Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
SOUTH Africa’s borders including Beitbridge Border Post will open for tourists and travellers on October 1 as the neighbouring country further eased lockdown restrictions to level 1.
This was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in a televised address last night.
South Africa closed its borders to human traffic, including Beitbridge Border Post, in March when it effected its first 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19. The closure of Beitbridge Border Post, the busiest inland port of entry in sub-Saharan Africa, affected mostly Zimbabweans who relied on cross-border travel.
South Africa has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Africa. As of yesterday, it had recorded more than 650 000 cases and more than 15 000 deaths.
President Ramaphosa said only three airports will be open to foreign travellers: Johannesburg’s OR Tambo, Cape Town International, and King Shaka outside Durban.
Travellers will have to present, on arrival, the result of a negative coronavirus test that is less than 72 hours old. If they cannot do so, they will be required to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost.
Everyone arriving in South Africa will be screened, and those who show any symptoms of Covid-19 will also be required to stay in quarantine until they test negative for the virus again.
President Ramaphosa said South African missions abroad will also be reopened for visa applications.
“One of the earliest measures we took to contain the spread of the virus was to severely restrict international arrivals and to close our borders. With the move to alert level 1, we will gradually and cautiously ease restrictions on international travel. We will be allowing travel into and out of South Africa for business, leisure and other travel with effect from 1 October 2020,” he said.
President Ramaphosa said the reopening of borders is subject to various containment and mitigation measures.
He said travel would be restricted to and from certain countries that have high infection rates. The list of those countries will be published based on the latest scientific data.
“Travellers will only be able to use one of the inland border posts that have remained operational during the lockdown or one of the three main airports: King Shaka, OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airport,” said President Ramaphosa.
“On arrival, travellers will need to present a negative Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours from time of departure. Where a traveller has not done a Covid-19 test prior to departure, they will be required to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost.”
He said all travellers will be screened on arrival and those presenting with symptoms will be required to remain in quarantine until a repeat Covid-19 test is conducted.
“All travellers will be asked to install the Covid-19 Alert South Africa mobile app. Countries that have used this type of app have been able to manage the coronavirus pandemic quite effectively.
“In preparation for the re-opening of our borders, South African missions abroad will open for visa applications and all long-term visas will be reinstated,” he said.
“The tourism sector is one of our greatest economic drivers. We are ready to open our doors again to the world, and invite travellers to enjoy our mountains, our beaches, our vibrant cities and our wildlife game parks in safety and confidence.”
Meanwhile, Air Zimbabwe is set to resume domestic flights from next Wednesday while regional flights are scheduled for October 3.
This is in line with last week’s Cabinet decision to resume domestic and international flights, although all passengers have to be tested for Covid-19 within 48 hours before travelling.
In a statement yesterday, Air Zimbabwe spokesperson Ms Firstme Vitori said the domestic flight schedule features the Harare/ Bulawayo/Victoria Falls/Harare morning schedule, and Harare/ Victoria Falls/ Bulawayo/Harare evening schedule every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The regional Harare/Dar es Salaam/Harare schedule will initially operate every Tuesday and Saturday, with an additional frequency expected towards year end.
“Air Zimbabwe wishes to announce the resumption of domestic and regional flight operations with effect from 23 September 2020 and 3 October 2020, respectively,” said Ms Vitori.
“The airline still awaits confirmation of the opening of South African airspace and airports, whereinafter, dates for resumption of flights into Johannesburg shall be announced.
“Sales offices are now open for bookings and ticketing. Clients are encouraged to follow Covid-19 prevention protocols whenever they visit the sales offices.”
Air Zimbabwe is expected to publish guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the World Health Organisation and International Air Transport Association (IATA) for air travel from time to time.
Presently, the guidelines include personal masking up, sanitising, washing hands, temperature checks as well as disinfection of aircraft before boarding and after passengers have disembarked. Ms Vitori said the Airline shall continue to review its business focus in line with market trends.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, told journalists during a post-Cabinet briefing last week that standard operating procedures had been put in place for the safe reopening of airports.
“The national guidelines for aviation safety and security have been developed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe to ensure the safety of both the travellers and airport staff. These are additional to temperature testing, social distancing, sanitisation, and mandatory wearing of masks.
“All travellers will be required to have a PCR Covid-19 clearance certificate issued by a recognised facility within 48 hours from the date of departure, in line with WHO guidelines,” said Minister Mutsvangwa. — @mashnets