Current travel advice for South Africa amid protests and COVID pandemic

Discover current travel advice for South Africa amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent violence following the jailing of former…

Résurgence des cas de Covid-19 déclarée à l’Ouest
Discover current travel advice for South Africa amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent violence following the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma.

As it has some of the most relaxed entry restrictions during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, South Africa has become a popular destination for international travelers, including citizens of Cameroon. Visa issuance facilities for foreign tourists have remained open during the COVID crisis, and it is easy to obtain a South Africa visa for Cameroonians through a simple electronic application process.

Aside from obtaining an approved visa in advance of traveling to the country, Cameroonians aged 5 and older need to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test result issued at most 72 hours before departure from the first embarkation point. It is also necessary for passengers to complete a « Traveller Health Questionnaire » upon arrival and undergo medical screening at the first point of entry.

The only other restriction currently in place for travelers to South Africa is the requirement to arrive at one of 5 approved airports: Cape Town (CPT), Durban (DUR), Nelspruit (MQP) or Johannesburg: Lanseria International (HLA), and Tambo International (JNB). There is no quarantine requirement, and only airline crew are required to take a COVID test on arrival.

However, although very few restrictions apply, and it is relatively easy to enter the country, questions remain over whether it is truly ‘safe’ to do so. To date, over 2.69 million positive cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the country and a total of roughly 79 coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded.

Nevertheless, the vaccine campaign in South Africa is well underway and over 13% of the population has received at least one dose of a  vaccine, while almost 5 million South African have been fully vaccinated, roughly 8% of the total population.

The President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, has said “We are now administering more than 240,000 vaccines every weekday”, which he asserted was made possible by a close collaboration between the government, the private sector, and the support of other social partners.​​​​​​​ He also confirmed that the rate of vaccination will only increase as more vaccine sites are implemented in the coming weeks.

Furthermore, Ramaphosa significantly eased the lockdown measures across the country on July 26th as the number of positive COVID cases recorded on a daily basis dramatically dropped. The relaxed restrictions have remained in place ever since.

Under the current Alert Level 3 restrictions, schools have been allowed to reopen, although with strict health protocols still in place. Indoor religious and political gatherings of up to 50 people are also now permitted, including funerals. Nevertheless, mandatory face mask use is still enforced in all public spaces.

Additionally, interprovincial travel within South Africa is now fully permitted, and the restrictions on the sale of alcohol have been somewhat eased. Retail outlets can now sell alcohol for off-site consumption from Monday to Thursday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m, on-site consumption of alcohol at bars and restaurants is now permitted until 8.p.m throughout the week.

The South African government now appears to have great confidence in its ability to contain the spread of coronavirus in the country. But concerns remain about how safe it is for travelers to visit South Africa following the reaction to the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma on contempt-of-court charges in mud-July.

The week of violent riots in South Africa that followed, particularly in Gauteng and Kwa Zulu-Natal provinces, left more than 300 people dead. It marked the worst civil unrest in the country since the end of White-minority rule in 1994. The resulting arson and looting is also estimated to have cost the South African economy an estimated 50 billion rand ($3.3 billion). 

South Africa’s National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure has also indicated that there is a danger of further violent protests breaking out, noting that numerous messages attempting to incite further riots have been shared across social media platforms in the country.

Despite the recent rise in violence, however, incidents of public disorder in South Africa are nothing new, and most travelers to the country do not experience any problems during their stay. Most violent crime in South Africa tends to occur in townships and isolated areas far away from the primary tourist destinations.

Additionally, President Ramaphosa has put the South African security forces on high alert and ordered the military to be deployed to the areas affected by the recent violence in the event of a resurgence of the unrest.

Therefore, travelers who take the necessary safety precautions and follow the COVID-19 guidelines in place should not have any undue concern to visit the country at present. Saying that, they are still advised to check for any updates on the situation in the run-up to their intended date of arrival.