Frequently asked questions about Coronavirus and Travel

Life as we know it has come to a complete halt and many of us are concerned about the future of the travel and tourism industry. Covid-19 has had a significant, dramatic, and unexpected impact on the world and many of us are looking for answers. Covid-19 has escalated from a single health issue to a full-blown pandemic and as I write this, cases are rapidly rising with 210 countries affected and 2 million cases reported worldwide.

People all over the world is being quarantined and we must make the health and safety of our community the primary goal and priority going forward.
We understand that you have upcoming travel plans or some of you may be travelling at this moment and therefore we want to provide you with some of the answers to most frequently asked questions.

1. Should I cancel my trip?

This is the most frequently asked question and we understand that it can be disappointing to have to cancel your trip because of the coronavirus. The reality is that there are high risk countries that you should probably avoid traveling to and therefore it really depends on where you are going and what type of person you are.
There are countries where the outbreak has been much more rapid and for this reason the Centre for Disease Control has given these countries a level 3 travel health notice which prohibits them from all travelling activities. Countries such as China, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea fall under this notice. The high-risk countries have been designated by the World Health Organization.

With this being said the CDC has also released information about high risk individuals who may be more susceptible to contracting the disease. Individuals who suffer from asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes should take extra precautions when travelling or should not travel at all to prevent the risk of getting sick from Covid-19.
South Africa is at the beginning of the epidemiological curve and the situation is changing every day.

2. What is the risk of getting Covid-19 on an airplane?

There is much concern about travelling on an airplane and whether it is safe. According to the CDC, because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily. Although the risk of infection on an airplane is low, try to avoid contact with sick passengers, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, and wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

3. What travel restrictions are in place in South Africa at the moment?

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on 15 March 2020 that the government would impose the following travel restrictions:
• A travel ban on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland, the USA, the UK and China from 18 March 2020.
• South African citizens are advised to refrain from all forms of travel to or through identified high-risk countries such as the EU, the USA, the UK, China, Iran, and South Korea. Effective immediately.
• All non-essential domestic travel is discouraged, particularly by air, rail, taxis, and bus.
• South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-isolation or quarantine on return to South Africa. The quarantine is compulsory and for 14 days.


4. What are the visa restrictions?

South Africa believes that the only mechanism to deny access to high-risk travellers is by imposing visa requirements, even for those nationalities which have not traditionally required visas to visit South Africa.
Further to requiring a visa, South Africa will also review the Advanced Passenger Process (APP) lists of passengers prior to the arrival of passengers by air and flag any potential cases. The flight will be flagged and retained in a special area for checking before passengers are allowed to disembark.
Of the countries mentioned as high-risk in the travel ban – South Korea, Italy, Iran, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, USA, UK, France and China – only Iran and China require visas to visit South Africa.
Foreign nationals on South African student visas, work visas, or residency permits will not be affected. The government will continue to regularly issue travel alerts referring to specific cities, countries or regions as the situation evolves based on the risk level.

5. What happens if a traveller is unable to leave the country due to cancelled flights?

For any queries regarding flights, cancellations, and refunds, the airline in question should be the first contact. The aviation industry is changing quickly as the situation unfolds, and airlines will have the most up to-date, accurate information when it comes to their own policies.
It depends on the airline, but in most cases, the passenger should be given a full refund if the airline has cancelled the flight and suspended all service out of South Africa. The traveller should then try to rebook their flight with another airline.

6. Final thoughts, stay safe and if you do plan to travel.

• Avoid contact with sick people.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
• It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
• Make sure you are up to date with your routine vaccinations, including measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine.

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