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Italy reopens to South Africa – but not for tourists

Business Insider SA

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  • Italy has rescinded its ban on travellers from South Africa and neighbouring countries.
  • But that doesn't mean getting to Italy will be easy, and tourism is strictly forbidden.
  • South Africans will need to be travelling for work, health, or study reasons.
  • And even if allowed in and fully vaccinated, travellers will need to self-isolate for 10 days.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Italy has ended its ban on travellers from South Africa and has, instead, imposed strict conditions for entry. But most South Africans will be unable to meet the criteria and effectively remain barred.

European Union (EU) member states recently agreed to lift the travel ban imposed on South Africa and its neighbouring countries. The EU's "emergency brake" mechanism – restricting travel from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe – was implemented shortly after the detection of the Omicron variant in late November.

And although this "emergency brake" directive has been scrapped, much of Europe still remains off limits to South Africans, with individual countries responsible for imposing and lifting specific travel restrictions.

Countries like Germany, France, and Ireland have reopened to fully vaccinated South African travellers, who don't need to quarantine upon arrival. Others, like Denmark and the Netherlands, allow travellers in, but with strict testing and quarantine requirements, even if fully vaccinated.

Italy's ban on South African travellers – which has existed in some form for much of the pandemic – was reiterated 26 November. Roberto Speranza, the Italian minister of health, announced that entry would be banned for any traveller who had been in South Africa, or its neighbouring countries, in the past 14 days.

Prior to this, Italy, due to its tough battle with Covid-19 during the early stages of the pandemic, had remained largely out of reach for travellers beyond the EU. Today, Italy has five categories of travellers – from A to E – subject to varying requirements.

European countries are most contained within the A, B, and C categories, which allows fully vaccinated travellers entry to Italy without needing quarantine. Travellers from more than 20 countries, including Australia, Rwanda, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are in the D category, which also allows for entry without quarantine, provided that vaccination and testing requirements are met.

The rest of the world remains in the E category, which South Africa recently joined after Italy rescinded its Omicron-induced travel ban.

Entry from E-listed countries is limited to "work, health reasons, study reasons, absolute urgency or to return to one's domicile, home, or residence." Tourists from South Africa and other countries in this category won't be allowed to visit Italy.

And even if entry is granted for one of the exemptions – including being in a "proven and stable emotional relationship" with Italian/EU/Schengen citizens – these travellers will need to self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival in Italy.

Travellers will need to complete a Passenger Locator Form, undergo PCR or antigen testing, and notify the local prevention department of the health authority. Another Covid-19 test will be administered on day 10 of the traveller's self-isolation, which must be completed whether vaccinated or not.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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