SA’s borders open on 1 October. Here’s what we know about the rules for tourists.

Business Insider SA - 16 Sep 2020
  • South Africa's borders will open for tourists – inbound and outbound – on 1 October, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday night.
  • But there are caveats, including that some countries may be red-listed based on their coronavirus statistics.
  • Those arriving need to show a recent negative test for Sars-CoV-2, and should install a government contact-notification app.
  • Here's what we know about the rules for international travel into and out of South Africa under Alert Level 1.

South Africans will be able to go on holidays abroad and inbound tourists will be welcome again from 1 October, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday night.

South African missions abroad will be opening for visa applications, he said.

“We are ready to open our doors again to the world and invite travellers to enjoy our mountains, our beaches, our vibrant cities, and our wildlife game parks in safety and confidence.”

But there will be some caveats.

Only three airports will be open to foreign travellers: Johannesburg's OR Tambo, Cape Town International, and King Shaka outside Durban. Overland travellers will be restricted to one of the few border posts that remained open during lockdown.

Travel to and from some countries may be restricted, Ramaphosa said, "based on the latest scientific data we can get on those countries". He did not provide details of the metrics South Africa may use for such red-listing.

Travellers will have to present, on arrival, the result of a negative coronavirus test less than 72 hours old. If they can not do so, they "will be required to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost".

Everyone arriving will be screened, and those who show any symptoms of Covid-19 will also be required to stay in quarantine until they test negative for the virus again.

Travellers "will be asked" to install the South African government contact alert app, Ramaphosa said.

SA remains red-listed by some countries - despite meeting delisting criteria

The methods used to determine "red zones" or lists of those required to quarantine, vary from country to country. 

The United Kingdom and Germany, for example, use a variety of factors to determine a country’s status - but primarily looks at the infection rate over the previous seven days, to arrive at an estimation of active cases. 

In the case of the United Kingdom, infection levels must be below 20 new cases per 100,000 of the population over the previous seven days. In Germany, this figure is 50 new cases per 100,000 over the last week.

According to the most recent data, South Africa is reporting approximately 18.58 new cases per 100,000 per week – well within Germany’s threshold, and just under the United Kingdom’s. 

Even so, neither country has yet removed South Africa from its red lists.

Ramaphosa to announce limited international travel, Level 1



  * *Cabinet is expected to decide on Wednesday on the resumption of

    international travel.*

  * *But there are strings attached. *

  * *The NCCC has recommended strict visa requirements for anyone

    entering the country. *

President Cyril Ramaphosa's Cabinet is expected to agree to the

resumption of international travel and the reopening of borders on


However, News24 understands that the Natjoints have warned against

opening up South Africa's borders for international tourists en masse,

citing fears of a second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Ramaphosa is expected to announce the move to Level 1 of the lockdown,

including the lifting of the curfew, among others, once Cabinet gives

the plans a green light.

The president is also expected to announce a stimulus package for

economic recovery.

Sources say the National Coronavirus Command Council has deliberated

restricting international tourism but allowing movement through permission.

According to the recommendation Cabinet will decide on, people will be

allowed to enter and exit the country with strict visa requirements.

This is to ensure that travellers from high-risk countries will be

excluded from travel to South Africa.


As part of this plan, only three international airports will be open,

subject to strict conditions, insiders say.

Land borders will only be opened to those who have visas - in contrast

to the usual free flow of travel between SADC countries


Holders of Zimbabwean Special Dispensation and Lesotho Special

Dispensation permits will be allowed to travel easily.

Two insiders privy to the deliberations said the Natjoints raised

concerns about a second wave of the virus due to possible imported cases.

As a result, the country will not be open for all tourists.

The list of countries that will be restricted from travelling to South

Africa is expected to be finalised on Wednesday.

It has also been recommended that state-sponsored quarantine should be

done away with and that international travellers should carry their own


It is understood that foreign nationals who have work visas will be

allowed to enter, as well as family members of people who have work

visas and South Africans who are abroad and want to come home.

Level one loading: Cyril Ramaphosa set to lift travel ban tonight

While borders and other points of entry will reopen under level one, government has decided to retain the ban on travellers from the US, UK, Spain and Italy – which are key markets for the revival of the tourism sector.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will tell the nation on Wednesday night that he is moving the country to Level 1 of the national lockdown and opening up international travel - with provisos.

Travel from high risk countries such as the United States and some of the major EU countries will remain banned.

Controversially, however, arrivals from India and Brazil – which have the second and third highest infection rates in the world – will be permitted.

People arriving from countries permitted into SA will have to produce a negative test result taken 72 hours before travel, which will grant them access without having to quarantine first.

According to top insiders who attended meetings of the Presidential Coordinating Council on Tuesday, Cabinet – which is meeting on Wednesday – is expected to endorse the decision to move to Level 1 of the lockdown and the resumption of international travel. The president would then address the nation afterwards.

Travellers who display symptoms will have to quarantine at own cost, even if they produce evidence of having tested negative 72 hours prior

Acting presidential spokesperson Tyrone Seale could not immediately confirm this when contacted on Wednesday morning. “We do normally make announcements before the President addresses the nation,” he said.

A member of the National Coronavirus Command Council said the decision to move the country to Level 1 and allow international travel, was supported by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who cited declining daily infection rates and the availability of beds at trauma units and quarantine facilities as evidence that South Africa was ready to open up.

A senior government official privy to discussions said the decision to open up was premised on a risk-based approach.

“We have a very low number of hospital admissions, very low numbers in critical wards. Our equipment such as ventilators are in abundance and quarantine sites are laying empty at the moment. We are seeing low admissions and low infection rates on a daily basis. Less than one thousand people per day are contracting the virus.

“Should there be an case upsurge at Level 1, based on empirical evidence around the world a second upsurge is never as big as the first one. We have enough equipment and facilities to handle it."

An NCC insider said while borders and other points of entry would reopen, government had decided that travellers from high risk countries not be permitted to enter South Africa. These include the US, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy – which are key markets for the revival of the tourism sector. But arrivals from India and Brazil, each with 4.3-million and 5-million infections respectively, will be allowed. “India and Brazil do not present high numbers for us.”

Travellers who display symptoms will have to quarantine at own cost, even if they produce evidence of having tested negative 72 hours before they travelled.

'Gear up for easing of lockdown': Winde to push for Ramaphosa to lift curfew and overseas travel ban

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde wants the curfew lifted and a date

for international travel to resume.

Premiers are meant to meet with President Ramaphosa and the NCCC to

    discuss the lockdown.


Winde also hopes to have clarity on events and sporting businesses.


Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and other premiers will be meeting with

President Cyril Ramaphosa and the National Coronavirus Command Council

(NCCC) to discuss the next phase of the lockdown on Tuesday.


In a video statement released on Tuesday, Winde said he would be pushing

for three main agenda items that his government felt would allow for

more economic activity in the country.


Winde said he would be asking the president to lift the curfew and give

clarity on international travel, as well.


"We need a date that international travel opens, in October, so that the

bookings can be made by international travellers who want to come into

our country for business or vacation for the next few months," he said.


"We need to make sure that we open up on our events, sporting

businesses, and churches must be able to open up more carrying

capacity," added Winde.


Winde last week also pleaded with Ramaphosa to fight the "second

pandemic" - unemployment - by opening up all sectors of the economy on



According to a statement by the presidency, the meeting would be chaired

by Ramaphosa and was expected to focus on a report from the NCCC on the

country's response to the Covid-19 pandemic.


This, as Ramaphosa hinted in a meeting with the South Africa National

Editors Forum last week that South Africa could be going into Level 1

lockdown soon.

Many more rich South Africans want to leave after Covid-19 – but not as many as in the US

  • Rich people in various countries seem to be reconsidering where they actually want to live after the coronavirus, says consultancy Henley & Partners.
  • Judging by enquiries about investment migration, that is.
  • South Africa is among those countries.
  • But Americans are suddenly way more keen to leave their country than South Africans.

Between the beginning and the middle of 2020, the number of wealthy South Africans considering leaving the country shot up by nearly half, judging by the enquiries it received on "investment migration", say consultants Henley & Partners.

That is roughly in line with what the company recorded in other countries, including Pakistani and Bangladesh, and not too far from the growth in interest it recorded among Indian nationals.

But what might have been surprising before the arrival of the coronavirus – and the starkly different ways governments dealt with it – was the "huge spike in enquiries from Americans".

Looking at the numbers over the year up to the end of August, enquiries from citizens of the United States of America who are thinking about buying their way into another country rose by just under 167%, says Henley & Partners.

That comes after it recorded a dip in such enquiries, a decrease of 5.1%, by US nationals between the end of 2019 and early 2020.

The American growth numbers are roughly similar to those recorded in Nigeria between the first and second quarters of this year.

Countries to which rich migrants may opt to go include New Zealand, Singapore, Austria, and Montenegro.

Lockdowns have seen more wealthy people consider how – and where – they want to live, says the company.

"Many are taking stock and ensuring they are better prepared for the next pandemic or major global disruption," said Henley & Partners CEO Juerg Steffen in a statement.