The case of Canada and the South African PCR tests
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Travellers returning to Canada from South Africa and nine other African countries will face a major dilemma regarding PCR testing.
The government of Canada implemented new measures for citizens and permanent residents returning to Canada from Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
It said those who had travelled to these countries within 14 days required a pre-departure negative Covid-19 molecular test result in a third country before continuing their journey back home.
This rule pertained to both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.
"Keep in mind that certain countries do not allow entry or transit to passengers arriving from these countries or from passengers who have previously tested positive for Covid-19, and testing for passengers in transit might not be available in all international airports or third countries," it advised in a notice on its website.
Travellers who test positive during transit need to quarantined or be sent back to their point of departure
"Carefully consider your itinerary, transit options, and entry requirements for third countries," the Canadian government said. It advised that there was a temporary exemption for eligible passengers leaving from or transiting through South Africa.
These travellers need to obtain a pre-departure negative Covid-19 molecular test from an accredited laboratory in South Africa no more than 48 hours before departure time or a positive test result, issued by an accredited laboratory, obtained at least 14 days and no more than 180 days before the aircraft’s initial scheduled departure time.
They can travel from Johannesburg or Cape Town to Frankfurt, Germany, on a Lufthansa flight that departs no later than December 13, 2021. Or they can transit through Frankfurt airport to travel on a direct Lufthansa or Air Canada flight to Canada.
"The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad," the notice added.
South Africa's High Commissioner to Canada, Sibongiseni Dlamini-Mntambo, told CBC News that South Africa had a very sophisticated medical research capability.
Numerous countries in Europe reported new cases well before Omicron was detected in South Africa. According to her, it is possible the new variant has been detected in other countries, but South Africa was the only one to highlight it.
"We (South Africa) are shocked by the unfortunate response by some countries in Europe and of course here in Canada in detecting and reporting the new variant. South Africa displayed the highest level of transparency and integrity and we are being chastised for doing the right thing," she said, adding that the travel ban should be extended to other countries and not just South Africa and its neighbours.