South African authorities have reopened the country's borders for international travel to and from low and medium-risk destinations as of Thursday, October 1, from countries whose coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection rates are equivalent to or lower than South Africa's own. The country's three main international airports, Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), Durban's King Shaka International Airport (DUR), and Cape Town International Airport (CPT), have resumed commercial operations. Land borders have also reopened, but secondary crossings remain closed.
All travelers will be required to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival in the country and will be screened on arrival. Those unable to provide a certified test result, or displaying COVID-19 symptoms, will be required to quarantine at their own expense until a test result is received. Travelers will also be required to provide an address for their stay on arrival and hold appropriate travel insurance which provides some cover against risks associated with contracting COVID-19. 57 countries have been listed as high-risk locations where the infection and death rates are higher than in South Africa, and travelers from these locations will not be permitted to enter the country for leisure purposes. Some investors, diplomats, high-skilled visa holders, and businesspeople may be exempt with prior approval. Domestic flights are operating and travelers must complete a health declaration prior to travel.
Authorities have also announced that universities and tertiary education facilities will be permitted to reopen and accommodate students at full capacity. This measure includes foreign students in line with international travel regulations and compulsory quarantine measures.
On September 20, South Africa entered level one of its five-stage COVID-19 response plan. Social, religious, and political gatherings of up to 250 people indoors and 500 outdoors are permitted if venues remain below 50 percent capacity. Entertainment, sports, and recreational facilities have also reopened at half capacity. The sales of alcohol from licensed vendors is allowed between 09:00 and 17:00 on weekdays. The national overnight curfew remains in place between 00:00 - 04:00 (local time). The use of face masks remains mandatory in public places and members of the public are still required to comply with social distancing measures. Individuals are required to wear a face mask if using public transport, which is operating with strict hygiene requirements and reduced passenger numbers. Hotel, guest houses, and private rental accommodation have opened subject to government regulations. Beaches and public parks are now open but subject to strict health protocols.
As of October 1, there have been 674,339 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 16,734 associated fatalities in South Africa. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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