Covid-19: Travel ban to high-risk countries imminent as SA revokes visas

17 March 2020 - 21:48 By Aphiwe Deklerk
SA is revoking visas issued to travellers from high risk countries to limit the spread of coronavirus. Stock photo.
SA is revoking visas issued to travellers from high risk countries to limit the spread of coronavirus. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Maksym Yemelyanov

The SA government says it is revoking 8,000 visas issued to Chinese nationals as part of a travel ban aimed at countries with a high risk of coronavirus.

It will also revoke 425 visas granted to people from Iran.

This was being done in line with efforts to reduce the risk of the virus coming in via high-risk countries.

They included France, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the US, UK and China.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon about the travel ban, home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the government would introduce visas for all the other high risk countries, such as the UK, which did not currently require them.

Motsoaledi said citizens coming from countries considered to be of mid-level risk, such as Portugal, Singapore and Hong Kong, would be asked to include a medical clearance for Covid-19 to be granted a visa.

“When we checked immigration laws, we found that to ban travellers coming from the countries that were mentioned by the president, the only mechanism you can do so is via a visa,” said Motsoaledi.

Motsoaledi said SA would not exercise the ban based on nationality but only on the basis of travel history.

He also announced that 35 ports of entry, by land, would be closed as they did not have health officials.

Speaking at the same press conference, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said his department would gazette the regulations on Wednesday.

Mbalula said once they were gazetted, he would issue a directive to implement the plan.

Only diplomats will be exempt from the ban and would be treated the same way as returning South Africans.

“All South African citizens returning from high-risk countries, port health services will conduct health checks, including clinical assessment and quarantine,” said Mbalula.

He said all charter flights would be rerouted to international airports with port health services.


X