Covid-19 travel South Africa
(Getty Images)
  • Launching on 15 December, the digital travel health questionnaire looks to replace paper-based forms.
  • As part of a phased approach, visitors entering the country via O.R. Tambo International Airport and the Beitbridge land border post will be required to complete this web-based platform.
  • Travellers can access the website via smartphone or desktop browser.
  • Digital registration must be completed within 48 hours prior to arriving in South Africa.
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International travellers entering South Africa will soon be able to complete a digital travel health questionnaire (THQ) before arriving at a point of entry. This electronic screening programme, to be launched on Tuesday 15 December 2020, is aimed at easing congestion at both airports and land entry points.

Announced by the department of health in response to the problems caused by paper-based forms, the Covid SA Travel System allows visitors to complete a digital questionnaire, either on their mobile phones or desktop web browsers, up to 48-hours before entering South Africa.

Once submitted, the digital THQ will be verified by the Port Health Official. If approved, travellers will be provided with a unique identification code which must be presented at the point of entry. Importantly, international visitors will still need to supply a negative Covid-19 PCR test result and undergo temperature screenings upon arrival.

While the initial rollout of the digital THQ programme will supplement the process of paper-based submissions, the department of health has noted its intension to make the use of this platform compulsory for those entering and leaving South Africa, starting with four primary transit points.

International travellers entering South Africa via O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and through the Beitbridge land border will be required to complete the web-based THQ from 17 December 2020 onwards.

Similarly, those departing from Cape Town International Airport or through the Maseru Bridge land border will need to complete the digital exit questionnaire.

For now, all other points of entry and exit will rely on the paper-based questionnaire.

According to details of the pilot programme, the digital THQ will eventually be extended to all international airports and land border posts. Sea travel is also noted in the web-based platform, with harbours in Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Mossel Bay and East London listed as potential points of entry.

Information required by the Covid SA Travel System mirrors that of the paper-based forms. Basic personal information, including the traveller’s flight details and accommodation plans, must be noted in the fields provided.

Travellers will also need to disclose their travel and health history, with specific questions relating Covid-19 symptoms forming the bulk of the latter screening process.

The health department has stressed the importance of securing personal information and says that all details supplied via the digital THQ will comply with the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act.

“Security of personal information was one of the top priorities throughout the development of this system,” the department said. “The Covid SA Travel System provides us with additional armour to better manage and survey travellers to prevent importation and exporting of the virus.”

In addition to fast-tracking and replacing the cumbersome storage complexities associated with the paper-based system, this digital solution uses an algorithm to automatically determine a traveller’s personal risk profile.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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