South Africa travel to Ireland
Aer Lingus planes seen grounded at Dublin Airport, during the coronavirus lockdown level 3 (Getty Images)
  • Ireland has bucked a growing trend and will reopen its borders to South African travellers on Saturday, 9 January.
  • This comes as other countries – most recently, Denmark and Vietnam – suspend flights to and from South Africa amid a swelling second wave of Covid-19 infections and a worrying new variant of the coronavirus.
  • Visitors to Ireland will need to present a negative Covid-19 test result, acquired within 72 hours of arrival.
  • But even with this, South African will need to self-isolate for at least two weeks.
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Ireland will reopen its borders to visitors from South Africa and the United Kingdom on Saturday, 9 January. The move comes less than a month after Ireland imposed a travel ban due to the discovery of new coronavirus variants in both countries.

But Ireland’s offer comes with a host of stringent regulations, including a mandatory two-week quarantine period for South Africans.

Ireland officially suspended travel to and from South Africa on 21 December 2020, after the 501.V2 variant was revealed to have spread across three provinces, driving a devastating second wave of infections. Ireland was joined by several other countries which quickly reacted, shutting down borders to South African travellers.

Now, even though South Africa’s active Covid-19 caseload and death rate are at their highest ever levels, Ireland has decided to buck a trend of growing travel bans.

Any passenger whose “journey originates in Great Britain or South Africa” will be allowed access to Ireland on two conditions.

South African visitors will need to need to provide evidence of a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Covid-19 test, which must be submitted within 72 hours prior to arrival in Ireland.

Even with a negative PCR test result prior to flying, travellers will still be required to self-isolate for at least two weeks, after which Irish health officials will retest for Covid-19.

If this result is negative, travellers will be permitted to proceed with their journeys. If the test result is positive, the quarantine period will be extended with further advice from the health authorities.  

“This is stricter advice than usual,” the Irish Health Service explained in a statement announcing amendments to its international travel policy.

“It’s in place because of the spread of new strains of the coronavirus in Great Britain and South Africa." These strains, it said. "are more easily spread than other strains of the virus, so it is a greater risk.”

While direct flights from South Africa to the UK are still suspended, British and Irish nationals have been able to enter via connecting flights. Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, Emirates and KLM are still offering connecting flights between South Africa and the UK.

This “loophole” has raised concerns around the efficiency of the UK’s travel ban. The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has, however, noted than any person entering the country on a connecting flight from South Africa will be required to self-isolate for ten days.

Similarly, no direct flights between South Africa and Ireland are operating, meaning that travellers will need to book a connecting ticket, which generally involves a stop-over in the Middle East.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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