• South Africans are welcome in the Maldives again, with just a PCR test required.
  • But fellow island Mauritius has locked its borders to southern African neighbours until at least the end of January.
  • Both imposed bans on the basis of the Omicron variant.
  • Mauritius had detected local cases of Omicron previously, but its latest data showed only Delta in local circulation.
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South Africans can now go to the Maldives again – but will have to wait at least a month to travel to Mauritius.

Some Omicron-induced travel bans affecting South Africa have been raised this week, by countries such as Malaysia, while the likes of Israel have kept SA on its red-list equivalents. Now island states seem to be taking the same varied approach to the new coronavirus variant.

The Maldives had reopened its borders in mid-2020, and its aggressive strategy to restart the tourism trade later saw it dropping any requirement for PCR testing by those who could prove they were fully vaccinated. That has now been reversed, with PCR testing required for all arrivals.

At the same time, the travel ban for southern Africa, triggered by the discovery of Omicron, has been lifted.

Like travellers from the rest of the world, tourists from southern Africa will not be required to quarantine regardless of their vaccination status, Immigration Maldives said in a statement – even though quarantine will be imposed on Maldives citizens who are not fully vaccinated, as well as diplomats and others who aren't using tourist visas. 

The Maldives had banned travel by all but its own residents from South Africa (as well as Namibia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and eSwatini), plus anyone with a "travel history" for those countries within the past 14 days, in late November

Mauritius also closed its borders to South Africans at the end of November, flying passengers from the island to Johannesburg but taking no passengers on the return journey in early December.

The island had launched a "Mauritius is open" campaign in mid-2021 – but South Africans were initially excluded from the reopening, and allowed in only from October. 

This week the national carrier, Air Mauritius, informed local travel agents that South Africans will remain banned until at least the end of January, reported specialist published TravelNews.

That was confirmed by a statement from the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, which read in full: "Until 31 January 2022, any person who has been in the Republic of South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, eSwatini, Lesotho, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia in the 14 days before their date of arrival in Mauritius will not be allowed entry or transit in the Republic of Mauritius."

Earlier in December, Mauritius had decried France's decision to place it on a "scarlet" list, saying that endangered its tourism trade, and pointing to its travel bans on fellow southern African countries as proof it was taking Omicron seriously. France later lifted its ban on Mauritius. 

On Tuesday, Mauritius released the results of 78 samples taken up to 19 December, and genetically sequenced by its Central Health Laboratory. It had found 21 cases of Omicron, the health ministry said, all among arriving passengers, while all local cases were of the Delta variant.

It had previously reported local cases of Omicron, in eight local samples sequenced as part of a batch of 100 tests conducted on its behalf in South Africa – with samples collected between 23 November and 27 November. 

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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