South Africa opens international travel soon
Image Credit: Twitter@flySAA_US

South Africa will reopen its international borders on 1 October 2020, under alert level 1 of lockdown which began today, but not all visitors will be welcome just yet.

SA to keep close watch on countries’ COVID-19 status

The SA Government says while a ban will be put in place for international countries still experiencing high infection rates, this will be reviewed regularly as countries reach their peaks at different times.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said the list of affected countries will be published soon by the government, but gave no indication of exactly when. (SAPeople will publish this as soon as we get it. If you’d like to be notified, send us an email to

The minister said: “International travel on the continent (Africa) is allowed to and from all countries. However, for other international travel, there will be a schedule of countries where infections are high, which will temporarily not be allowed, until such time as their infections get under control.

“Even for these countries, [the ban is] not permanent. It will depend what happens to their infections [and when] they come under control, they will be allowed.

“The Health Minster will make sure that the affected countries are properly identified. I don’t know the exact date [for the list publication] but it will be before we start travelling… This is not a static list and it will be changing all the time,” said Dlamini-Zuma.

South African Missions Abroad open for visa applications

Visa applications at embassies will be permitted from this week. The Minister said long-term visas will be reactivated immediately. “The long-term visa will be re-established. People can then use those visas from 1 October,” she said.

In his address to the public last week, President Ramaphosa 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.”


South Africans returning from abroad after 1 October

South Africans returning from abroad, she said, will be expected to produce a medical certificate not older than 72 hours, clearly indicating their negative COVID-19 test results.

“That means they won’t have to be quarantined if they don’t have symptoms,” Dlamini-Zuma said.

South Africans who do not comply (eg. if you have not done a Covid-19 test) will be quarantined, a service they will be charged for.

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 Alert, South Africa, mobile app.

“Countries that have used this type of app have been able to manage the Coronavirus pandemic quite effectively,” said President Ramaphosa.

Land borders, sea ports

On land borders, Minister Dlamini-Zuma said the 18 that were opened during the lockdown for the import and export of goods, will now be allow the movement of people and tourists.

“The 35 land borders that were closed will remain closed. We are just opening the 18 fully so that they can take traffic for tourists [and other forms of travel]. We must remember that we [are only permitted] to use the 18 borders,” she said.

While all commercial sea ports will resume operations, passenger-ferrying cruise ships will be not be allowed to offload.

The OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town international airports will remain the only reception for global travellers.

On domestic travel, regulations will not change for long distance (200km) buses and taxis will still be allowed to fill to 70% capacity, while observing health protocols.

South Africa enters Alert Level 1

As South Africa enters Level 1 Lockdown, Dlamini-Zuma reminded citizens that “everything will be looked at from time to time”. From today:

  • Curfew starts at 00h01 and ends at 04h00
  • Night vigils, nightclubs, initiation schools and passenger ships for international travel remain banned.
  • Spectators are still not permitted at sporting venues; and international sporting events are still not allowed.

Full Level 1 regulations can be found here.