After almost six months of travel restrictions to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced to the nation at 19:00 CAT today, Wednesday, September 16, that from October 1, borders will reopen and restricted international travel will be allowed.
“We are ready to open our doors again to the world, and invite travelers to enjoy our mountains, our beaches, our vibrant cities and our wildlife game parks in safety and confidence,” Ramaphosa said to the nation in a virtual address.
However, international travel is restricted to and from countries that have high infection rates and limited to only South Africa’s big main airports: King Shaka, OR Tambo, and Cape Town International Airport. Furthermore, on arrival, passengers will need to present a negative Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours from the time of departure.
“Where a traveler has not done a Covid-19 test prior to departure, they will be required to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost,” Ramaposa added. “All travelers will also be asked to install the Covid Alert South Africa mobile app.”
Whilst that aspect of Alert Level 1 is only active at the beginning of October, South Africa will officially move to the new level from Monday, September 21.
“Although we have made remarkable progress, we must remember people are still getting infected and people are still losing their lives. By any measure, we are still in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” said Ramaphosa.
More people can attend social, religious, political, and other gatherings like funerals, at Alert Level 1. The number of people cannot exceed 50% of the normal capacity of a venue; up to a maximum of 250 people are allowed for indoor gatherings and only 500 people can be at outdoor gatherings. Furthermore, gyms, cinemas, and theaters will now be allowed to accommodate up to 50% of their venue capacity as determined by available floor space.
At the height of the country’s pandemic peak in July, South Africa recorded around 12,000 new cases a day. Ramaposa stated that now, on average, the country is recording less than 2,000 cases a day and a recovery rate of 89%. These figures contribute to the cabinet’s decision to return to some form of economic normalcy.
“We have withstood the coronavirus storm. Now is the time to return our country, its people, and our economy to a situation that is more normal, that more resembles the lives that we were living six months ago. It is time to move to what will become our new normal for as long as the coronavirus is with us,” the president said.