As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.
Cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in South Africa. The South African authorities have published coronavirus advice and have introduced a number of measures to limit the spread of the virus, which particularly affect British nationals, and those travelling from the United Kingdom and other countries deemed ‘high risk’.
President Ramaphosa announced on 23 March that any British national who arrived in South Africa after 9 March must remain quarantined in their hotel room for 14 days. He also announced that between midnight on 26 March and midnight on 19 April, everybody in South Africa must stay at home, except to buy food or medicine. Only certain categories of key workers are exempt.
All British nationals are now required to apply for a visa to enter South Africa. Visas will not be issued for British nationals who have recently been in countries South Africa considers high risk for coronavirus, which includes the UK, China, Germany, Iran, Italy, the Republic of Korea, Spain, the USA, France and Switzerland. This list of countries could change at short notice.
The South African government has indicated that those British nationals who are currently in South Africa on a work, study, or other long-term visa may currently remain, under the terms of that visa. If they leave South Africa, they will not be permitted to return on the same visa, and will need to reapply for a new visa. British nationals with Permanent Residency in South Africa can leave and re-enter South Africa but must carry documentation with them proving their permanent residency rights. South African residents returning to South Africa from the UK or another high risk country will be placed under quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
If you entered South Africa on a 90-day stamp, which has not yet expired, you do not require a visa to leave South Africa. But the availability of flights between South Africa and the UK is reducing significantly. South African Airlines has suspended all regional and international flights until 31 May. A number of other airlines are also suspending international flights. You should speak to your airline or tour operator as soon as you can about your return flight.
The South African authorities have told us that British travellers wishing to transit South African international airports en route back to the UK may do so without a visa, as long as they stay airside, unless they have been in the UK or another ‘high-risk’ country since 15 March 2020. UK nationals are no longer able transit South African airports en route to third countries, if travelling from the UK or another ‘high risk’ country. Ask your nearest South African Embassy or High Commission if you are unsure whether this affects you.
Health screening at Ports and Airports
Screening processes have been introduced at all major ports of entry, including airports, for arrivals, departures and transit passengers. You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the authorities. Screening may include temperature measurements and checks on recent travel to affected areas.
If port health officials believe you should be tested for coronavirus, you will be taken to a nearby hospital designated for receiving and testing suspected cases. If tested positive, you may be placed into quarantine or asked to self-isolate depending on your circumstances.
If you are identified as in need of testing, or if quarantine or further treatment is required, you should contact your insurer, and speak to health officials, to understand where the quarantine or treatment should take place. Private hospitals in South Africa are prepared to treat coronavirus, and the standard of care may be higher than in government hospitals. See Local medical care
Our experience suggests that only people who are showing symptoms of coronavirus are able to get a test, at both private and public hospitals. If you need to leave South Africa and you are not experiencing coronavirus symptoms, you are free to do so.
Further information on coronavirus, including advice on preparing for foreign travel and helping reduce the spread of the virus, is available from Public Health England and on the TravelHealthPro website.
You can find more information about cases in South Africa on the TravelHealthPro website.