Information correct as of Thursday 16th December  

1. Are South Africa’s borders still open?  

South Africa is open for international inbound tourism, with the only requirement being a negative PCR test (72hr validity), visa (if required) and arrival form.  

2. Does the B.1.1.529 (Omicron) variant originate from SA?  

The first reported case of B.1.1.529 (Omicron) variant was sequenced in Botswana on November 11. The variant was then sequenced in South Africa three days later, with additional cases reported in Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium. It has since been reported that the Omicron variant was already present in The Netherlands prior to the announcement from South Africa.  

3. Where have cases of Omicron been reported?  

Effective 16th December, Omicron cases have been reported in 77 countries.  

4. Do current vaccines work against this variant?  

The extent to which the Omicron variant evades vaccines is still being studied, however the largest real-world assessment of the Omicron variant to date, released on 14th December by Discovery Health, South Africa’s leading private healthcare provider, indicates that vaccinated individuals who received two-doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have 70% protection against hospital admission. Whilst protection against hospital admission reduced from the highs of 93% in South Africa’s Delta-driven variant, 70% is still regarded as very good protection.  

Further highlights from the study include: 

  • The study reviewed over 211,000 positive COVID-19 test results, 41% from adult members who had received two-doses of the Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine. Approximately 78,000 of these positive COVID-19 test results were attributed to Omicron infections, over the period 15 November to 7 December 2021.  
  • Evidence strongly suggests Omicron results in a typically mild illness, irrespective of age or level of prior immunity. 
  • Rates of South African hospitalisations due to Covid remain low, despite very high Omicron infection levels. 
  • Numbers of patients in South Africa requiring either oxygen or ventilation due to Covid remains low. 
  • Two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination provides 70% protection against severe  

complications of COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation, and 33% protection against COVID-  

19 infection, during the current Omicron wave.  

  • Risk of hospital admission among adults diagnosed with COVID-19 is 29% lower for  

Omicron variant infection compared to D614G infection in South Africa’s first wave in mid-  

2020, after adjusting for vaccination status  

5. What are SA’s medical and healthcare facilities like?  

South Africa has the best healthcare system in Africa. South Africa’s private medical facilities are of a high quality and provide world-class medical care. Private medical facilities are offered countrywide by such groups as: Mediclinic, Life Healthcare and Netcare. The doctor to patient ratio differs greatly between public and private healthcare facilities. In the case of the former, it is unacceptably low (one doctor to 4,000 patients). However, the doctor to patient ratio for private healthcare is one doctor to less than 300 patients, which is equivalent to ratios seen in countries with first-class medical care, like Switzerland.  

6. How much pressure is there on the healthcare system?  

Currently, the South African healthcare system is not under pressure. Clinicians report that while cases are rising, hospitalisations and deaths remain low.  

7. Why does South Africa keep discovering new variants?  

South Africa’s genome sequencing and scientific prowess is among the best in the world.  

8. What is the current rate of infection and case load in South Africa?  

To view the most up to date COVID situation in South Africa, visit the National Institute for Communicable Diseases websiteOur World in Data provides an index which stacks the situation in South Africa with other countries.  

9. What happens if I get COVID while I’m in SA?  

You will be required to isolate at your own expense for a period of 10 days. Please check that your accommodation establishment will allow you to quarantine there.  

10. How easy is it to get a PCR test in SA?  

PCR testing is widely available in SA through private laboratories, airports, and private providers. Cost is around R500 and takes 24-36hrs for results.  

11. What COVID protocols exist in South Africa?  

Regulations require the wearing of masks in public, temperature checks, hand sanitising and contact registration at certain establishment, as well as curfews.  

12. Travel to the UK  

The UK announced on 14th December that it would scrap its red list effective 15th December 2021 at 04h00 GMT. This effectively removes Southern African countries from its Red List and eliminates the requirement for inbound passengers to the UK to isolate in government-mandated quarantine hotels. Temporary testing measures for international travel will be maintained. To view the full regulations pertaining to travel to the UK, click here.