In a statement from government, issued on 8 October, the following procedure was outlined for travellers arriving at a port of entry without a certified negative PCR test:

  1. The traveller will be screened for signs and symptoms on arrival.
  2. Upon failure to produce a certified PCR test result, the traveller will be directed to a testing facility at the port of entry.
  3. A staff member from NHLS will conduct an antigen test, sometimes referred to as a rapid test, immediately.
  4. Travellers must be prepared to pay for the antigen test out of pocket (approximately ZAR 150-170) and can claim the fees from their health insurance service provider (pending the relevant insurance agreement).
  5. If the traveller tests negative, they will be allowed to proceed through the port of entry, provided they have been cleared of red flags at the screening phase.
  6. If the traveller tests positive, they will be required to quarantine at a facility designated by that particular port of entry. They will not be permitted to travel across provinces. Contacts of a traveller testing positive at the point of entry, including those who were in proximity of the traveller within the conveyance, will also be tracked and traced.
  7. Travellers who arrive without a certified PCR test and who refuse to test at the port of entry will not be permitted entry and will be required to quarantine at a designated facility.

It is unlikely that the intention of government is for the antigen test to replace the PCR test certificate for arrivals to South Africa by air travel. But the antigen test may be a solution for cross-border travel or where testing is poorly available. Therefore, until otherwise directed, international commercial airlines will still require the PCR test certificate before boarding flights to South Africa.

We are seeking further clarity on this procedure to ensure that travellers who are safe to enter, are able to do so without unnecessary burden, as well as assessing what this means for overland travel between South Africa and neighbouring countries.

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