President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on 11 November 2020 that SA is “opening up international travel to all countries subject to the necessary health protocols and the presentation of a negative COVID-19 certificate.

International flights to and from South Africa, as well as domestic flights within the country, are permitted in terms of regulation 75, read with regulation 76(2)(a) of the Regulations. From 3 December 2020, international passenger flights to and from South Africa are subject to these conditions:

Travellers must provide a valid negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (“PCR”) test certificate, obtained within 72 hours of the date of travel from an accredited laboratory and in line with World Health Organization requirements or equivalent local accreditation authority. South African Authorities reserve the right to verify the authenticity of travellers’ certificates.

Travellers who fail to submit a valid test certificate, as proof of a negative PCR test or a valid COVID-19 negative test status on arrival in SA, need to go into quarantine. Or they may undergo COVID-19 testing in line with the National Health Regiments.

Passengers must always wear a face mask. This may only be removed during an emergency or when instructed by cabin crew to take it off. They must also observe social distancing, hand washing and sanitise regularly.

Children younger than five years may be exempted from wearing a face mask. Also, passengers who are unable to wear a face mask due to an underlying medical condition, must submit a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner to the airline operator prior to departure.

Foreign airline operators need to submit procedures that show the level of compliance with SA COVID-19 legislation to the South African Civil Aviation Authority for its approval.

Foreign Air Ambulance Services may transport COVID-19 positive patients if they obtain approval from the Department of Health and a permit issued by the Department of Transport prior to departure. They also need to comply with the Department of Health Protocols and the Air Ambulance Guidelines issued by the minister.

Light deck crew are required to wear masks when embarking and disembarking. Cabin crew need to wear masks at all times, except when conducting safety briefings or during an emergency.

An “immunity passport”, “risk-free certificate” or “passport immunity” in respect of COVID-19 is not acceptable. Operators may not board any passenger without a valid negative PCR or a valid COVID-19 negative test certificate.

Crew members will be subjected to health protocols as contemplated in Health Directions when they arrive in South Africa.

Furthermore, operators must ensure and follow risk mitigation measures for crew members. They need to conduct risk assessments to ensure crew members are fit and proper before they undertake their travel duties and mitigate the risk of COVID-19 crew infections. They also need to ensure crew members are protected whilst on duty.

Operators can provide on-board catering if they take all risk mitigation, and health and safety measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. This includes providing pre-packed meals.

Passengers who display symptoms of COVID-19 on arrival must be taken through primary and secondary screening, including COVID-19 testing where applicable. If a positive test result is obtained, they need to be quarantined at their own cost. If travellers are travelling with family, the whole family needs to be quarantined at their own cost.

Children or people with disabilities may be exempted from COVID-19 testing if testing will prove to be a challenge. Operators need to consult local public health authorities to confirm the requirement prior to departure.

International scheduled operations and charter flights carrying passengers are allowed at the OR Tambo King Shaka and Cape Town International Airports. Charter operators conducting cargo and passenger operations to and from SA are permitted to operate with Ports Health capacity at Bram Fischer International Airport, Cape Town International Airport, King Shaka International Airport, Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, Lanseria International Airport, OR Tambo International Airport, Polokwane Airport, Port Elizabeth International Airport and Upington International Airport.

With regard to international outbound flights, subject to the travel requirements of the country of destination, passengers must provide operators with a valid negative PCR test certificate or a valid COVID-19 negative test certificate. This must be obtained from a laboratory that is certified by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority and South African National Accreditation System.

Operators are responsible for ensuring that passengers comply with the COVID-19 requirements of the country of destination. They must also familiarise themselves with the public health measures, including testing requirements, at the destination airport prior to departure.

The loading and off-loading of air cargo is permitted in and out of international airports that are designated as Ports of Entry.