Confusing Covid and Visa regulations damage International Tourism to South Africa!



Six days after South Africa’s borders reopened for tourism, confusion reigns about various aspects of the new regulations in regard to how they apply to Leisure and Business Travellers, the insurance required in particular, whether the Covid testing applies to airline crew, and whether Visas are required for visitors to our country!  A surprise has been that the Minister of Tourism has appeared to have had no participation in the regulations regarding the reopening of International Tourism, left in the hands of the Departments of Home Affairs, Transport, and International Relations and  Cooperation!

I follow a German Facebook Group Südafrika Reise Forum, and have seen numerous questions to the Group from German Tourists regarding the requirement of Visas to enter our country.

Various bits and pieces of International Tourism information have appeared in a number of local publications, which I summarize below.

Leisure Travel

BusinessTech has published a list of countries whose citizens do not require a Visa for travel in South Africa, the need for such a Visa having been required at the beginning of Lockdown for repatriation flights, and which should have been lifted from 1 October.  The list was announced by Department of Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi on Sunday. Interestingly the list includes countries which currently are on our country’s Red List, not allowing them into our country as Leisure Tourists:

South Korea




Hong Kong








Today Business Maverick summarises the key areas of confusion regarding International Tourism:

On Sunday and Monday government ministers were scrambling to disentangle the mess created by poor communication, ill-thought-through regulations and mixed messages about regulations for international travellers to South Africa. Four days after SA reopened its border to international flights, the biggest airline in the world, Emirates, cancelled its flight to Durban for Sunday. Lufthansa, Germany’s biggest carrier, was also mulling over the suspension of its flights after some of its passengers were denied entry at Johannesburg International because of confusion over updated visa rules.

The decision to reopen the borders was not made lightly, and President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on 17 September that South Africa would reopen its borders and ports of entry for international business and leisure travel on Thursday 1 October, subject to a slew of rules and regulations. On the face of it, some of these regulations made sense. Travellers are expected to follow local regulations, including the mandatory wearing of masks in public, practising social distancing, regular washing or sanitising of hands and presenting a negative Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours from the time of departure.

In addition, immigration and port health officials decided to treat aircrew as “visitors”, when they should not be classified in this way at all. And then there are seemingly random insurance regulations that require that travellers may only enter South Africa if they are in possession of travel insurance to cover the cost of Covid-19 tests and quarantine costs. The insurance industry was aghast – insurance works on the premise of uncertainty of an event occurring and a R400 (€20.46) insurance policy will not cover mandated government testing requirements and quarantine costs for a known event. “It appears that the government has made these unilateral decisions in an attempt to pass the costs relating to their testing and quarantine regulations on to a third party without engaging with the sellers of insurance,” says the head of insurance at Travel Insurance Consultants, Jason Veitch. “As insurers are under no obligation to take on this level of risk, the government is creating a situation where it is impossible to travel to South Africa.”

On Sunday the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, clarified that both aircrew and passengers required a PCR certificate not more than 72 hours old and, like passengers, crew would be subjected to screening and prescribed health protocols upon arrival. The PCR certificate enables crew members to move freely in South Africa upon arrival, similar to passengers. Aircrew who are not in possession of a negative PCR certificate can enter the country, but will not be permitted to move around freely and will have to self-quarantine at their hotel. However, the requirements for aircrew operating same-day return flights between SA and other countries in Africa remain unclear. Airlines have appealed to the Department of Tourism for aircrew who are coming and going on the same day, and who don’t need to go through immigration, to be exempted from the Covid-19 test certificate and quarantine requirement.

This classifies international travellers according to a scale of high, medium and low risk. High-risk travellers are those who come from countries with higher numbers of Covid-19 infections and reported deaths than South Africa and include the UK, the US, Iceland, India, the UAE and Qatar.

According to the CEO of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association, David Frost, there is “a disconnect” between Ramaphosa’s announcement and intentions, and the practical implementation of this. “Opening of borders is the moment we have all been waiting for, but the way in which the government proposes to reopen is impractical and does not allow us to do our job and contribute in a revenue-positive way to South Africa,” he says. According to Frost, there is no transparency in terms of the criteria being used to evaluate high-risk countries, and practical implications and impediments have not been considered.

The CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, adds that there is no public health reason to ban travellers from any country, provided the testing regime and protocols are adhered to.

In addition, the government’s plan to change the list of high-risk countries every two weeks is wholly impractical, he says. “Inbound international travellers need time to plan their travel. Changing the list of unbanned countries every two weeks introduces a layer of complexity and uncertainty that will lead to erratic booking cycles and confusion among travellers.”

Zuks Ramasia, the CEO of the Board of Airline Representatives of SA (Barsa), was suitably diplomatic when she noted: “Barsa is pleased with the latest updates from government, which alleviate pressure as stringent restrictions are lifted. Affected airlines are now in the process of reinstating schedules to the benefit of our ailing economy, which needs all hands on deck.”’


Business Travel

Business Insider summarises the regulations for Business Travellers as follows today:

#  They are not subject to our country’s Red List

#  They will receive special treatment at our country’s borders in proving that they are a Business Traveller, even if from a Red-listed country, leniency in this regard to be exercised by officials.

#  Business persons from the 15 other countries forming the Southern African Development Community  (SADAC) will have their Covid test results accepted up to 14 days after testing negative, but the first test must have been conducted within the 72 hour limit! This is intended to ease regular travelling from SADAC countries.

#   Travellers transiting through our country do not need to produce a negative Corona Test.


Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein

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