Flying internationally from South Africa – here’s what to expect

The Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) has welcomed the country’s move to a level lockdown and says that it is prepared for the gradual lifting of restrictions on international flights but has warned that passengers will need to jump through extra hoops if they plan on travelling.

Addressing the nation on Wednesday evening (16 September), president Cyril Ramaphosa said that the government will gradually ease restrictions on international travel for business and leisure from 1 October – subject to certain containment measures.

International travel will only be allowed through the main border ports or through OR Tambo International, Cape Town International, or King Shaka International.

Acsa said it is still awaiting official regulations and directives from the Department of Transport which are set to be published in the coming days.

However, it reiterated comments by president Cyril Ramaphosa and warned that travellers need to be absolutely certain of their eligibility to fly and that they are in possession of valid visas to enter or re-enter South Africa before booking flights.

It added that the following requirements will need to met:

  • On arrival, travellers will need to present a negative Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours from time of departure;
  • All travellers will be screened on arrival and those presenting with symptoms will be required to have Covid-19 test; and
  • Where necessary, travellers will need to enter mandatory quarantine facilities at their own cost.

“People wishing to travel across borders should monitor our ACSA website for airports and airlines operating during Level 1 and the airline web sites for availability of flights,” it said.

“We expect the number of international passengers to grow gradually as this is an important step on the road to recovery. We greatly look forward to once again welcoming international visitors to our international airports and to South Africa.”

The list 

The list of countries that will be allowed for international travel is likely to be limited when travel restarts again on 1 October. Ramaphosa said that the list of permitted countries will be published at a later date and the country’s selected on the latest scientific data.

While not mentioned in his address, reports indicate that travel will likely focus on regional travel, including neighbouring countries and parts of Africa.

Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has indicated that her department is focusing on creating a ‘regional travel bubble’.

“Our next step is to work towards the reopening of international travel,” she said in a media briefing on 4 September. “We are monitoring the risk of the virus spread and we are satisfied with the current downward trend of new infections, if sustained, can fast-track the reopening of regional borders soon.”

In this way, through regional coordination with our regional partners, we could create a regional travel bubble, she said.

“Africa land markets form the bedrock of tourism in South Africa. This region alone accounts for 71% of international arrivals. This would give a further boost to the recovery efforts of the sector.”

“The rise in domestic tourism together with regional travel will help us build confidence for global travellers so that when we eventually open all are borders, we will be able to attract traveller as a safe destination.”

What it will be like to fly 

Government already has strict rules in place for domestic travel, with clear regulations for both airports and airlines.

Passengers are allowed inside the terminal buildings and that temperature screening will be conducted at terminal building entrances before any passenger is allowed entry. No passengers will be allowed inside the terminal buildings without masks.

All the airports have markings on the floor for social distancing of 1.5 metres. This will be applicable at check-in counters, security checkpoints and airport lounges.

All airline check-in agents will wear face shields and the counters will be installed with protective screens. Check-in counters will also be frequently sanitised.

The check-in process is as follows:

  • Passengers should check-in online before going to the airport;
  • Online check-in can be done at the screens in the terminal building;
  • A limited number of check-in counters will be open and physical distancing rules will apply in these queues;
  • Using a check-in counter will take longer.

The security checkpoint process is as follows:

  • Passengers will scan their own paper-based or mobile device-based boarding pass to the scanner at the security checkpoint;
  • Passengers should remove any metal and electronic items from their person before entering the security queue;
  • These items must be placed in the tray at the security scanner;
  • This process will minimise the need for security officers to conduct physical pat-downs at the checkpoint.

The boarding process is as follows:

  • Physical distancing rules apply for queues to board an aircraft;
  • Passengers must scan their own boarding pass at the boarding gate;
  • Boarding will be done in a controlled manner with passengers travelling in the rear seats of the aircraft boarding first. Passengers with tickets for Row A, for example, will board last;
  • Masks must be worn for the duration of the flight.

The following measures will apply inside the cabin of the aircraft:

  • No catering will be allowed:
  • No magazines on board;
  • The last row will be reserved for isolation of suspected cases.
  • All aircrafts must be disinfected before entering into service and after each flight.

The disembarkation process will be as follows:

  • Masks must continue to be used when disembarking and moving towards the baggage carousels;
  • Physical distancing rules will apply at the baggage carousels;
  • Crowding close to the baggage carousels will not be permitted

Briefing to resolve Cape refugee issue delayed to mid-October

Cape Town – The matter of the refugees currently housed in two tented camps in Cape Town took a turn on Tuesday after Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs was forced to postpone a briefing to discuss the issue.

The scheduled meeting between the committee, the City, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the Department of Home Affairs and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to discuss the situation was scrapped after MPs rejected the late submission of presentations by all the groups except for the UNHCR.

The City did not submit a report and its representative, Mayco member for community services and health Zahid Badroodien, said: “We must express the confusion with which we received the invitation.

“The confusion for us is that as a local authority we have very little responsibility over refugees per se, so it was not very clear to us what you were requesting in a report from the City.”

Acting chairperson of the committee, Mosa Chabane, praised the UNHCR for submitting its report on time, but was “perturbed” by the lateness of the others.

“It is concerning that the City appears to want to absolve themselves from the matter, when the committee was unequivocal that a collaborative effort was necessary to deal with the issues of the refugees at the Green Market Square,” said Chabane.

“We are cognisant that all spheres of government have specific roles and responsibilities.

“However, we were clear that the relevant stakeholders must work together to resolve the matter.

“It is in this context that the committee expected a briefing from the City, but the City’s attitude undermines intergovernmental relations and the standing of the portfolio committee.”

Members of the committee were unanimous in their condemnation of the the City, the SAHRC and the department. The standing rule in Parliament is that presentations be sent to MPs at least 48 hours earlier.

The Department of Home Affairs’ report was received on Monday. Home Affairs Minister Aaron Mosoaledi apologised for the tardiness.

“I wasn’t aware that my report was received late … even though I had given instructions for the report to be sent. If they sent it late, I wish to apologise profusely. I have always respected the committee,” said Motsoaledi.

The committee has resolved to defer the matter to mid-October to get a comprehensive report individually and jointly from all relevant stakeholders on the matter.

SA’s borders open on 1 October. Here’s what we know about the rules for tourists.


  • South Africa’s borders will open for tourists – inbound and outbound – on 1 October, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday night.
  • But there are caveats, including that some countries may be red-listed based on their coronavirus statistics.
  • Those arriving need to show a recent negative test for Sars-CoV-2, and should install a government contact-notification app.
  • Here’s what we know about the rules for international travel into and out of South Africa under Alert Level 1.

South Africans will be able to go on holidays abroad and inbound tourists will be welcome again from 1 October, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday night.

South African missions abroad will be opening for visa applications, he said.

“We are ready to open our doors again to the world and invite travellers to enjoy our mountains, our beaches, our vibrant cities, and our wildlife game parks in safety and confidence.”

But there will be some caveats.

Only three airports will be open to foreign travellers: Johannesburg’s OR Tambo, Cape Town International, and King Shaka outside Durban. Overland travellers will be restricted to one of the few border posts that remained open during lockdown.

Travel to and from some countries may be restricted, Ramaphosa said, “based on the latest scientific data we can get on those countries”. He did not provide details of the metrics South Africa may use for such red-listing.

Travellers will have to present, on arrival, the result of a negative coronavirus test less than 72 hours old. If they can not do so, they “will be required to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost”.

Everyone arriving will be screened, and those who show any symptoms of Covid-19 will also be required to stay in quarantine until they test negative for the virus again.

Travellers “will be asked” to install the South African government contact alert app, Ramaphosa said.

SA remains red-listed by some countries – despite meeting delisting criteria

The methods used to determine “red zones” or lists of those required to quarantine, vary from country to country.

The United Kingdom and Germany, for example, use a variety of factors to determine a country’s status – but primarily looks at the infection rate over the previous seven days, to arrive at an estimation of active cases.

In the case of the United Kingdom, infection levels must be below 20 new cases per 100,000 of the population over the previous seven days. In Germany, this figure is 50 new cases per 100,000 over the last week.

According to the most recent data, South Africa is reporting approximately 18.58 new cases per 100,000 per week – well within Germany’s threshold, and just under the United Kingdom’s.

Even so, neither country has yet removed South Africa from its red lists.

Ramaphosa to announce limited international travel, Level 1


*Cabinet is expected to decide on Wednesday on the resumption of

international travel.

*But there are strings attached.

*The NCCC has recommended strict visa requirements for anyone

entering the country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet is expected to agree to the

resumption of international travel and the reopening of borders on


However, News24 understands that the Natjoints have warned against

opening up South Africa’s borders for international tourists en masse,

citing fears of a second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Ramaphosa is expected to announce the move to Level 1 of the lockdown,

including the lifting of the curfew, among others, once Cabinet gives

the plans a green light.

The president is also expected to announce a stimulus package for

economic recovery.

Sources say the National Coronavirus Command Council has deliberated

restricting international tourism but allowing movement through permission.

According to the recommendation Cabinet will decide on, people will be

allowed to enter and exit the country with strict visa requirements.

This is to ensure that travellers from high-risk countries will be

excluded from travel to South Africa.


As part of this plan, only three international airports will be open,

subject to strict conditions, insiders say.

Land borders will only be opened to those who have visas – in contrast

to the usual free flow of travel between SADC countries


Holders of Zimbabwean Special Dispensation and Lesotho Special

Dispensation permits will be allowed to travel easily.

Two insiders privy to the deliberations said the Natjoints raised

concerns about a second wave of the virus due to possible imported cases.

As a result, the country will not be open for all tourists.

The list of countries that will be restricted from travelling to South

Africa is expected to be finalised on Wednesday.

It has also been recommended that state-sponsored quarantine should be

done away with and that international travellers should carry their own


It is understood that foreign nationals who have work visas will be

allowed to enter, as well as family members of people who have work

visas and South Africans who are abroad and want to come home.

Level one loading: Cyril Ramaphosa set to lift travel ban tonight

While borders and other points of entry will reopen under level one, government has decided to retain the ban on travellers from the US, UK, Spain and Italy – which are key markets for the revival of the tourism sector.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will tell the nation on Wednesday night that he is moving the country to Level 1 of the national lockdown and opening up international travel – with provisos.

Travel from high risk countries such as the United States and some of the major EU countries will remain banned.

Controversially, however, arrivals from India and Brazil – which have the second and third highest infection rates in the world – will be permitted.

People arriving from countries permitted into SA will have to produce a negative test result taken 72 hours before travel, which will grant them access without having to quarantine first.

According to top insiders who attended meetings of the Presidential Coordinating Council on Tuesday, Cabinet – which is meeting on Wednesday – is expected to endorse the decision to move to Level 1 of the lockdown and the resumption of international travel. The president would then address the nation afterwards.

Travellers who display symptoms will have to quarantine at own cost, even if they produce evidence of having tested negative 72 hours prior

Acting presidential spokesperson Tyrone Seale could not immediately confirm this when contacted on Wednesday morning. “We do normally make announcements before the President addresses the nation,” he said.

A member of the National Coronavirus Command Council said the decision to move the country to Level 1 and allow international travel, was supported by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who cited declining daily infection rates and the availability of beds at trauma units and quarantine facilities as evidence that South Africa was ready to open up.

A senior government official privy to discussions said the decision to open up was premised on a risk-based approach.

“We have a very low number of hospital admissions, very low numbers in critical wards. Our equipment such as ventilators are in abundance and quarantine sites are laying empty at the moment. We are seeing low admissions and low infection rates on a daily basis. Less than one thousand people per day are contracting the virus.

“Should there be an case upsurge at Level 1, based on empirical evidence around the world a second upsurge is never as big as the first one. We have enough equipment and facilities to handle it.”

An NCC insider said while borders and other points of entry would reopen, government had decided that travellers from high risk countries not be permitted to enter South Africa. These include the US, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy – which are key markets for the revival of the tourism sector. But arrivals from India and Brazil, each with 4.3-million and 5-million infections respectively, will be allowed. “India and Brazil do not present high numbers for us.”

Travellers who display symptoms will have to quarantine at own cost, even if they produce evidence of having tested negative 72 hours before they travelled.

‘Gear up for easing of lockdown': Winde to push for Ramaphosa to lift curfew and overseas travel ban

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde wants the curfew lifted and a date

for international travel to resume.

Premiers are meant to meet with President Ramaphosa and the NCCC to

discuss the lockdown.


Winde also hopes to have clarity on events and sporting businesses.


Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and other premiers will be meeting with

President Cyril Ramaphosa and the National Coronavirus Command Council

(NCCC) to discuss the next phase of the lockdown on Tuesday.


In a video statement released on Tuesday, Winde said he would be pushing

for three main agenda items that his government felt would allow for

more economic activity in the country.


Winde said he would be asking the president to lift the curfew and give

clarity on international travel, as well.


“We need a date that international travel opens, in October, so that the

bookings can be made by international travellers who want to come into

our country for business or vacation for the next few months,” he said.


“We need to make sure that we open up on our events, sporting

businesses, and churches must be able to open up more carrying

capacity,” added Winde.


Winde last week also pleaded with Ramaphosa to fight the “second

pandemic” – unemployment – by opening up all sectors of the economy on



According to a statement by the presidency, the meeting would be chaired

by Ramaphosa and was expected to focus on a report from the NCCC on the

country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.


This, as Ramaphosa hinted in a meeting with the South Africa National

Editors Forum last week that South Africa could be going into Level 1

lockdown soon.

DA calls on education MEC to intervene so Zim teachers can return to SA

The DA says Zimbabwean teachers locked out of SA due to Covid-19 restriction should be allowed to return to SA.

According to the provincial education department, four teachers who were locked out have since been assisted.

The department says teachers who are still outside SA’s borders are

on unpaid leave.

The DA in Limpopo is calling on Education MEC Polly Boshielo to

intervene and approach the home affairs department to help Zimbabwean

teachers return to SA.

According to the party, an education portfolio committee meeting last

week revealed that about 400 gateway subject teachers, mostly from

Zimbabwe, were unable to enter South Africa due to border restrictions.

Gateway subjects include mathematics, physical science, economics,

agricultural sciences and accounting.

“The failure of these gateway subject teachers to enter the country and

resume work will have an extremely negative effect on the preparation of

learners for their final exams and their chances to achieve good marks

for admission into institutions of higher learning.

“The impact of the failure of these teachers to resume work is further

compounded by the fact that almost half the school year has been lost

due to Covid-19,” DA provincial legislature member Jacques Smalle said

on Tuesday.

According to the provincial education department, of the 379 foreign

teachers who teach maths and sciences at high schools in the province,

only 20 were locked in Zimbabwe due to the lockdown.

The Department of Home Affairs has since assisted four teachers to

return, Limpopo education spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene said.


Sixteen remain outside the country and processes are under way to ensure

they return to classes, she added.

“These educators are appointed in temporary posts due to the nature of

their citizenship. They are paid a normal educator salary through the

PERSAL system.”

Meanwhile, those who remain outside of South Africa’s borders are

“deemed to be on unpaid leave”.

Chuene said the department stopped their salaries and substituted them.


But Smalle said the teachers should be allowed to enter the country as a

matter of urgency, given their contribution to the vital subject areas

they teach.


He added that, in the 2019 final matric exams, the province achieved

lower percentages than the national average of pupils who achieved above

30% in all 11 gateway subjects.