JOHANNESBURG, 15 February 2021 – South Africa has reopened its land borders with neighboring nations after closing them last month to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
At least 20 border posts reopened Monday, with officials working hard to avoid tightly-packed crowds of travelers at border crossing posts.
South Africa is working with neighboring countries to ensure simpler movements of people, the country’s Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said Monday.
The minister was scheduled to inspect the reopening of the Lebombo border post with Mozambique on Monday.
The Beitbridge border post with Zimbabwe and crossing points with Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia and eSswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) were also reopened Monday.
One of the reasons why South Africa shutdown the borders was the widespread detection of travelers using fake COVID-19 tests to try to cross the border into South Africa even if they were infected with the virus.
In announcing the reopening of borders, Motsoaledi urged travelers “to ensure that they have all the requisite travel documents, including valid COVID-19 tests, when they present themselves to officials at our borders”.
Anyone caught at a border post with a fake COVID-19 certificate will be barred from visiting South Africa for a period of at least five years, Motsoaledi warned.
South Africa has seen a decline in new COVID-19 infections, leading the country to lift some of its stricter lockdown regulations.
The emergence of the South African strain of COVID-19 (the new 501Y.V2 variant) has had a devastating impact on the country’s tourism sector, with some countries and airlines restricting flights from South Africa.
South Africa has detected over 1.5 million cases, with 47,000 fatalities since it first reported detecting the virus in March 2020.
The country’s infections represent 41 percent of all confirmed cases across Africa’s 54 countries.
After a dramatic resurgence of cases, hospitalizations and deaths last January, the country’s COVID-19 numbers are declining, with 1,744 new infections and 78 deaths reported in the last 24 hours.
Inoculations will be launched later this week for front-line health workers using the Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Last week, the country scrapped its plans to start inoculation with the AstraZeneca vaccine, after a study found it to be minimally effective in preventing mild-to-moderate cases against the dominant variant in the country.