Travelling during the coronavirus pandemic – What you should know

South Africans must take note of new travel restrictions implemented during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared the outbreak a national disaster and announced a series of stringent restrictions for international and local travel to prevent the spread of the virus.

This includes a ban on foreign nationals travelling from high-risk countries like Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, United States, UK, and China into South Africa.

South African citizens who have visited high-risk countries from the middle of February onwards must also present themselves for testing and will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days, even if they show no symptoms of the virus.

Additionally, several medium-risk regions were identified, including Portugal, Singapore, and Hong Kong. People who have travelled to medium-risk countries will undergo high-intensity screening upon entry to the country.

The government has also discouraged all non-essential domestic travel, especially via air, taxi, rail, or bus.

MyBroadband spoke to local travel agencies about what South African travellers should expect as airports and authorities intensify screening processes.

More time at the airport

Increased surveillance, screening, and testing measures have been implemented at OR Tambo, Cape Town, and King Shaka international airports.

This means that clearing security checks before entering the airport terminal will take more time.

Flight Centre Travel Group Middle East and Africa MD Andrew Stark advised travellers to be prepared for this delay.

“Allow for additional time at airports and ports of entry, locally and abroad, as strict health screening is being performed at airports worldwide,” Stark said.

Travelstart has noted that international travellers from Asia will be particularly affected.

“Enhanced temperature screenings will take place for all international travellers from China. These screenings will detect if a passenger shows symptoms of a fever,” Travelstart explained.

“If an alert is raised, the passenger will need to provide the authorities with a detailed travel history and a medical examination at the airport’s health facility,” it added.

Passengers with a potential infection will enter quarantine before being sent to a designated hospital.

Delay – Don’t cancel

Although South Africans aren’t explicitly banned from travelling internationally, travel agency The Boyz strongly advised against travelling to high-risk countries.

Many destination countries have their own bans in effect. “Most are on total lockdown,” The Boyz said.

The best course of action for travellers is to postpone trips to high-risk areas, rather than abandoning plans altogether.

“If you have already booked or are holding a booking, check the possibilities of implementing a date change rather than cancelling. Cancelling a booking costs much more than doing a date change,” The Boyz stated.

Flight Centre advised customers to contact its agents for assistance in this regard.

“Our travel experts have the latest information on cancellation and rebooking policies, and can assist customers with rescheduling their travel.”

It recommended that travellers take out comprehensive travel insurance, regardless of the destination.

“It is essential that you look to official sources of information in these uncertain times and do not share or act on information that has not been verified by an expert.”

Now read: Coronavirus scam warning in South Africa

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Travelling during the coronavirus pandemic – What you should know