South Africa Drops All Remaining COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

On Wednesday evening, South Africa’s government made the decision to drop all of the country’s remaining pandemic-era restrictions, after the Presidential Coordinating Council and Cabinet decided that they’d served their purpose and were no longer needed.

For travelers, the primary change is the removal of vaccination and testing requirements for entry into South Africa, but other revisions include the lifting of the nation’s indoor mask mandates and the limits on gathering sizes, and the elimination of COVID-19 border checks.


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“Today is a very historic day as we have reached a turning point since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the world and in the country,” Health Minister Dr. Joe Phaahla said today in an official statement. His repeal of the last three COVID-era regulations marks the end of a 26-month-long period defined by state-led management of the global pandemic.

Welcoming the news on behalf of South African Tourism, the national tourism agency’s Acting CEO Themba Khumalo said, “It’s time to step into a brave new world.” In its reaction statement, the destination marketing organization called the move “a step in the right direction” and presaged that it will, “significantly benefit the entire tourism sector value chain.”

“As custodians of tourism, we believe that the end of the restrictions is the tonic the sector needs to accelerate the rebound to pre-pandemic tourist arrival numbers and profitable levels,” South African Tourism said in a statement.

Two years prior to the pandemic’s onset, the travel and tourism sector generated 1.5 million jobs and contributed R425.8 billion (US$26.62 billion) to the nation’s economy, representing 8.6 percent of the country’s total economic activity. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s 2018 annual review, that made South Africa’s the largest tourism economy in the entire African continent.

Cape Town and the 12 Apostels from above in South Africa (photo via Ben1183 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Cape Town and the 12 Apostles from above in South Africa. (photo via Ben1183 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Per the country’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, tourism has already been identified as a critical factor when it comes to rebooting the nation’s economy. The abolition of these final restrictions effectively gives South African Tourism the green light to “go full steam” in implementing measures aimed at regaining the sector’s lost ground.

It also means that constraints placed on live social events, business, conferences, trade shows and meetings for the past two-plus years will finally be a thing of the past, making way for the return of delegates, exhibitors and business travelers from around the globe, helping to kickstart activity across a variety of other industries.

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