UPDATE | Tanzania backtracks on SA restrictions – limits quarantine to India

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South Africa travel quarantine
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  • On Monday, Tanzania announced that travellers from countries with new Covid-19 variants – including South Africa – would be subjected to a two-week quarantine upon arrival.
  • The East African nation backtracked this decision the following day and noted that only travellers from India would be forced to quarantine.
  • South Africans will still need to produce a negative PCR test result, acquired within 72 hours of their arrival in Tanzania, to be allowed into the country.
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Tanzania, which has faced fierce criticism for its lacklustre approach to combatting Covid-19, has revised its decision to quarantine travellers from South Africa.

The East African nation initially announced that it would enforce a two-week quarantine on travellers coming from countries with new Covid-19 variants as identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

South African travellers will be able to enter Tanzania without enduring a mandatory two-week quarantine period but must still produce a negative Covid-19 PCR test result acquired within 72 hours of their arrival in the country.

This is the latest update provided by Tanzania’s Ministry of Health and comes just 24 hours after the country had announced heightened restrictions for all travellers arriving from “countries with new Covid-19 variants based on WHO daily updates.”

The latest update provided by the WHO lists Variants of Concern (VOC) in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Japan.

Under the previous travel advisory – title “No.6” and issued on 3 May – travellers from these high-risk countries would be subjected to a mandatory quarantine at their own cost.

Travel advisory No.7, published on 4 May, removed any mention of the WHO and its list of countries impacted by Covid-19 variants. Instead, the Ministry of Health issued a specific flight ban and quarantine notice for travellers coming from India.

“Due to the current situation of Covid-19 epidemic in India, all flights to and from India are banned in Tanzania,” noted the latest update signed by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Professor Abel Makubi. Exceptions to this ban are only extended to cargo planes and airlines assisting in humanitarian, diplomatic and medical mission.

“All travellers, whether foreigners arriving in India or those who have travelled through India in the last 14 days regardless of route taken will shall be subjected to rapid test at Point of Entry followed by stringent contact tracing and 14 days mandatory quarantine at their own cost.”

It’s been almost a year since Tanzania stopped reporting the number of identified Covid-19 infections and deaths. The East African nation has only officially confirmed 509 cases and 21 fatalities on instruction by former President John Magufuli.

Although the country initially responded to the pandemic by quarantining travellers and reissuing guidelines presented by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – regular handwashing, social distancing and mask wearing – Tanzania was not placed under lockdown.

Magufuli argued that a lockdown would push more Tanzanians into poverty, and stopped the reporting of caseloads because it was “fuelling public panic”. The testing and quarantine of both locals and visitors ended in mid-May, and in June 2020, Magufuli declared Tanzania “Covid-19-free”.

Magufuli died on 17 March 2021, at age 61. While the official cause of death was listed as “heart complications”, Tanzania's main opposition leader Tundu Lissu argued that Magufuli had succumbed to Covid-19.

In the wake of Magufuli’s death, Tanzania has begun to take the pandemic more seriously. Although the government, now led by Samia Suluhu Hassan, is still not releasing any Covid-19 data, the president has established an advisory panel of health experts to help plot Tanzania’s response to the pandemic.

Part of this new approach was the announcement of recent travel restrictions. 

“Based on the global epidemiological situation and emergence of new variants of viruses that cause Covid-19, there is an increased risk of their importation into our country,” explained the ministry’s permanent secretary, Professor Abel Makubi.

“As such the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania has decided to elevate and enhance prevailing preventative measures especially those with regard to international travel.”

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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