The Western Cape government has written a letter to co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, asking her to review the national government’s international travel regulations.
The regulations were put in place by the government on September 30, a day before international borders were reopened. The current regulations allow business travellers from high-risk countries to enter SA with a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, but not leisure travellers.
The test result should not be older than 72 hours from the time business travellers depart from their country of origin to enter SA.
According to the Western Cape’s provincial minister of finance and economic opportunities David Maynier, the regulations make no sense and are unfair.
“There is simply no greater risk for transmission of the Covid-19 virus based on the purpose of travel, yet the negative impact of continuing to limit the entry of leisure travellers to SA, especially from our key source markets, is severe and extreme,” said Maynier.
“International markets are a key economic driver for the tourism sector in the province, and so the full reopening 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.”
Maynier said the tourism sector was a major contributor to the economy and employment in the country and the Western Cape.
“In 2019 international tourism contributed R81.2bn in total foreign direct spend — excluding capital expenditure — in SA,” he said.
“Leisure travellers from key source markets such as the UK, US, Netherlands, and France make the most of our favourable exchange rate and have a high spending potential which positively impacts our local economy.”
Maynier said he sent the letter to Dlamini-Zuma with an attached submission detailing an alternative approach to safely open international travel in a way that avoids confusion and uncertainty.
The submission proposes the following:
- Do away with the risk-based country categorisation model.
- Require all travellers to present a PCR test on arrival, conducted at least 72 hours before arrival.
- The PCR test result should not have to be signed by a medical practitioner (in many countries testing is conducted by a lab and results issued electronically).
- Require all travellers to download the Covid-19 alert app and complete the tourist locator form to ensure that details of the trip, including accommodation and length of stay, are captured.
- Screen all travellers on arrival at the airport by Port Health officials.
- If a traveller displays any symptoms they will be referred to a dedicated private testing centre at the airport (these will need to be set up), which will be at the traveller’s own expense. This will prevent the use of public transport to reach testing facilities and therefore will limit the potential spread of the virus.
- Any travellers who test positive will be required to quarantine at an accommodation venue of their choosing for 10 days and at their own expense.
- Paperless processes need to be urgently developed for all visa applications and other home affairs processing.
- Clear and easy to access information needs to be provided on government websites, which need to be updated regularly.
- Travellers who visit SA for business should be permitted to extend their stay for leisure purposes.