Here are the current travel restrictions in South Africa, one week after the Omicron variant was discovered.
South African health officials and scientists reported the identification of the novel B.1.1.529 variant on Thursday (November 25).
The variant, eventually given the Greek name ‘Omicron,’ has prompted countries around the world to close their borders in order to safeguard their citizens from the new Covid-19 form.
While it has since been shown that Omicron has been in circulation for at least a month and may not even have originated in Africa, South Africa has bore the brunt of the travel restrictions because it was the first country to detect the variant using its world-class genomics facilities.
A mapping tool developed by travel website Skyscanner shows that as of 1 December, South Africa has 87 ‘major restrictions’ from other countries in place. This is up from around 60 significant restrictions in mid-2021. These countries have suspended travel, may be closed to entry, or entry may only be possible if you are a citizen/meet strict entrance requirements.
In comparison, South Africa now has 23 moderate limitations, allowing travel but only if travelers meet particular entrance conditions, such as completing Covid-19 testing and quarantining.
Some of the key restrictions include:
Australia – Australia has marked South Africa as a level 4 ‘do not travel’ risk. On 27 November, the Australian government announced that Australian citizens, permanent residents or their dependents who have been in South Africa in the past 14 days must undergo supervised quarantine for two weeks regardless of vaccination status upon returning to Australia. Direct flights from South Africa to Australia have also been suspended.
The UK – The UK government has placed South Africa onto its much-maligned travel ‘red list’, barring entry for all travellers except UK nationals who will have to quarantine.
The European Union – The EU has placed a blanket travel ban on Southern Africa, with only residents allowed entry.
The US – The Biden administration implemented a travel ban on South Africa on Friday. In a subsequent press conference, the US government said that the ban was not introduced to punish South Africa but rather to protect the American people.
According to a poll undertaken by the Western Cape government, the travel restrictions have already had a substantial impact on the province’s hospitality and tourism sector, with a large number of international travelers canceling their reservations.
The survey has received a total of 635 replies as of 14h00 on November 30, 2021, with the majority of respondents being from the Garden Route, Cape Town, and the Cape Winelands.
The results show:
- 77% of respondents have had cancellations from clients for December 2021 bookings. 41% of respondents said that 50% or more of their December 2021 bookings were cancelled.
- 59% of respondents have had cancellations from clients for January 2021 bookings. 29% of respondents said that 50% or more of their January 2021 bookings were cancelled.
- 31% of respondents have had cancellations from clients for February 2021 bookings. 13% of respondents said that 50% or more of their February 2021 bookings were cancelled.
- 90% of respondents anticipated that their revenue between December 2021 and February 2022 would be lower due to international bans.
- 62% of respondents said they will lose 50% more of their revenue over the same period.
The national government has called for the lifting of these travel bans with immediate effect, calling them unscientific and unjust.
“We reject that in the strongest terms because to us it amounts to discrimination against a country like ours and some countries in Southern Africa, in fact, we should be applauded as South Africa for having alerted the world about this variant that is now beginning to spreads around the world,” said president Cyril Ramaphosa.