- The Netherlands has announced that flights from South Africa will be allowed to resume, with travel exemptions offered to non-EU residents.
- Although most South Africans still won't be able to enter the Netherlands due to an ongoing EU ban, students, key workers, and those with compelling family reasons will be allowed to travel.
- Permitted travellers will be subjected to a shorter quarantine period if they test negative for Covid-19 on day five of their self-isolation.
- South African passengers can now also transit through Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
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The Netherlands has ended a six-month-long travel ban which restricted flights from South Africa amid concerns about a new Covid-19 variant. While the lifting of restrictions will benefit returning Dutch residents and in-bound tourists, most South Africans will still not be able to enter the Netherlands due to the ongoing ban imposed by the European Union (EU).
The Netherlands was one of many countries which reacted to the discovery of the 501Y.V2 variant by imposing a blanket travel ban on South African visitors. Since late-January, limited flights departing from South Africa have only been permitted to carry Dutch nationals and EU citizens into Amsterdam.
This travel ban has been extended several times on a monthly basis, but on Tuesday morning, the Dutch ministry of foreign affairs announced that flights from South Africa would be reinstated.
And, although the EU Commission recently recommended that member states allow fully vaccinated travellers to enter their respective countries, this reopening policy has not yet been adopted by all European nations. A Digital Covid Certificate – including authorised certification of vaccination and negative test results – is currently being trialed within the EU and is expected to rollout to all member states in July.
Until then, most South African travellers remain barred from entering the Netherlands or any other country within the EU. There are, however, several exceptions beyond returning Dutch or EU nationals which permit South Africans entry into the Netherlands.
Non-EU travellers, along with those from “high-risk” countries, must present a negative Covid-19 test result – obtained within 24 hours of departure – before boarding a flight to the Netherlands.
But where previous rules required visitors to endure ten days of quarantine, travellers can now exit self-isolation after just five days. To do this, travellers will need to present another negative Covid-19 test result on the fifth day of quarantine. Travellers will also need to complete a Health Declaration Form.
Travel exemptions extended to non-EU residents and long-stay visa holders are determined according to five primary categories:
- Study, knowledge, and research
- For work
- Compelling reasons to visit family
- Transit or transfer
- Humanitarian reasons
South African students travelling to the Netherlands for a short stay of less than three months – with proof of enrolment at a recognised educational institution – will be permitted to enter. Similarly, recognised researchers and scientists are also exempt from the EU travel ban.
Care workers, doctors, and nurses – listed as "key workers" – are allowed to travel to the EU, as are travellers employed in the following sectors within the EU:
- Transport (container ships, bulk carriers, tankers, fishing boats)
- Energy (oil or gas platform, wind farm)
Seafarers on commercial vessels with a length of 24 metres or more will also be permitted entry as will flight crews. Journalists and "elite athletes" may also apply for a travel exemption into the EU.
Family members in the first or second degree will be allowed to travel for the purpose of visiting a terminally ill family member or attending a funeral. Travellers will also be allowed into the EU to see their new-born child or grandchild.
South African travellers will now also be allowed to transit through Amsterdam Airport Schiphol on to another non-EU country.
The Netherlands' flag carrier, KLM, is currently offering daily flights between Amsterdam and Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport. Three weekly flights are offered to Cape Town.
(Compiled by Luke Daniel)
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