'Eventually we will open up, but we can’t do it all at once': Fikile Mbalula on international travel list

23 September 2020 - 12:21
By Unathi Nkanjeni
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula said SA needed to be wary of exposing the country to a new wave of Covid-19 transmissions by opening up international travel too fast.
Image: Fikile Mbalula via Twitter Transport minister Fikile Mbalula said SA needed to be wary of exposing the country to a new wave of Covid-19 transmissions by opening up international travel too fast.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says the list of countries South Africans can travel to once international borders are open will be based on a “differentiated approach”. 

The new restrictions on international travel for business, leisure and other travel with take effect from October 1. Travellers will be allowed to travel into and out of SA from countries deemed less “high risk” for Covid-19.

Mbalula told eNCA that the government will put more emphasis on international travel measures to avoid the possible resurgence of Covid-19 during the holiday season. He said the list of countries will be formulated on a country-by-country basis, adding that travelling to high-risk countries will be considered at a later stage, based on its coronavirus infections.

Mbalula said the government will adopt the same approach that was used before the country went into level 5 lockdown, with each country categorised as high-risk or low-risk for travel.

“The list will be based on a differentiated approach,” said Mbalula. “Eventually we will open up but we can’t do it all at once, like 'boom!' This is especially the case for international travel, where we can have people move from one city and one country to the other with this infection.”

He said the list will be published later this week and will be based on science and research.

From October 1, only OR Tambo International, Cape Town International and King Shaka International airports will be open to foreign travellers.

Senior government sources told Sunday Times at the weekend there were serious discussions about which countries to place on the high-risk list amid concerns that excluding SA's closest trading partners could lead to “diplomatic issues”.

According to the report, discussions centred on the country’s Brics partners — Brazil, Russia, India and China — and whether their citizens should gain access as a bloc.

Senior officials also raised concerns about including Brazil and India because they have the second and third-highest global infection rates.

Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said SA would be using World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines to determine which countries to allow in when international travel resumes.

This includes factors like transmission patterns, national public health and social measures for controlling outbreaks in both departure and destination countries, and public health capacity.

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said travellers must comply with the following requirements:

  • On arrival, travellers will need to present a negative Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours from the time of their departure;
  • All travellers will be screened on arrival and those presenting with symptoms will be required to have Covid-19 tests;
  • Where necessary, travellers will need to enter mandatory quarantine facilities at their own cost.