South Africa Travel Ban India
(Photo by Satyabrata Tripathy/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
  • South Africa’s health department is considering tighter entry restrictions for travellers coming from India.
  • This may come in the form of a blanket travel ban or a mandatory quarantine period to prevent the importation of the Covid-19 variant prevalent in India.
  • Calls for tighter measures have been voiced by members of the Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee.
  • The Economic Freedom Fighters and Democratic Alliance are both calling for a ban on travellers from India.
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Calls for South Africa to ban travel – or at the very least quarantine visitors – from India are growing among local politicians and medical experts. Several nations have recently banned travellers from India due to the worsening Covid-19 crisis which has killed close to 4,000 people in the past 24 hours.

India is being ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, accounting for 25% of all worldwide deaths reported between 26 April and 2 May. India accounted for almost half of the 5.7 million new Covid-19 cases reported globally last week.

Morgues and crematoriums are overwhelmed. Hospitals are crippled by dire oxygen shortages with India relying on ventilators supplied by foreign aid. More than 226,000 people have died due to Covid-19 since the start of the outbreak last year. A quarter of these deaths occurred in the past month alone.

This swell of infections and fatalities is being driven by the B.1.617 variant, which has caught the attention of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

Dozens of countries have shut their borders to travellers from India, for fear of importing the new variant, over the past week. This includes the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, and Nigeria. Even Tanzania, which has been lacklustre in its approach to combatting Covid-19, announced that it had suspended all flights to and from India.

South Africa’s health department is also considering tightening travel restrictions on India. While the B.1.617 variant has not yet been detected in South Africa, two separate incidents involving positive Covid-19 cases in Indian travellers have heightened concerns.

On 3 May, the health department confirmed that three travellers – who travelled via Doha to King Shaka International Airport aboard Qatar Airlines – had tested positive for Covid-19. One patient was admitted to hospital while the other two are asymptomatic and in isolation.

Crew members aboard an Indian bulk carrier cargo vessel docked at the port of Durban also tested positive earlier this week and are currently being quarantined.

South Africa considering India travel restrictions 

“We wish to reassure citizens that there are no direct flights from India and that all our ports of entry employ stringent containment procedures to minimise the importation of Covid-19,” explained Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Monday.

“We are currently on high alert to screen passengers and test those who require further assessment… we have also consulted the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) to advise us on the approach to management of travellers from countries that have epidemics driven by variants of concern.”

Two members of the MAC, who spoke to News24, confirmed that the Covid-19 advisory committee was advocating for stricter border control measures with India.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have called for a total ban on travellers from India and a mandatory quarantine period for those who have already recently entered the country. The official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has also called for a ban on travel from India.

“Only repatriation flights should be allowed from India to transport South Africans back home,” noted Angel Khanyile, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Home Affairs.

“Repatriation should also be on the strict condition of a mandatory self-quarantine for two weeks or by producing a negative Covid-19 test that was taken after arrival in South Africa, not before leaving.”

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