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Transport minister outlines Level 1 Transport Directions

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Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula, on 2 October announced the Directions for the reopening of Regional and International travel from and into South Africa and provided some additional clarifications.

Key points addressed by the minister include:

* Operators are allowed to provide catering on-board an aircraft, i.e. provided that they take all risk mitigation, health and safety measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, including the provision of pre-packed meals.
* Passengers are required to wear face masks at all times and may only remove face masks during emergencies or when instructed by cabin crew to take them off, and must observe social distancing, ensure hand washing, and sanitize regularly.
* A passenger who is unable to wear a face mask due to an underlying medical condition must submit a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner to the Operator prior to departure.
* A child under the age of two years may be exempted from wearing a face mask. This is because masks can restrict breathing for small children as their airways are smaller than older children and adults.
* A passenger must provide to the Operator a negative PCR test certificate or a valid COVID-19 negative test certificate, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel, from an accredited laboratory and in line with the World Health Organization requirements: Provided that South African Authorities reserve the right to verify the authenticity of presented PCR or COVID -19 test certificates;
* In the event of the passenger’s failure, for whatever reason, to submit a certificate as proof of a negative PCR test certificate or a valid COVID-19 negative test certificate upon arrival in South Africa, the passenger shall be subjected to a compulsory quarantine at a government-designated facility as contemplated for in Health Directions, at his or her own cost. (It is ASATA’s understanding from the ministerial briefing on 30 September that South Africans can self-quarantine at their place of residence provided they have the necessary facilities in place.)
* A passenger in transit must be in possession of a negative PCR test certificate or a valid COVID-19 negative test certificate, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel, from an accredited laboratory.

In a Q&A with press, the Minister further clarified that:

  • Airlines from high-risk countries are not restricted or banned to fly to South Africa. Only leisure travellers from those countries will be restricted. It is ASATA’s understanding therefore that South African travellers can transit through high-risk destinations without any issues.
  • South Africans don’t require a 72-hour COVID-19 test prior to departing South Africa. At the airport, they will be screened at the airport and anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms will be prohibited from boarding. Any additional requirements will be stipulated by the country of destination. 
  • South Africans are free to travel to any country in the world. South Africans will always be allowed to return home, whether or not they are travelling from or through a high-risk country.

See the Minister Mbalula’s statement here and the gazette can be found here

Cross-Border Road Passengers from all countries in the continent is permitted and travelers can only enter through permitted land ports determined by Minister of Home Affairs and would be subjected to all health protocols determined by Minister of Health.

The gazette for cross border road transport can be found here.


As of 1 October 2020 all commercial sea ports are operational. Signing on crew must produce a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (“PCR”) test certificate or a valid certificate of COVID-19 negative test results, obtained not more than 72hours before the date of travel, from an accredited laboratory and in line with World Health Organization requirements at the first South African Port of Entry.

Passenger ships are allowed to call at any South African sea port only for the following purposes:

(a) Disembarking returning South African citizens and holders of South African permanent residence permits;
(b) Replenishing fuel,stores and provisions;
(c) medical evacuation; and
(d) search and rescue.

Read the full gazette here.

The Department of Home Affairs has detailed the full list of ‘high-risk’ countries from which inbound leisure travellers are banned, as well as specifications around the application for business travel. The Department is also resuming services for applications in respect of identity cards or documents and all types of passports. You can download the gazette here.

The impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry is unprecedented and unpredictable. The nature of the content that is being shared on the ASATA coronavirus microsite is therefore constantly changing. Please check the date of the post to ascertain its recency.
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