South Africa plans to open its borders to all international travelers who can present proof of a negative COVID-19 test, including those from the U.S. and Europe who are banned under current policies.
President Cyril Ramaphosa didn’t say when South Africa would lift its pandemic travel restrictions, but he painted a picture of an economy struggling to make ends meet without the millions of tourists who typically flock to the country’s beaches, wineries, and national parks.
“The only way forward is a rapid and sustained economic recovery,” he said in a public address, pushing for a return to business as usual “as quickly and as safely as possible.”
South Africa lifted its restrictions on travelers from select countries on Oct. 1, presuming they could provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of entry. The U.S., Britain, and France were among the countries whose citizens were prohibited from entering South Africa because they did not have the virus under control.
The U.S., Britain, and France continue to report soaring numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Ramaphosa said the government will rely on rapid tests and strict monitoring in an effort to prevent the importation of new COVID-19 cases as South Africa reopens to travelers from all countries.
South Africa has reported 742,000 cases of COVID-19 — many of them in the tourist hot spot of Cape Town — and just over 20,000 deaths since the pandemic took hold in the spring. The country has reported fewer than 2,000 new coronavirus cases a day for the past three months, according to data compiled by The New York Times. At the peak in July, South Africa was reporting more than 12,000 new cases per day.
Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.
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