A plane carrying a group of 122 South Africans who are returning from coronavirus-hit Wuhan, China, are expected to arrive at the Polokwane international airport, the group will be then quarantine at the Protea Hotel's The Ranch Resort.
Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
A plane carrying a group of 122 South Africans who are returning from coronavirus-hit Wuhan, China, are expected to arrive at the Polokwane international airport, the group will be then quarantine at the Protea Hotel's The Ranch Resort. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

South Africans in high risk Covid-19 countries can come home, says govt

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Mar 17, 2020

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Johannesburg - The Department of International Relations has issued a travel advisory calling on locals to avoid cruise ships and has strongly recommended against travelling to countries flagged as high-risk coronavirus territories. 

Countries currently marked as high risk countries include China, Iran, Europe, USA and the UK.

The virus has infected more than 180 000 people around the world, killing more than 7500 people. At least 80 000 people have recovered from the virus. 

In the travel advisory, government told citizens to refrain from traveling to Europe, the UK, France, the US and Iran. 

“South African citizens planning to travel or transit through the Italian Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Korea, the Kingdom of Spain, the Federal Republic of Germany, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the French Republic, the Swiss Confederation and the People’s Republic of China presently identified as high risk countries, as well as the European Union, should refrain from doing so. 

“This includes all forms of travel to or through identified high risk countries,” read the advisory. 

The government is also calling on citizens to stay away from cruise ships. On Tuesday, the MSC also announced it had stopped all cruise ships from South Africa. 

“South African citizens are also to refrain from traveling on cruise ships due to the inherent risks involved in such travel as recent experiences have shown. This is effective immediately, until further notice. 

“Non-essential travel to other countries should also be cancelled or postponed. South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-isolation or quarantine on return to South Africa,” read the advisory. 

The government urged locals to avoid unnecessary travel and said upon return, citizens would be subjected to increased health screening at ports of entry. 

“South African citizens should contact the South African Mission/Consulate in the country of their destination, to inform them of their presence in the country and provide them with information such as contact details, duration of stay, etc”. 

Meanwhile, the government has imposed a visa on all high-risk countries. It said this included countries such as the US, UK and Italy, countries which were free to travel to South Africa without a visa previously. 

Visas for foreign travellers who had been in their affected countries would be denied.

“Foreign travellers with ordinary passports, travelling from or transiting through high-risk countries presently identified as the Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland and China is prohibited until further notice. “No applications for visas by foreign travellers from high-risk countries will be approved. Visas already issued are revoked with immediate effect for travellers that have not yet entered South Africa”. 

The government said all foreign nationals who had visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days would be denied a visa. 

“Visa waiver agreements with countries identified by the Department of Health as high- and medium-risk will be suspended from dates that will be advised through Travel Alerts. Any foreign national who has visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa. 

“Any foreign national affected by these travel restrictions who needs to travel to South Africa for emergency or compelling reasons may contact the nearest South African mission or consulate to apply for a visa. Such visa applications will be considered on merit and on a case-by-case basis”.

Holders of diplomatic passports were excluded from the ban.

“The travel restrictions will also not apply to the crew members of aircraft and cargo ships, as well as cross border rail and road transportation workers. However, such travellers will be subjected to medical screening and if required, can be isolated or quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days”. 

South Africans Abroad 

Meanwhile, South Africans who wished to return home from high risk countries would be allowed back, but they had to submit a health form. 

“All travellers will be subjected to medical screening for Covid-19 upon entering South Africa and if required, can be isolated or quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days. 

“Over and above the normal immigration requirements, entry into South Africa is subject to a passenger’s cooperation with officials conducting tests”. 

The advisory said foreign travellers from medium-risk countries would endure high intensity screening upon entry.

“All travellers who have entered South Africa from high-risk countries since 15 February 2020 will be required to present themselves for testing. 

“South Africa has placed restrictions on attendance of international meetings. All organisers or attendees of international meetings are strongly advised to confirm whether attendance will be permitted before travelling to South Africa”.

IOL 

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