Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula.

At the NCCC September 30 briefing on the opening of borders, South Africans were somewhat startled to hear the Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi’s assertion that if they visited high-risk countries for leisure purposes they would be treated like residents of high-risk countries, which implied that they would be barred from entering their own country on return.

But dg of the Department of Transport, Alec Moemi, dispelled this notion at the Friday, October 2 briefing by the Minister of Transport at ORTIA. The dg said it was true that South Africans were discouraged from non-essential leisure travel to high-risk countries. “But the truth is, in terms of our law, the South African Constitution guarantees the right of return for South African citizens, and there is no chance, legally speaking, that we would say to a South African citizen that they can’t come back home. They can come back home, subject to several conditions that we may attach.” He went on to say that these measures would include certificates of negative COVID tests less than 72 hours old, or quarantine, should the person in question show symptoms.

Dg Moemi also responded to the question that has been on the lips of the inbound industry since September 30: “What’s the difference between a person arriving with a negative COVID certificate from a low-risk country and one with the same certificate from a high-risk country?” He said the rationale behind this was to mitigate the risk of COVID, as it was impossible to remove it completely. He explained that, in the time window between an individual being tested and that same individual boarding a flight, there was a greater danger of them contracting the infection in a high-risk country than in a low-risk one without knowing it. And that is the NCCC’s reason for the differing treatment of people from high- and low-risk countries.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said South Africans were “discouraged” rather than “prohibited” from travel to high-risk countries. He said people should be patient and enjoy South Africa instead.