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Here's what you need to know about America's new SA travel ban

Image: Gui Yong Kang/123rf.com

“Biden's SA restrictions have nothing to do with race, religion or nationality. It's based on hard science — new Covid strains.” 

This is one of the remarks from people who shared their views on US President Joe Biden imposing a ban on travellers from SA.

Biden will impose the ban on most non-US citizens entering the country who have recently been in SA, starting on Saturday.

Here is what you need to know:

US is the latest to ban travellers from SA

The US is the latest in a list of countries that have limited or banned travel to and from SA, citing concerns around the new Covid-19 variant.

Other countries that have banned travellers from SA since the discovery of 501Y.V2, a Covid-19 variant, late last year include Vietnam, Israel and the UK, as well as the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The variant was first detected in the Eastern Cape, which was recently found to be significantly 50% more infectious than the original virus and it has been detected in at least 20 countries.

'Protecting Americans' 

Dr Anne Schuchat, the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) principal deputy director, said travellers from SA were being banned to “protect Americans”. 

“We are adding SA to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond SA,” she said.

She said the agency was “putting in place this suite of measures to protect Americans and also to reduce the risk of these variants spreading and worsening the pandemic”.

Not just SA

The UK, Ireland and 26 other countries in Europe, along with Brazil, will also be subjected to the new US restrictions.

Only US citizens returning from restricted countries will be exempt from the travel ban.

Repatriates will still, however, go through mandatory Covid-19 testing and quarantine protocols.  

Airlines that have discontinued flying to and from SA

Last week, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines cancelled flights to and from SA after the Dutch government placed a travel ban on the country.

The ban, which is in effect from January 23, includes all flights with passengers from SA, the UK and various countries in South America to the Netherlands, due to continued Covid-19 safety concerns.

The UAE also announced travel restrictions for SA and a number of other countries.

SA travellers are not allowed into Dubai if they have been in SA within 10 days of departure to Dubai or the other emirates. Only UAE residents will be permitted to return from SA.

This includes transiting in other countries within 10 days before travelling to Dubai.

UAE airline Emirates suspended flights to and from SA. There will be no flights between SA and the UAE from January 16 until 28.


On social media, many weighed in on the US banning travellers from SA, saying it was “racist”. Others said the ban had nothing to do with race but science.

Here is a snapshot of some of the reactions: