On the 1st October 2020, South Africa opened its borders to international travel. Whilst many South Africans welcome a lift on the ban on international travel there are still restrictions in place as to those countries who are not permitted to travel to South Africa because of the high risk of Covid-19. A list of countries, who are presumably low risk, and whose travellers are allowed to enter South Africa has been published by the Government.
To determine which travellers may visit South Africa, the government has divided countries into three risk groups based on their relation to South Africa’s risk level, namely, high-risk, medium-risk, and low-risk. In terms of the current regulations the exceptions to travel from high-risk countries include business travellers with scarce and critical skills including diplomats, repatriated persons, investors, and people participating in professional sporting events.
Unsurprisingly, there has been criticism as to the government’s decision over which countries are permitted to travel to South Africa under Level 1 lockdown. Some have said that there is no rationality as to decision over which counties are allowed to travel to South Africa. It makes no sense at all that travellers from any African countries are permitted, while many low-risk European countries are prohibited. Furthermore, the travel no-fly list issued by the Department of Home Affairs, includes BRICS partners, Brazil, Russia and India, but not China.
In determining which countries fell within the risk categories for international travel, the Government looked at the World Health Organization’s criteria to assess the risk of countries. In terms of the World Health Organisation’s guidelines, countries that have more than 20 active cases per 100,000 people are regarded as high-risk. In terms of South Africa’s high risk list of countries, Armenia for example featured on the list. However, Armenia only had 13 active cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks. Other countries which fell into the same category as Armenia are Georgia, Guatemala, Jamaica, and the Maldives. Travel from Morocco is permitted, yet Morocco currently has 85 active cases per 100,000.
It is apparent that the countries falling within the high risk categories listed by the South African government need to be revisited and revised to avoid confusion as to the rationale behind which countries fall within the designated risk categories. The reality of the situation is that the Covid-19 virus is a moving target which currently cannot be contained. The cases therefore in each country will need to be regularly revised to determine which countries form part of the high-risk category for travel.
Author – Kate Bailey – Hill