“We did it, no more PCR for fully vaccinated travellers!”

These were the jubilant words of the CEO of the TBCSA, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, who – along with industry bodies such as FEDHASA and SATSA – has long been lobbying for the costly tests to be scrapped. In his address to the nation yesterday evening (March 22), President Cyril Ramaphosa, announced changes to Alert Level 1 lockdown regulations which included an announcement that international travellers entering South Africa will either need to show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative PCR test.

This will be welcomed by the SA travel industry too. Vaccinated South Africans have been hesitant about travelling abroad due to the heavy expense clients had to pay for a PCR test in Euro or US dollars, and also, because of the worry that if one should be symptomless and yet test positive in the PCR test, the inconvenience and expense of having to isolate in Europe or the US until a positive test result is received could be quite serious.

President Ramaphosa added: “All unvaccinated travellers entering the country who wish to be vaccinated will be offered a vaccination.”

Other welcome changes to the regulations include that masks are no longer mandatory outdoors and that both indoor and outdoor venues can now take up to 50% of their capacity. This is provided that the criteria for entrance to the venue is a proof of vaccination or a COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours.

President Cyril Ramaphosa

Another obstacle

Despite the jubilation this will no doubt cause in both the inbound and outbound industries, there is still an obstacle to overcome is the draft regulations issued by the Department of Health last week which, in their current format, continue to place unnecessary obstacles to the growth of tourism in South Africa, according to Rosemary Anderson, National Chairperson of FEDHASA.

“The draft regulations retain meaningless restrictions that are no longer fit for purpose, such as temperature checks, recording lists of patrons and other restrictions that have already been proved not to be a useful way to stop the spread of COVID. It’s like we’ve gone backwards to the beginning of the pandemic,” highlighted Anderson. What’s more, there is a further clause (15 B), that requires a traveller exiting South Africa to have in their possession a valid vaccination certificate or negative PCR test not more than 72 hours before departure, regardless of the requirements of their destination country