On October 1, South Africa began allowing some international flights to re-enter the country after a strict six-month ban on international travel to combat the spread of COVID-19. But travel from a list of more than 50 countries, including the United States, remained off-limits.
Now, the country is opening up to all international travelers as long as they submit to COVID-19 testing requirements, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said Wednesday during a national update on the country’s coronavirus response efforts.
International travelers arriving in South Africa must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test procured no more than 72 hours prior to their departure to South Africa. The test must be conducted by a “certified medical practitioner,” according to the South African government’s travel information site, and it should include the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted the PCR test.
Travelers will also be screened for COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival and if they display any symptoms or have been in contact with an infected person, they will be required to take a mandatory COVID-19 test at their own expense. If the COVID-19 test comes back positive, the traveler will need to quarantine for 10 days at their own cost at a designated quarantine location. (The government did not provide additional details about the quarantine accommodations.)
“By using rapid tests and strict monitoring we intend to limit the spread of the infection through importation,” said Ramaphosa. “We expect that these measures will greatly assist businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors.”
President Ramaphosa’s announcement comes as South Africa is experiencing a gradual uptick in coronavirus cases. The country has more than 740,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including just over 20,000 deaths, accounting for nearly 40 percent of Africa’s total reported cases, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The president announced that South Africa has extended the country’s current COVID-19 restrictions, requiring people to wear masks in all public places and to remain distanced, as well as a daily curfew from midnight to 4 a.m.
Ramaphosa said that the country was also looking to secure a significant supply of COVID-19 vaccines once they are shown to be effective and safe.
“South Africa is collaborating with several multinational pharmaceutical companies to obtain a safe and effective vaccine for our people and is contributing towards the availability of the vaccine in the rest of the continent,” said Ramaphosa. “We are working through the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to acquire and fund a vaccine for the African continent. It is estimated that Africa will need around $12 billion and 750 million doses of an effective vaccine.”
Last week, South African pharmaceutical firm Aspen Pharmacare announced a deal with the U.S. firm Johnson & Johnson to manufacture its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, if it is approved in South Africa and internationally. Aspen said that it would have a capacity to produce 300 million doses of the vaccine.
Associated Press contributed reporting.
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