication will be made, in line with the relevant protocols, to all affected countries and foreign nationals.

The minister added that the aviation industry is one of the high-risk subsectors of transport because it enables high levels of mobility and, by extension, the rapid spread of the coronavirus. 

Therefore, the transport sector is constantly taking measures to limit the risk  of exposure by intensifying screening and distributing masks.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said foreign nationals from high-risk countries who are already in South Africa may remain here as long as their visas have not expired. “If you are on a long-term visa, you are just like us,” he said.

Motsoaledi also said that his department will issue visa extensions to foreign nationals who are already in the country until July, as long as each person provides good reasons for renewal. 

South African citizens who wish to return home will still be allowed to do so, in terms of the Constitution and the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations. According to the justice minister’s spokesperson, Christian Phiri: “They must then comply with whatever measures are put in place to protect their fellow citizens from the Covid-19 virus.”

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Tshegofatso Mathe
Tshegofatso Mathe
Tshegofatso Mathe is a financial trainee journalist at the Mail & Guardian.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

Pandemic hobbles learners’ futures

South African schools have yet to open for the 2021 academic year and experts are sounding the alarm over lost learning time, especially in the crucial grades one and 12

More top stories

Egypt, Seychelles get first jabs

The two countries have rolled out China’s Sinopharm vaccine, but data issues are likely to keep some countries from doing the same

Fashion’s future is bricks and clicks

Lockdown forced reluctant South African clothing retail stores online: although foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores remains important in a mall culture like ours, the secret to success is innovation

What the Biden presidency may mean for Africa

The new US administration has an interest and much expertise in Africa. But given the scale of the priorities the administration faces, Africa must not expect to feature too prominently

Zuma, Zondo play the waiting game

The former president says he will talk once the courts have ruled, but the head of the state capture inquiry appears resigned to letting the clock run out as the commission's deadline nears
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…