South Africa reopens borders to international air travel

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President Cyril Ramaphosa announced South Africa will open up travel to all countries in an effort to boost the tourism and hospitality sectors. President Ramaphosa did not give further details or a specific date for the reopening.

The decision comes despite the country having the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the continent.

South Africa closed its ports of entry to non-essential travel seven months ago in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. The country has recorded more than 740,000 COVID-19 cases and over 20,000 deaths. Infections are once again on the rise after the country eased lockdown restrictions in September.

South Africa opened its borders to some international travelers at the beginning of October after a six-month ban, but restricted entry from high-risk countries, with the latest list including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Brazil and India.

The country depends heavily on tourism, which prior to the pandemic contributed nearly 9% of its gross domestic product and employed over 4% of the workforce.

The president says businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector would greatly benefit from the lifting of the ban on international flights.

Ramaphosa, however, warned of a potential resurgence in infections, saying the number of new cases in the Eastern Cape province was 50% higher than the week before, with higher infection rates also seen in the Northern Cape and Western Cape regions.

“We have also seen in other countries how a resurgence can dash hopes for a swift economic recovery,” he said.

In addition to eased international travel, normal trading hours of alcohol would be restored too. Alcohol sales were restricted on weekends in an effort to reduce pressure on hospitals due to alcohol-related accidents.

 

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