Scrapping of PCR requirement signals brighter future for the travel industry

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ASATA has welcomed the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the onerous and costly PCR test requirement will be scrapped for travellers to South Africa from Wednesday 23 March as a vital step in rebuilding the travel and tourism industry. However, the association warns that the draft health regulations will still need to be reviewed and amended to ensure the PCR test for travel will not be re-introduced with the lifting of the State of Disaster on 16 April 2022.

President Ramaphosa stipulated that travellers may now present proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR test result if you are partially or non-vaccinated. The new rules will be a boost to the South African travel and tourism industry ahead of the Easter holidays.

“ASATA has lobbied tirelessly for the past eight months directly and through the TBCSA for the government to scrap PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers. There’s no denying that the costly PCR test required for travel has been a major obstacle to the travel industry’s recovery. The requirement for travel left South Africa on the backfoot compared to many other countries in the world that either waived testing for fully vaccinated travellers or allowed inexpensive and quicker rapid antigen tests,” says Otto De Vries, CEO ASATA.

However, De Vries warns that the draft health regulations, which are currently open for comment, will need to be reviewed and amended.  “Although the draft legislation indicates that vaccinated travellers won’t need to present a negative PCR test for entry into the country, there is a real danger with the proposed legislation that components of lockdown legislation are being written into permanent law,” warns De Vries.

What’s more is that the draft legislation also stipulates that all persons exiting the Republic must have a full vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours, regardless of the destination entry requirements.

Research in other countries has shown that the easing of COVID restrictions has an undeniable positive impact on travel and tourism numbers. Recent research from ForwardKeys, for example, revealed that flight bookings to and from the UK soared following the government’s announcement that Covid-19 testing would no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers entering the UK.

The day after the announcement by UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, combined inbound and outbound flight bookings jumped to 84% of pre-pandemic (2019) levels, outbound to 106% and inbound to 47%.

“We can expect a similar positive trend for travel to and from South Africa when the entry restrictions have finally been relaxed. We would therefore like to urge the public to highlight their concerns with the draft regulations to ensure the PCR test for travel is scrapped once and for all for vaccinated travellers,” concludes De Vries.