Covid-19 travel rapid antigen test
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  • In addition to a PCR test conducted within 72 hours of departure, South Africans travelling to the Netherlands will now need to undergo rapid antigen testing at the airport.
  • This double line of defence, the first of its kind impacting SA travellers, coincides with the Netherlands’ lockdown extension.
  • Even with two negative test results, South Africans will need to self-isolate for at least 10 days upon arrival.
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The Netherlands is tightening its travel restrictions for visitors entering from South Africa, the UK and Ireland. While essential travel is still permitted, South Africans will, from Friday 15 January, need to submit two negative Covid-19 test results before departing.

The Netherlands briefly closed its borders to South African travellers shortly after the discovery of a new, more infectious Covid-19 variant was announced on 18 December. The travel ban was reversed two days later, but with strict conditions, including a mandatory quarantine period of 10-days for anybody who had travelled from or through South Africa.

This quarantine protocol was coupled with PCR testing requirements which have become the global standard for international air travel. On 23 December 2020, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that any traveller without a negative Covid test result, obtained within 72-hours of arrival in the Netherlands, would be denied permission to board the aircraft.  

Faced with growing concern around the veracity of the 501Y.V2 variant’s global spread, which has resulted in dozens of countries denying access to South African visitors, the Netherlands revised its travel protocols.

South Africans will now need to undergo rapid antigen testing one hour before entering the boarding zone. This is in addition to the Covid-19 PCR test which must be obtained within 72 hours of departing. Negative results on both tests will allow South Africans to proceed with their flights to the Netherlands. These certificates also need to be accompanied by a signed negative test declaration form.

“The additional rapid test requirement applies to those arriving in the Netherlands by aircraft from South Africa or by aircraft or ferry from the UK or Ireland,” explained the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The new requirement also applies to people working in the transport sector, such as lorry drivers, and ferry and airline crews.”

The mandatory combination of PCR and rapid antigen testing for international flights is the first of its kind imposed on South African travellers. This extra layer of defence addresses the issue of travellers potentially contracting Covid-19 in the 72-hours leading up to their departures.

Even with two negative test results, people travelling from South Africa to the Netherlands will still need to self-isolate for at least ten days.

“A test is a snapshot of a particular moment in time,” explained the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “It does not show whether you will go on to develop Covid-19, so you have to stay at home for ten days.”

The Netherlands’ latest testing regulations coincide with the ministry of health’s decision to extend the country’s lockdown protocols until 9 February 2021. The Netherlands has recorded 889,000 cases and 12,685 coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the outbreak.

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