Following news that, with immediate effect, all international travel will resume subject to the traveller providing a valid certificate of a negative test, CEO of Wild Wings Safaris, Onne Vegter, wrote that this was still a challenge to inbound tourism.
His letter follows:
“One challenge we've heard little about is the need for tourists to obtain a negative test before returning home. Previously, a guest could return from Kruger Park at 17h00 on the last day and fly home at 21h00 that same evening.
Now, they have return to Jo’burg (or Cape Town) three days before departure, do a PCR test (this needs to be booked in advance) and wait for the result before they can fly home.
There is a huge need for rapid, affordable testing that is accepted by all countries. The antigen test is rapid and cheap but not accepted by all countries as a reliable test. Either the world needs to agree on rapid antigen testing at international airports as a suitable standard for travel purposes, and set up facilities for this purpose, or tourists have to plan to add three days to the end of their itinerary or plan for a COVID-19 test on the third-last day before going home. This may become a major barrier to travel.
Some faster tests are in development, the most promising option being the rapid CRISPR test, but this is not available in South Africa yet.
Another possible solution is for SA Tourism to partner with existing labs with PCR testing capability, and have mobile testing facilities set up in tourist hot spots, including the Kruger National Park, where guests can have their test done with minimal impact on their itinerary, and then pick up the result at the airport on the day of departure.
Imagine a tourist wanting to visit SA, Botswana (Chobe or Okavango) and Zimbabwe (Vic Falls) with a day visit to Zambia to visit Livingstone Island. If each country requires a negative COVID test, including their home country, their testing regime looks like this:
Negative test at home 72 hours before departing for SA
Negative PCR test in SA 3 days before flying to Bots
Negative PCR test in Bots (where?) 3 days before going to Vic Falls.
Negative PCR test at Vic Falls before going to Zambia for the day, and before returning to South Africa. Failing that, plan three final days in SA just to get a negative test done before flying home.
How do you get tested while you're on safari in the Okavango Delta?
This is crazy and I would encourage the TBCSA to lobby not only the SA government, but also our neighbours and the WHO to stick to rapid, cheap antigen tests at the airport, rather than a full PCR test.”