South Africa’s three biggest entry ports reopened on Monday following a Cabinet decision over the weekend.
Beitbridge, Lebombo and Maseru Bridge were three of the 72 border posts that were closed on 11 January because of congestion at several border posts during the festive season that spurred the spread of Covid-19.
The other border posts that will reopen are: Kopfontein, Groblersbrug, Skilpadhek and Ramathabama (Botswana); Ficksburg, Van Rooyen’s Gate, Qacha’s Nek, Caledonspoort and Sani Pass (Lesotho); Oshoek, Golela, Jeppes Reef, Mananga and Mahamba (Swaziland); Nakop and Vioolsdrif (Namibia); Lebombo and Kosi Bay (Mozambique).
More than 50 other border posts remain closed.
According to a department of home affairs report, the congestion was not caused by more people crossing the border. The number of people “who crossed the Beitbridge border in December 2019 was 368 895 instead of 103 224 people who crossed the border during December 2020”, the report reads.
The congestion from 23 to 26 December was caused by truck drivers diverting from Groblersbrug to Beitbridge.
The department presented a detailed report on 9 February to the national coronavirus command council with a plan to reopen the country’s borders.
“In the past four weeks, the department has increased its engagements with officials in neighbouring countries, provinces with land borders and other stakeholders to improve coordination of efforts,” said Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
“These engagements aimed to share plans and ensure seamless movement of travellers and goods to minimise the chances of border crossings being super-spreader events.”
Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, spokesperson for the South African National Defence Force, confirmed that the South African Military Health Service was assisting the national and provincial health departments with Covid-19 screening at entry ports.
“This is an additional task to respond to the request for support that came from health authorities.”
Adding to congestion during the festive season were travellers providing fake Covid-19 certificates at the border. Motsoaledi said: “We appeal to travellers to ensure that they have all the requisite travel documents, including valid Covid-19 tests, when they present themselves to officials at our borders.”
He added that people presenting fake Covid-19 certificates would be denied entry and barred from visiting South Africa for at least five years.