South Africa has announced the easing of COVID-19 restrictions as cases continue to fall in the country. The African country is currently experiencing a moment of low transmission and, consequently, a drop in coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalizations.
The relaxed restrictions include the end of mandatory mask use outdoors, and vaccinated travelers are now allowed to enter the country without having to provide a negative PCR test. All unvaccinated travelers entering the country who want to be vaccinated will be offered vaccination.
Since March 2020, when the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in South Africa, the country has been severely hit by the pandemic, registering one of the highest numbers on the continent. According to the official data, over 100,000 people died of COVID-19 and more than 3.7 million infections were recorded since the outbreak started two years ago.
South Africa’s tourism suffered big losses. Now, the country is working to bring tourists back to pre-pandemic levels, when over 16 million foreign tourists visited the country in 2019.
In 2019, tourism in South Africa contributed to 6.9% of the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and, with the pandemic, it dropped to 3.7% in 2020.
President Cyril Ramaphosa publicly announced the new measures.
“We are returning, as far as possible, to the lives that we lived before the pandemic. It means that we are opening our economy still further and that we are resuming many of the social and cultural activities that we have missed over the last two years,” Ramaphosa said.
For him, the ease of restrictions will boost the economy, adding that the pandemic has negatively impacted many livelihoods and devastated South Africa’s economy, leading to the closure of many businesses and the loss of some two million jobs, especially in the tourism sector.
The new rules also include allowing sports stadiums and music festivals to fill up to 50% of their capacity with people who are vaccinated or present valid negative PCR tests.