Despite South Africa slashing its list of ‘high-risk’ Covid-19 countries from 60 to 22 on Monday, Germany being added to the list will be a blow to the local tourist industry’s recovery efforts.
Germany is South Africa’s third largest overseas tourist source market (with just over 322 000 visitors in 2019), after the United Kingdom (over 436 000) and United States (over 373 000).
The updated list announced by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) means normal leisure travel from Germany is banned again, less than three weeks after SA lifted its blanket ban on international travel as of October 1.
It also means that another of SA’s major international tourist source markets is now on the high-risk list, with Germany joining the UK, US, France, Netherlands, India, Brazil and Canada (eight of the top 10).
South Africa put Germany this afternoon on the list of COVID-19 high risk countries, most probably with immediate effect.
Therefore we must assume that for German tourists entry into South Africa without prior visa will not be possible.
We keep you informed.
— Martin Schäfer (@AmbSchaefer) October 19, 2020
The department’s move comes as Germany has seen an increase in Covid-19 infections over the past week.
China and Australia are the only two countries within SA’s top 10 overseas source markets that are not on the government’s high-risk list, which means both leisure and business tourists from these countries can travel to SA.
Tourism organisations such as the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) have warned that government’s decision to have the high-risk list changed every two weeks based on Covid-19 infections in respective countries is “wholly impractical” and will cause confusion.
— Dept of Tourism (@Tourism_gov_za) October 19, 2020
“Inbound international travellers need time to plan their travel. Changing the list of unbanned countries every two weeks introduces a layer of complexity and uncertainty that will lead to erratic booking cycles and confusion amongst travellers,” TBCSA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said in early October.
Tshivhengwa is yet to comment on the latest changes.
Business travel still allowed
However, it is important to note that business travel from high risk countries is allowed under the government’s current regulations. This includes people with scarce skills, diplomats, investors and those participating in sports and other special events.
“The government has revised the list of high-risk countries based on a risk categorisation model … We continue to be reminded that the Covid-19 pandemic is still with us and we need to continue to take precautions,” the DHA said in a statement on Monday.
“In its last meeting, the cabinet instructed the ministers of health, home affairs and tourism to lead a process to review the list. The review of the list of high-risk countries was done in such a way that it strikes a balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods,” it added.
“Nothing has changed as far as all travellers from the continent of Africa are concerned. They are still welcome to visit the country subject to Covid-19 protocols.”
SA’s current list of Covid-19 high-risk countries:
- The Netherlands
- The Philippines
Meanwhile, the DHA said it recognises that there are a number of regular visitors from mainly European countries who are accustomed to spending long periods in SA during the summer season, when the Northern Hemisphere experiences winter.
“Most of them own properties in the country. We appreciate the significant economic contribution that they make through their activities in the country,” it said.
“To this end, we will also allow visitors, in whichever category, who are coming to stay for a three months period or more subject to Covid-19 protocols.”
SA’s current protocols stipulate that, on arrival, visitors from high-risk countries must go into quarantine for 10 days at their own cost. All visitors will need to produce a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of coming into the country.
Business or long-stay travellers who need to apply should direct email requests to Covid19BusinessTravel@dha.gov.za – supported by:
- A copy of their passport and/or temporary residence visa;
- Proof of business activities to be undertaken in SA;
- Proof of travel itinerary; and
- Proof of address or accommodation in SA.
“In the first two weeks that the [above] email address had been in operation, 4 701 applications were received, mostly from investors in agriculture, manufacturing, mining and tourism,” the DHA noted, adding that 3 113 of the applications were approved.
“These numbers show that on average, 335 investors a day applied to visit the republic, sending a strong message that South Africa remains an attractive investment destination,” it said.
“In response to these numbers, the Department of Home Affairs has increased the capacity of people managing the email account to ensure speedier responses and we will try our best to ensure that responses are communicated within 24 hours,” it added.
Reacting to the national department’s revised Covid-19 “red list” of high-risk nations, the Western Cape provincial government said it was “deeply disappointed” that the list now includes Germany.
Provincial MEC of Finance and Economic Opportunities (including the tourism portfolio), David Maynier, said in a statement that the move “effectively kills” the Western Cape’s “key source markets for tourism”.
“The full re-opening of our borders to leisure travellers, with stringent health protocols in place ahead of the summer season is absolutely critical to the sector’s immediate recovery, medium-term stability and long-term survival,” he stressed.
“We do welcome the increased capacity that has been allocated to process business traveller applications after I wrote to the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, on this matter last week following several complaints about a failure to respond,” he added.
Maynier also welcomed the concession around international visitors coming to stay in SA for a three-month period or longer, subject to Covid-19 protocols.
“But at the end of the day the additional concession underlines the point that we have maintained from the start – that the ‘red list’ needs to be scrapped and all visitors should be allowed entry into South Africa subject to presenting a negative PCR [polymerase chain reaction Covid-19] test conducted at least 72 hours prior to departure, together with screening protocols,” he said.