Reopening… President Cyril Ramaphosa is loosening restrictions, noting that the spread of the coronavirus has ebbed in South Africa.
On Wednesday, South Africa will drop its requirement that anyone seeking entry into the country must show a recent negative coronavirus test, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday night.
As soon as new regulations are published, proof of vaccination will do instead.
Earlier this month, the department of health mooted dropping pre-departure testing for the vaccinated, in a package of draft regulations intended to replace those imposed under the authority of the state of disaster. But those rules are still open for public comment, and could only become effective towards the end of April at the very earliest.
Now that plan has been back-dated through a change to the current regulations, which do not require any consultation under the government’s power to rule by decree amid a disaster.
Anyone who can not show they are fully vaccinated will still need to present a PCR test no older than 72 hours, Ramaphosa said. They will also be offered vaccination.
South Africa had entered a new phase in its management of the pandemic, Ramaphosa said, one in which there was a palpable reduction in the threat from the coronavirus.
“Going forward, our most important defences against the disease are, firstly, vaccination and, secondly, the observance of basic measures, such as wearing masks indoors,” he said.
South Africa has been considering scrapping PCR testing for months, or at least to accept cheaper and faster antigen testing, as the tourism industry argued it would make for a big boost in visitor numbers.
A similar approach has been taken in several countries, and dropping at least PCR testing for vaccinated travellers is widely recommended by global health and tourism bodies.
PCR testing has been a standard entry requirement at South African borders, with an option for testing on arrival reserved for special cases. Proof of immunity by way of previous infection has not been considered as an alternative to vaccination for any rules related to travel.
The regulations needed to activate the new approach had not been gazetted by the time of publication.