COVID-19: Travelling internationally or within South Africa

 

Should you travel to areas affected by COVID-19? Considering the risks around COVID-19, should you travel at all? South Africa now has set rules about travelling.

Travel is one of the main ways COVID-19 has been making its way around the world. Our country has now placed some restrictions on international travel to and from South Africa. Visas are being cancelled and even local travel has to be reconsidered in the weeks ahead as we tackle the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as a country.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is highly transmissible and its swift spread has meant new hotspots presenting almost daily across the world, forcing a rethink of travel plans. Some countries have gone so far as to cancel international travel outright, in the short-term.

Here's what you need to know about travelling abroad from, and returning to, South Africa. In an announcement made on 15 March, the President highlighted the following:

  • View the WHO’s daily Situation Reports on coronavirus disease 2019 here to see numbers of confirmed cases and deaths, globally as a result of COVID-19.

Our advice: Outbound travel

  • Surveillance, screening and testing at our international airports will be strengthened.
  • There is a travel ban for visitors from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China from 18 March 2020. All visas for visitors from these countries or visitors who travelled in these countries in the past 20 days will also be cancelled and revoked.
  • Every person who travelled to and from a high-risk country, including those who travelled since mid-February, has to be tested for COVID-19. It’s also advised to quarantine or self-isolate.
  • Avoid travel to or through the European Union, United States, United Kingdom and other identified high-risk countries such as China, Iran and South Korea.
  • Every person who has travelled to and from medium-risk countries – including Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore – will have to undergo intensive screening.

All non-essential domestic travel has also been discouraged – that includes travel by air or rail and shared transport by taxi and bus. As the level of risk changes, the travel restrictions to specific cities, countries or regions will be reviewed and updated.

The list of corporate, sporting, scientific and other global events and attractions that have been cancelled is also growing.

  • View the WHO’s daily Situation Reports on COVID- 2019 here.

Outbound travel

  • All individuals should cancel their international travel plans to:

High-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China. Also, avoid travelling through the European Union and other identified high-risk countries such as, japan, Iran and South Korea.

  • Cancel all non-essential local travel

Non-essential travel must be avoided to limit occurrence of respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. This travel advice applies to all layovers at airports as well.

Most important: Ensure that you comply with instructions from local authorities on any restrictions on travel, movement or large gatherings.

Inbound travel

Travellers returning from high-risk countries should

  • Self-quarantine or work from home for 14 days and take their temperature twice a day upon return from any high-risk countries as listed above.
  • Have a heighted awareness and self-monitor upon return from all countries.
  • Follow country protocols around international and local travel.

If you were in a high-risk country and feel sick with fever, cough or difficulty breathing, within 14 days of your return, you should:

  • Seek medical advice: Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel history and your symptoms
  • Avoid close contact with others
  • Not travel on public transportation while sick
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing

If travel cannot be avoided, the following precautionary measures should be adhered to during travel:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60% to 95% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.
  • It is especially important to clean your hands after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Supplies of hand sanitizer, tissues, and other hygiene products may be limited, so consider bringing them with you.
  • Pay attention to your health during travel and for 14 days after you have travelled.

Avoid travel and shared transport if you have symptoms of possible COVID-19

Everyone with the primary symptoms of COVID-19 should avoid travelling with shared transport, and not at all if possible. People who have a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness and choose to travel by shared transport, should wear a face mask. If the symptoms of COVID-19 develop while a person is travelling, it’s important to inform the transport staff/crew and seek medical care as soon as possible.

Social distancing is encouraged at all times and means remaining out of:

  • Public places where close contact with others may occur (such as shopping centres, movie theatres, stadiums).
  • Workplaces (unless the person works in an office space that allows distancing from others).
  • Schools and other classroom settings.
  • Local public transportation (such as on a bus, train, taxi, ride share, plane, ship)

For Vitality members that booked a flight through one of our Vitality travel partners

Please contact our travel partners directly, to manage all bookings and refunds. Kindly note that our travel partners are experiencing high call volumes at the moment.

For domestic bookings, please refer to Kulula or BA websites.

For international bookings, please email Comair on vitalitytravel@comair.co.za with the departure date in the subject line.

We recommend that Vitality members heed President Ramaphosa’s call to limit all non-essential travel. For essential travel, members should:

  • Check with the airline and accommodation to see if they have any travel restrictions in place and ask about their cancellation policies.
  • Check the destination’s risk level and find out what type of travel or lifestyle restrictions are in place.
  • Visit the websites of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for updates.

We will update members with any information shared by our travel partners as swiftly as possible. However, please refer to partner websites directly for immediate updates.

Should you use a medical mask while travelling if you are not sick?

It is not a specific requirement that travellers wear face masks to protect themselves from COVID-19. You may still choose to wear a mask, but it is more important that the precautionary measures listed above be adhered to. Masks should be used appropriately to prevent the spread of disease-carrying droplets, or by those caring for an ill person to protect themselves from contracting an illness.

What measures are in place in South Africa?

On arrival in South Africa, travellers undergo health screening, including having their temperature taken and being asked to fill out a symptom questionnaire. Travelers with signs and symptoms of illness (fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) will have an additional health assessment. There are procedures in place for isolation, rapid specimen collection and management at hospitals with isolation facilities.

If you are a Vitality member planning a trip through one of our travel partners, we recommend that you:

  • Check with the airline and your accommodation provider to see if they have any travel restrictions in place and ask them about cancellation policies that may apply.
  • Check your destination’s risk level and find out what type of travel or lifestyle restrictions are in place.

Currently, all South Africans are encouraged to cancel or postpone travel plans as we assess the levels of risk. All travellers should take into account the various restrictions and the steps to limit the occurrence of transmission when using any shared transport.

For more information

Visit the NICD website at www.nicd.ac.za for further information. For medical/clinical related queries by health care professionals only, contact the NICD Hotline +27 (0) 82 883 9920 (for use by healthcare professionals only). For laboratory related queries call the Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis (011-555- 0315/7/8 or 011-555-0488).

Guidelines and case definitions are available on the NICD website

Visit the CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel for regular updates.

All medical information found on this website including content, graphics and images, is for educational and informational objectives only. Discovery Health publishes this content to help to protect and empower all South Africans by promoting a better understanding of COVID-19.

Discovery Vitality follows local and global guidelines on COVID 19 developed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the World Health Organization. We cannot advise our members whether they should travel or not; however, if you are planning to travel during the COVID 19 outbreak, read more here.

What you need to know

COVID 19 is caused by the 2019 coronavirus. It is most commonly transmitted through the air by coughing and sneezing, through close personal contact, or touching an object or surface with the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands. Its fast transmission rate around the world can affect international travel plans.
The South African government has discouraged all non-essential domestic travel, particularly by air, rail, taxi and bus.

In order to limit the progression of COVID-19, all South African citizens are advised to refrain from all forms of travel to or through the European Union, United States, United Kingdom and other identified high-risk countries such as China, Iran and South Korea. This is effective immediately.

Government will continue to regularly issue travel alerts referring to specific cities, countries or regions as the situation evolves based on the risk level, in and out of the country.
Please contact our partners directly to manage all bookings and refunds. Our travel partners are experiencing high call volumes. For priority, please email Comair on vitalitytravel@comair.co.za with your departure date in the subject line.

Discovery Vitality follows local and global guidelines on COVID 19 developed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. World public health experts are currently advising against travel to:

  1. The European Union
  2. The United Kingdom
  3. Iran
  4. Japan
  5. China
  6. South Korea
South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-isolation or quarantine for 14 days or more on return to the country, even if they feel well and do not have any symptoms of illness. Government has said "travellers from medium-risk countries – such as Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore – will be required to undergo high intensity screening. All travellers who have entered South Africa from high-risk countries since mid-February will be required to present themselves for testing".
The increasing number of infections means that many countries may be reclassified as high risk in the next few days. Visit the websites of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for ongoing updates.
No. If you have a dry cough, fever and respiratory symptoms (the primary symptoms of COVID 19), you should try to avoid travelling, especially using shared transport. If you do decide to travel by airplane, train, bus, cruise liner or other shared mode of transport and you have any of the symptoms of COVID 19, you should wear a face mask. If the symptoms of COVID 19 develop while you are travelling, it’s important to inform the transport staff and seek medical care as soon as possible.
It is not recommended that travellers wear face masks to protect themselves from COVID 19. Travellers may still choose to wear a mask, but it is more important that you follow the precautionary measures for high risk countries. Masks should be used appropriately when someone is ill and is coughing, to prevent the spread of disease carrying droplets, or by those caring for an ill person to protect themselves from contracting the illness.
  1. Avoid contact with sick people.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  3. Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using an alcohol based hand sanitiser that contains 60% to 95% alcohol. You should use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  4. It is especially important to clean your hands after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  5. Supplies of hand sanitiser, tissues, and other hygiene products may be limited, so consider taking them with you.
  6. Pay attention to your health during travel and for 14 days after you return.
  7. Make sure that you follow instructions from local authorities on any local restrictions on travel, movement or large gatherings.
The way in which air circulates and is filtered on airplanes means that most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on airplanes. Although the risk of infection on an airplane is low, travellers should try to avoid close contact with sick passengers or people who are coughing, and wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser that contains 60% to 95% alcohol.
  1. Seek medical advice. Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel history and your symptoms.
  2. Avoid close contact with others.
  3. Don’t take public transportation while sick.
  4. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the bend of your elbow when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue away at once.
  5. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others.
  6. Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  7. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol based hand sanitiser that contains 60% to 95% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
If you pay for travel using your Discovery Gold, Platinum, Black or Purple Card, or a Discovery Black or Purple Debit Card, you qualify for travel insurance. This travel insurance covers the costs of your flights and accommodation in the event of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis before your trip, as well as medical cover in the event of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis during your trip. Click here to view more information on your cover for COVID-19 and to obtain the terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy.
See the National Department of Health’s Travel Advice for South Africans travelling to affected countries.

Also visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Travel Health Notices page and the NICD website for updates.

For clinical questions, healthcare professionals should contact the NICD hotline: +27 82 883 9920 (healthcare professionals only).

For laboratory related queries call the Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis: 011 555 0315/7/8 or 011 555 0488).

Travel insurance from Discovery Bank covers you during emergencies

If you are travelling abroad, make sure that you know the details of your Discovery Bank travel insurance cover.

Read How Discovery Bank covers you from medical and travel expenses due to COVID-19.

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