All arrivals to South Africa (South Africans and foreign nationals) must present a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, obtained not more than 72 hours from the time of departure from the country of origin to South Africa. An immunity passport, risk-free certificate, or passport immunity in respect of COVID-19 is not acceptable.

Although it appeared in Minister Naledi Pandor’s briefing on 30 September that the certificate must be signed by the medical practitioner who administered the test, the gazette only stipulates that the test must be from an accredited laboratory and in line with the World Health Organization requirements. The South African Authorities reserve the right to verify the authenticity of presented test certificates.

Failure to produce a certified PCR test result on arrival will require the traveller to go to a testing facility at the port of entry where they will undergo an antigen test. Antigen tests (different from antibody tests) are immunoassays that detect the presence of a specific viral antigen. The advantage of the antigen test is that it costs about R150-R170, opposed to R850 for the PCR test, and the results are available in 15 minutes. This procedure is outlined in a statement from government, issued on 8 October. We are raising queries about this procedure and its impact on the tourism industry.

We are also awaiting clarity on the issue of test certificates in a foreign language but it is likely that they will be accepted, as it doesn’t appear anywhere in the regulations that certificates must be in a certain language.

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