Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Getty Images)
- Saudi Arabia has lifted its travel ban on South Africa, allowing for movement between the two countries.
- Previously, South Africans were banned from entering the country and Saudi citizens were prohibited from travelling to South Africa.
- But South African travellers need to be aware of Saudi Arabia’s strict vaccine rules.
- Tourists need to be fully vaccinated and will have to prove their status via a mobile app which is checked at the entrance to malls and other establishments.
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Saudi Arabia has ended its travel ban on South Africa, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Argentina. The ban, which had been in place for most of the year, restricted travel to and from Saudi Arabia.
Travel between South Africa and Saudi Arabia will reopen on Wednesday at 10:00, according to the Saudi Press Agency. Citing a statement by the Ministry of Interior, the Saudi Press Agency confirmed that the travel would be lifted and allow for movement in the country’s land, sea, and airports.
The decision to review the list of banned countries is due to “continuous monitoring of the epidemiological situation locally and globally.” Several countries remain on Saudi Arabia’s banned list.
The easing of the travel ban is another positive step for South Africa’s embattled tourism industry, following in the footsteps of reprieves afforded by several European countries and, more recently, Canada. Saudi Arabia is South Africa’s second-biggest tourism source market in the Middle East, with almost 11,000 arrivals in 2019, according to Statistics South Africa.
Travel between Saudi Arabia and South Africa surged by more than 34% in 2019 and was then abruptly halted by the pandemic-induced bans.
South Africans looking to travel to Saudi Arabia will still need to adhere “to all the precautionary and preventive measures”, the Ministry of Interior stressed on Tuesday. This includes wearing a face mask at all times when in public and presenting proof of vaccination when entering shopping malls, with steep fines for non-compliance.
Saudi Arabia’s vaccination requirements are the strictest in the world, according to a Bloomberg report.
Vaccination status is verified through the Tawakkalna mobile app. Developed by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) and the Ministry of Health, the app records the user’s history of Covid-19 infection and movements, authorising travel during the hours of curfew.
All travellers must have the Tawakkalna app, which will be used to verify the passenger’s vaccination status. Additionally, fully vaccinated, non-Saudi nationals holding tourist visas need to register on the “Arrival Registration” platform.
Travellers will need to prove that they’ve been vaccinated with the full course of either Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (Janssen). Visitors are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after their last and final dose. A negative PCR test certificate is also required.
(Compiled by Luke Daniel)