SA's dropped its testing rules for vaccinated arrivals – but travelling with children is tricky

Business Insider SA
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
  • South Africa's state of disaster has ended, and the country is moving towards existing legislative tools to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, and any other future notifiable medical conditions.
  • Some transitional regulations remain, including mask-wearing indoors and limitations on social gatherings.
  • Travellers entering South Africa will still need to prove they've been vaccinated or provide a negative PCR test result not older than 72 hours.
  • This applies to anybody older than five, which complicates family travel.
  • In South Africa, as in other parts of the world, Covid-19 vaccinations aren't open to children younger than 12.
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South Africa's coronavirus-induced state of disaster has ended, but some transitional regulations remain, including rules on entering the country, which could complicate family holidays.

South Africa's national state of disaster, implemented 750 days ago, allowed the government to take extraordinary measures in combatting the spread and impact of Covid-19. This was done through the Disaster Management Act, which promulgated laws according to various levels of lockdown depending on the severity of the pandemic at any given time.

See also | LOCKDOWN ENDS: These are the 3 remaining Covid-19 lockdown rules from Tuesday

More than two years after Covid-19 first arrived in South Africa, its rate of infection and death has dropped dramatically over the past few months, ushering in a new phase of the pandemic, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

This new phase sees an end to the state of disaster, announced on Monday night, and a transition to legislation within the National Health Act that deals with notifiable medical conditions.

Some familiar transitional regulations will remain in place for 30 days while government finalises changes to the National Health Act. This includes wearing a facemask in indoor public spaces, limits on social gatherings, and the continued payment of Social Relief of Distress Grants.

It also upholds current travel regulations. This requires that travellers entering South Africa either provide proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours. These same regulations are proposed as amendments to the National Health Act.

And while South Africa's embattled tourism industry has welcomed the end of the national state of disaster and recent amendments scrapping pre-arrival testing for fully vaccinated travellers, concerns around the new rules remain.

As it currently stands, children above the age of five who are not vaccinated are required to produce a negative PCR test result.

In South Africa, like in other parts of the world, Covid-19 vaccinations are only open to those older than 12-years-old.

"This means even if parents are fully vaccinated, a family with children aged between five and 12 years has no choice but to have to pay for PCR tests, which we know in certain countries like the UK is not only onerous to obtain, but also expensive," explained Rosemary Anderson, national chairperson of the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA).

Not only is this problematic for families visiting South Africa from abroad – in cases where vaccinations are not yet open to children younger than 12 – it's also a stumbling block for South African travellers looking to re-enter the country with kids.

Upholding entry regulations that add further travel costs – and time and effort – to those visiting or returning to South Africa will do little to aid the tourism and hospitality sectors' recovery. Anderson also highlighted the irony of these prohibitive measures against the backdrop of international travel restrictions imposed on South African travellers due to the discovery of new coronavirus variants.

"A few months later, and it would appear we're scoring our own goal by precluding families with children between the age of five and 12 years from visiting South Africa because of this inconvenient rule," said Anderson.

"This when we should be doing the exact opposite: making it as easy as possible for families to visit South Africa to make up for the massive job losses and lost revenue over the past two years."

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