In a landmark move the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its advisory policy, opening up travel for US citizens that have been fully vaccinated.
The US is one of South Africa’s largest source markets for inbound travel. At present approximately 62 million people in the US, or around 20% of the country’s population, have been vaccinated for COVID-19 and given the green light to start travelling again.
The CDC recommendations now allow fully vaccinated US citizens to travel domestically without the need to quarantine or to test for COVID-19 before or after travel. Its recommendations also allow vaccinated US citizens to travel internationally without the need to quarantine. Vaccinated citizens do not need to get tested before leaving the US unless the destination they are visiting requires it, however they do need to show a negative test result (or documentation of recovery from COVID-19) before boarding a flight to the United States.
The CDC also recommends that these travellers get tested three to five days after international travel. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the CDC’s website travellers should still take steps to protect themselves and others. “You will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transport. Fully vaccinated international travellers arriving in the Unites States are still required to get tested within three days before their flight and should get tested three to five days after their trip,” advises the CDC.
“The updated guidance does not apply to unvaccinated people. The CDC still advises anyone who hasn’t been fully vaccinated to avoid travel.”
CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, said that the CDC’s announcement – which endorses the idea that it is safe for vaccinated people to start travelling again – would speed up the recovery of the industry and allow vaccinated travellers to start returning to South Africa.
He said the TBCSA was engaging with government to implement a clear travel policy for vaccinated people, which would remove some of the barriers to travel that were currently required.
“This announcement will be a catalyst to speed up our discussions to allow vaccinated travellers easier access to South Africa,” said Tshivhengwa.
MD of Cape Xtreme Adventure Tours and Cape to Addo Safaris, Barry O’Donoghue, said that anything that removed travel barriers and encouraged people to start travelling again was positive news for the industry.
“The US is one of our largest source markets and we have seen a marked increase in enquiries from this region in the last few weeks, as the US has moved forward rapidly with its vaccination programme.
O’Donoghue said the US tour operators that we are engaging with are upbeat and excited about booking trips to Africa again. “And we have just received the good news that a group of 200 US students will be confirming their booking with us for travel in May and June, which will substantially alter our company’s position. The CDC’s endorsement of travel for vaccinated citizens will surely add fuel to this momentum.”
“We have been lucky that South Africa only has a PCR requirement for travel, as quarantine requirements, which are still in place in many countries, are devastating for forward bookings. PCR test requirements are still cumbersome, expensive and risky to manage though, and if this requirement could be removed for vaccinated travellers it would help both the inbound and outbound industry to recover even faster,” he added.