South Africa's national response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its rules regarding lockdown restrictions have a 'phased approach' responsive to numbers of new infections. Lockdown levels are numbered 1 to 5, with Level 5 being the strictest (stay at home orders in place and all but essential businesses are closed) and Level 1 the most relaxed.
Key to the battle, of course, is the behaviour of the South African public. As has been stressed again and again, the fight against this pandemic comes down to how we all as individuals behave. Wear a mask, wash your hands regularly, spend time outside your home in well-ventilated areas and avoid crowded places and gatherings. Stay home if you are feeling ill, and of course, now they are available, get vaccinated!
UPDATE January 2022: After alerting the world to the discovery of the omicron variant in November 2021, as of January 2022 South Africa has since exited its peak of omicron infections. South Africa remains on adjusted alert Level 1 with relatively few restrictions in place.
– The curfew has been lifted and there are no restrictions on the hours of movement of people.
– There are currently no restrictions on the sale or consumption of alcohol. Establishments that have the relevant licences can now operate under full licence conditions.
– Gatherings are allowed, including religious services, political events and social gatherings, with a maximum of 1,000 people indoors and no more than 2,000 people outdoors. All Covid-19 protocols must be observed and gathering sizes are based on no more than 50% of the venue's capacity may be used if the venue is smaller than the maxiumum capacity numbers.
– Funerals and cremations are limited to 100 mourners with strict social distancing in place. Night vigils and after-funeral gatherings are not allowed.
See sacoronavirus.co.za for all the latest updates.
INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS: Note that due to concerns over coronavirus variants some countries still have restrictions in place on travellers coming from South Africa. The Skyscanner website has a constantly updated interactive worldwide guide detailing all restrictions applying between countries. Check it out here.
To get into South Africa you must show proof of a negative PCR test taken up to 72hours before your departure.
What restrictions are still in place?There are very few restrictions now in place under Level 1. Masks should be worn when inside public transport (including inside taxis and Uber vehicles), in shops, museums and attractions and when accessing other busy indoor spaces. Venues have a right to refuse you entry if you are not wearing a mask. All ''non-essential establishments'' such as restaurants, taverns, bars, fitness centres, cinemas, theatres, museums, galleries, entertainment venues and conference halls etc are allowed to open to the public granted they adhere to the indicated limit on capacity (1,000 indoors, 2,000 outdoors). Unfortunately, no announcements have been made adjusting attendance at sporting events. Currently all international sporting events are played behind closed doors.
Do I need a proof of vaccination certificate to enter South Africa?No. You do not need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter the country.
Do I need a Covid-19 test to enter South Africa?Yes. All arrivals to South Africa must show proof of a negative PCR test for Covid-19, taken up to 72 hours before arrival. Proof of vaccination certificates and certificates showing a prior Covid infection cannot be used instead of a PCR test certificate. If you provide proof of a rapid Antigen test (also known as a Lateral Flow Test) this will also not be accepted. Only PCR tests are accepted. These should be taken at a legal and legitimate testing centre, and the certificate printed in English, clearly showing a negative result.
Make sure you have adequate time to receive the results of your test before travelling to South Africa. All documentation is checked at the border. If you are flying into South Africa this documentation will also be checked by your airline when you check in for the flight.
Are South Africans being vaccinated? What is the strategy?
Yes. The first South African, Zoliswa Gidi-Dyosi a nurse in Cape Town, was vaccinated on February 17, 2021 as part of Phase 1 of the vaccination rollout. As of July 1, 2021 the mass vaccination campaign began and as of September 1, 2021 all those aged above 18 became eligible for vaccinations. South Africans are encouraged to first register for their free vaccine online at vaccine.enroll.health.gov.za, although unregistered walk-ins are also accepted. South Africa uses two Covid-19 vaccines, the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Find more about South Africa's vaccination strategy and how it is rolled out on the official NICD website at nicd.ac.za/covid-19-vaccine-rollout-strategy-faq/.
I am taking a flight – what's the situation with the airports?
In light of the dangers of Covid-19 the airport experience has changed considerably. Only those who are taking a flight are now allowed to enter the terminal. At the entrance you will be screened and asked to show proof of your flight. You are required to wear your mask at all times inside the airport and during the flight. Read more about what to expect at the airport here. Note that some countries currently have restrictions in place for travellers coming from South Africa. Make sure you check the travel requirements and restrictions before you travel. If you do not have the relevant documentation you may be barred from checking in to your flight.
How do I get a Covid-19 test in South Africa and how much does it cost?
In major cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town Covid tests are very easy to come across and there are many private testing providers. Be aware that if you are in a small town or rural area, tests can be more difficult to find (and your results may also take longer to receive) so plan accordingly. Private testing laboratories Pathcare, Ampath and Lancet all offer services for travellers and have numerous branches across Joburg. You can also do Antigen tests and PCR tests at several branches of Dischem and Clicks pharmacies. These are all walk-in services and you do not need to make an appointment to use them. Testing is usually open during standard working hours from Monday to Friday (09:00 to 16:00 / 17:00) and on weekends during more restricted hours.
The costs for PCR tests are now set at R500 in South Africa. A rapid antigen test (also known as lateral flow test) costs R250, currently antigens are only available to do under supervision at a pharmacy or testing laboratory.
It is advisable to take your test within good time to ensure you have results before flying. Most private testing services are able to provide PCR results within 24 hours. Test results and certificates will be sent to you by email. When you go for the test make sure to inform the staff that you require the test for travel purposes so that they can prepare the relevant certificates for you when you receive your results.
How can I find accurate information about Covid-19 and how South African health authorities are dealing with the Coronavirus?The first stop is sacoronavirus.co.za which is the Covid-19 Coronavirus South African Resource Portal.
The exact number of cases globally is constantly being updated. Check this live updated global map by John Hopkins University to see the rate of new reported cases and check out the WHO's daily situation reports on Coronavirus here.
The Twitter account of the NICD (the National Institute for Communicable Diseases) is also an excellent source of up-to-date information on the Coronavirus and how it affects South Africa. Follow them on Twitter here and find their report updates on the latest cases and where they have been tracked from at their website here.
Useful phone numbers
If you are worried that you have contracted the virus you can contact the dedicated 24-hour Coronavirus hotline on 0800 029 999. You can also join the government's free Whatsapp messaging service. The whatsapp channel provides useful advice about symptoms, travel restrictions, testing and treatment as well as the latest on current restrictions. Add the number 060 012 3456 on whatsapp and send a message saying 'hi' to be connected.
How to protect yourself and others from Coronavirus
Most people who become infected with Coronavirus experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. You can take care of yourself and protect others by doing the following:
Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub and sanitisers kills viruses that may be on your hands. If washing with soap and water, wash vigorously for at least 20 seconds.
Maintain a two-metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Similarly practice good respiratory hygiene yourself by covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. Most stores, banks and other places where you will need to queue usually have spaces marked on the floor to show the distance required between you and the next person in the queue. Stick to these space markings, there is no need to overcrowd people in queues.
Follow the Three Cs. Avoid Closed spaces, Crowded spaces and Close contact with people from outside your household.
It is now mandatory that people wear cloth masks when in public to prevent themselves from possibly spreading the virus to others. It is noted that the wearing of cloth masks is a preventative measure rather than a protective one. Masks, whether colourful cloth masks or medical-grade N95 masks are widely available in all shops.
If you have fever, a cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. Stay home if you feel unwell and contact your travel or medical insurance about what steps you should take and where to go. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.
Testing Across Joburg there are numerous drop-in and drive-through testing centres where you can pay for a PCR or rapid antigen test, including at many branches of Dischem pharmacies. No prior booking is required. Private testing laboratories Pathcare, Ampath and Lancet all offer quick PCR testing with results usually within 24 hours. Costs for private testing are officially set at R500 for PCR tests and R250 for rapid antigen tests.