South Africa has implemented several new COVID-19 restrictions, most of which have little to no effect on traveling hunters – except for one. On January 21, South Africa announced that all departing travelers must have a laboratory conducted COVID-19 test at least 72 hours before leaving the country. All travelers five years and older must comply, even if they have been vaccinated.
Hunters should coordinate the testing with their safari operator. A list of 260 laboratories throughout South Africa is available at www.nhls.ac.za/about-us/laboratories/. The test must be a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. The results are reportedly available within 24 hours and can be sent via text message or email. US hunters will need these test results to enter the United States now as well (see the story on that elsewhere in this issue).
Other changes to be aware of include the closure of the 20 land border crossings that were previously opened when first-wave restrictions were lifted in the country this past November. This is in response to a resurgence of COVID-19 infections. Unless a safari operator and client planned to cross from South Africa into Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana or Mozambique by land, this will not affect them. The closure of land crossings will remain in place until at least February 15 and are intended to eliminate congestion, long wait times and added opportunities for exposure to the virus. Hunters planning a multiple destination trip should remember they will need a negative COVID-19 test each time they leave and re-enter South Africa. Neighboring countries require testing for entry as well.
Also, alcohol sales have been prohibited once again throughout the country. This could mean a safari operator may not be able to provide clients with their favorite alcoholic beverages, although most operators should have a selection of some kind on hand for evening sundowners.
In addition, most indoor and outdoor gatherings in South Africa have been banned, but restaurants and museums are still open. Expect most places to close by 8 pm in order to comply with a curfew that runs from 9 pm to 5 am. All beaches, dams, lakes, rivers, public parks in hotspot areas are closed to the public. But botanical gardens, national parks and other parks where access control measures and entry limitations are already in place may remain open to the public. Be aware that Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng (where Johannesburg is located), Limpopo and North West provinces were all declared hotspots at this writing.
These measures will remain in place until the rate of transmission falls enough to allow authorities to safely ease restrictions again. To that end, South Africa has a vaccination plan in place and has already acquired 20 million doses. As most other countries have done, South Africa has prioritized its 1.2 million healthcare workers to receive the vaccine first. They are followed by other essential workers and frontline personnel with the elderly and other at-risk groups next. Plans are to implement this over the next six months with a goal of eventually vaccinating 40 million South Africans to create herd immunity within the year.
In the meantime, traveling hunters are required to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test result that is no older than 72 hours at date of departure both to and from South Africa. Be prepared to wear a face mask in all public places. Most businesses and facilities are equipped with hand sanitizer stations at the entrance. Tourists must also acquire travel insurance that covers hospitalization and treatment of COVID-19.
SCI’s Hunter Information Service Liaison Barbara Crown was in South Africa over the holiday season. Members with questions about the current situation there are free to contact her for more information at 800-997-0179 or 520-798-4859. Alternatively, send an email to HunterHotline@safariclub.org.