URGENT UPDATE: Travel bans and other measures to combat Coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic
President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a national state of disaster due to the spread of the Corona virus and announced a number of measures. Today, the Inter-Ministerial Committee, chaired by the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, briefed the country on interventions to combat the virus. The following are some key announcements, details of which still have to be clarified. We will keep you informed as they emerge:
Travel bans and restrictions
- Foreign nationals coming from high risk countries (currently US, UK, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Spain, China) will not be allowed to enter the country as of 18 March.
- South African citizens arriving from high risk countries will be subjected to tests and to quarantine or self-isolation.
- South African citizens are advised to refrain from all forms of travel to or through the European Union, United States, United Kingdom and other identified high-risk countries such as China, Iran and South Korea.
- South African citizens are asked to refrain from all non-essential travel (domestic and international), including by air, train, bus or taxi.
- All travelers who arrived in the country from high risk countries after mid-February are to present themselves for testing.
- Travelers returning from medium risk countries (currently Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore) will undergo intensified screening.
- Visa applications from high risk countries are declined, and approved visas have been revoked.
- No foreign nationals who have been to high risk countries in the past 20 days will receive a visa.
- As far as they are in place, visa exemptions (i.e. the granting of visitor’s visas on arrival) of high risk countries will be revoked. Medium risk countries will also lose their visa exemption, but the main requirement for a visitor’s visa will be a medical test.
Gatherings, schools, border posts
- Gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited.
- Mass celebrations have been cancelled.
- All public schools will close on 18 March and reopen on 14 April. Universities have, or are in the process of, suspending classes and graduation ceremonies.
- Two thirds of South Africa's border posts on land will be closed, and two sea ports will no longer accept passengers or allow ship crew rotations.
- Businesses and places frequented by large numbers of people (e.g. shopping malls) are required to increase their hygiene measures.
We are advised that local applications and collections of visas and permits through VFS offices remain possible until further notice.
The following questions have not yet been answered, and we will advise as soon as we received news on them:
- Does the travel ban apply to returning permanent or long-term residents of South Africa?
- Will any special dispensations be made (as was done for Chinese citizens) for visitors from high risk countries, who have already spent the maximum allowed time in South Africa, to obtain additional visa extensions, or even to apply for long-term visas without returning to their home country?
- How will requests for visa extensions for those who arrived after 20 February from high risk countries be handled?
- What quarantine process will be followed and how will this be monitored? Will this affect onward domestic travel?
- How do you present for testing if you arrived from a high risk country after 20 February?
- Does the revoking and rejecting of visas apply to visitor’s visas only? Does it apply only to persons who have not yet entered South Africa?
- What will happen with long-term visa or permit applications already made overseas?
- Will the ban affect flights originating in high risk countries only, or to nationals of those countries regardless of point of departure?
We encourage you to follow the general health recommendations such as washing of hands, social distancing and minimizing travel (for further details, refer to http://www.nicd.ac.za/diseases-a-z-index/covid-19/frequently-asked-questions/).
Be safe and well,