A South African flag on the Donkin Reserve. Picture: THE HERALD/MIKE HOLMES
A South African flag on the Donkin Reserve. Picture: THE HERALD/MIKE HOLMES

Foreign nationals from high-risk countries affected by the Covid-19 pandemic will not be allowed to enter the country at any of SA's 11 airports, according to the travel restrictions gazetted by transport minister Fikile Mbalula.

SA's travel ban, announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa when he declared a national state of disaster, kicked in on Wednesday.

The high-risk countries are Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the US, the UK, China and France, according to the restrictions.

Hong Kong, Portugal and Singapore were identified as medium-risk countries.

The lists could change in line with the World Health Organisation's risk rating.

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in SA has risen to 116 since Tuesday’s tally of 85. Cases of local transmissions are now at 14, up from the eight announced on Tuesday.

According to the gazetted regulations, only  SA residents returning to the country and permanent residents will be allowed to disembark from aeroplanes.

Foreign nationals from high-risk countries  will be allowed to disembark only if there is a  medical emergency, and will require the approval of port health services.

Airline crews from high-risk countries will be subjected to medical screening and quarantined for up to 21 days.

The loading and offloading of cargo in and out of airports is permitted.

The regulations also stipulate that all charter operators are required to operate from international airports that have ports  health services capability and personnel must undergo a health assessment.

While all SA citizens can return amid the Covid-19 crisis, department of international relations & co-operation spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said there had been no decision by government to repatriate SA citizens from other countries, as it did with those from Wuhan, China.

A total of 146 South Africans were repatriated at the weekend from Wuhan, where the Covid-19 epidemic started. The health department has since announced that they had been tested for the virus and all were negative. They are in quarantine at The Ranch hotel near Polokwane.

Ngqengelele said, however, that this was a “developing situation” and the national command council, chaired by the president, was reviewing decisions daily.

He warned that SA citizens and permanent residents coming home would have to go through a thorough screening process before entering the country, and could be placed under quarantine.

Mbalula on Wednesday also announced a complete ban on cruise and passenger ships. This has also been gazetted.

The regulations stipulate that while the loading and offloading of cargo is still permitted, “embarkation and disembarkation of passengers are suspended on all seaports until further notice”.

South Africans or permanent residents disembarking from a vessel or foreign nationals embarking a departing vessel are the only exceptions.

However, any person entering a port will be screened for Covid-19, and port operators and authorities have been ordered to “provide adequate facilities for washing of hands and the provision of sanitisation equipment centres for visitors, seaport workers and management at all entrances and exits at seaport”, reads the gazetted regulations.

The National Ports Authority has also been instructed to keep a record of and report any cases of Covid-19 to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

quintalg@businesslive.co.za