COVID-19 Information

COVID-19 Information

Last updated: January 19, 2021

*** Effective January 26, all airline passengers to the United States ages two years and older must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel. Alternatively, travelers to the U.S. may provide documentation from a licensed health care provider of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel. Check the CDC website for additional information and Frequently Asked Questions.

Country-Specific Information

The South African Ministry of Health has confirmed more than 1,346,000 cases of COVID-19 within its borders. The government of South Africa increased the lockdown alert level for South Africa to level 3 on December 29, 2020, which was reinforced on January 11, 2021. The return to level 3 places restrictions on many activities including mandatory masks in public places (with penalties for non-compliance), a nationwide curfew each day from 09:00 pm to 05:00 am, and limiting gatherings of any kind to 10 persons maximum with few exceptions. COVID-19 health and safety protocols must be followed at all times, including observance of guidelines for social distancing of 2 meters, sanitation and hygiene, and use of appropriate personal protective equipment, like cloth face masks, as determined by the South African National Department of Health. Many retail shops and services, supermarkets, pharmacies, and businesses continue to operate in line with safety protocols, but will be strictly enforcing mask rules. Nearly all indoor gatherings and outdoor gatherings are prohibited. Employees are instructed to work from home where possible. For detailed information, visit the Government of South Africa’s Covid19 Risk Adjustment Strategy

Five stages of Lockdown

COVID-19 Testing
  • Are PCR and/or antigen tests available for U.S. citizens in South Africa? Yes.
    • However, PCR testing is no longer widely or readily available. The tests are currently being rationed for those who are very sick, with most testing facilities requiring a doctor’s reference. There are some private enterprises running COVID-19 testing with a price around $80-100 USD. With the rationing of tests being implemented by the government, it is difficult to estimate how long tests for travel will remain available.
  • If so, are test results reliably available within 72 hours? Yes.
    • PCR test results are generally available with 72 hours, in line with CDC regulations. However, there are some reports of test results taking longer than 72 hours, and some testing laboratories only guaranteeing results within 3-5 days. U.S. citizens should check with the facility or laboratory for specific information on how long on average it takes to receive results.
  • Information on where and how to obtain a COVID-19 test:
    • Locations: Hospitals will generally only conduct COVID-19 tests for incoming patients in possession of a doctor’s letter. The U.S. Embassy does not recommend any specific testing facilities, but is aware of several providers, including: Ampath Laboratories, NextPathology Biosciences, Lancet Laboratories, Dis-Chem Pharmacy, PathCare, Epicenter, Biosmart Laboratories, Travel Doctor, and some urgent care / day clinics likeIntercare. Several testing sites offer a drive-through option, while others have private appointments. Please check with testing centers for more information.
    • Payment: Public sector testing is free of charge; however, this option is not available for testing for travel purposes only. At private testing facilities, U.S. citizens must pay for their COVID-19 test; it is not covered by the South African government. Verify payment options with the testing facility. Inquire with the respective laboratory to verify their testing costs and requirements. It is advisable to check with your health insurance to ascertain if they will cover the costs for the test.
    • Cost: Average cost for a COVID-19 PCR test is $50-60 USD (R850.00). Some private testing enterprises may charge up to $80-100 USD.
    • Delivery of Results: Most testing facilities will return test results electronically by email and text message.
  • Further information: U.S. citizens may visit the government of South Africa’s Coronavirus FAQ page HERE, or call the NICD hotline at 0800-029-999 for more information on testing facilities.
COVID-19 Vaccine Information:
  • Has the government of South Africa approved a COVID-19 vaccine for use? No.
    • South Africa has yet to receive its first vaccine doses.
    • According to South African authorities, the country has a vaccination strategy and is currently in the process of procuring vaccines through three channels: through the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility, through the African Union’s vaccine initiative and through direct engagements with vaccine manufacturers. The healthy ministry announced on January 18 that it is in advanced negotiations with Johnson & Johnson, however a date for release of vaccines is not set. The first vaccines received will be for health workers.
  • The United States Government does not plan to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to private U.S. citizens overseas. Please follow host country developments and guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Further information: Please see President Ramaphosa’s January 11th statement regarding containment of COVID-19 here: · Information from the CDC regarding COVID-19 vaccination.
Entry and Exit Requirements:
  • Are U.S. citizens permitted to enter? Yes
    On November 11, President Ramaphosa announced that the Government of South Africa would open up international travel to all countries subject to the necessary health protocols and the presentation of a negative COVID-19 certificate. On January 11, 2021, President Ramaphosa announced the closure of 20 land border crossings, including Beitbridge, Lebombo, Maseru Bridge, Oshoek, Ficksburg and Kopfontein, through February 15, 2021, with limited exceptions. Such exceptions include the transportation of fuel, cargo and goods; emergency medical attention for a life-threatening condition; the return of South African nationals, permanent residents or persons with other valid visas; diplomats; the departure of foreign nationals; and daily commuters from neighboring countries who attend school in South Africa
  • Negative COVID-19 Test Required: Any travelers to South Africa will need to present a negative COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours from the time of departure, or will be required to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost if they have not done a COVID-19 test.
  • Visa Information: For foreigners present in South Africa, the South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) announced new directives extending the validity of legally-acquired visas or permits that expired after February 15, 2020 through to January 31, 2021.  Holders of such visas are permitted to remain in the country under the conditions of their visas until the end of January.  Those wishing to be repatriated to their countries within this period can depart without being declared “undesirable persons.”  Under Alert Level 1, DHA has resumed visa services, including applications submitted through VFS Global, for certain visa categories found in this announcement.  Please note that it is incumbent on the individual to contact DHA for details about the visa extension process. If you are an American citizen in South Africa wanting more information on prospective travel to the United States, please ensure you are enrolled in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the most current information.  The U.S. Mission to South Africa’s American Citizen Services will send any updates to the public by email through STEP, which is the U.S. Department of State’s central platform for mass email communication.
  • Is a negative COVID-19 test (PCR and/or serology) required for entry? Yes

    • On arrival, travelers will need to present a negative COVID-19 test result not older than 72 hours from time of departure.
    • Where a traveler has not done a COVID-19 test prior to departure, they will be required to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost.
    • All travelers will be screened on arrival and those presenting with symptoms will be required to remain in quarantine until a repeat COVID-19 test is conducted.
    • All travelers will be asked to install the COVID Alert South Africa mobile app
  • Are health screening procedures in place at airports and other ports of entry? Yes

Movement Restrictions
  • Is a curfew in place? Yes. Under Alert Level 3, the curfew will apply from 2100 until 0500 daily.
  • Are there restrictions on intercity or interstate travel? No.
Quarantine Information:
  • Are U.S. citizens required to quarantine? No
    • On arrival, travelers will need to present a negative COVID-19 test result not older than 72 hours from time of departure.
    • Where a traveler has not done a COVID-19 test prior to departure, they will be required to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost.
    • All travelers will be screened on arrival and those presenting with symptoms will be required to remain in quarantine until a repeat COVID-19 test is conducted.
    • All travelers will be asked to install the COVID Alert South Africa mobile app.
Transportation Options
  • Are commercial flights operating? Yes.
    • Domestic and international air travel is operating within South Africa. Prospective travelers will only be able to use one of the land border posts that have remained operational during Alert Level 3 or one of the three main airports: King Shaka, OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airport.
    • Please contact airlines directly for flight information and booking.
  • Is public transportation operating? Yes.
      Public rail, minibus taxi, and bus services have resumed at reduced levels subject to social distancing and mandatory use of face masks for passengers and drivers. Minibus taxis and buses must reduce their maximum licensed passenger seating capacity to 70% a vehicle, e-hailing services that are licensed to carry up to four passengers are limited to carrying 50% of their permissible passenger carrying capacity. Transport services are required to provide adequate sanitizers for washing of hands of all passengers. Operators must ensure that their vehicles are sanitized before picking up and after dropping off passengers.
Fines for Non-Compliance:
  • There are fines and possible imprisonment (up to 6 months) for non-compliance of mandatory mask wearing in public places. South Africa Police Services and local authorities are responsible for enforcement of business operation regulations.
Consular Operations:
  • U.S. Consulates General JohannesburgCape Town, and Durban have resumed  consular services at limited capacity.
  • American Citizen Services:  Should you require emergency American citizen services at your nearest U.S. Consulate in South Africa, please write or call using contact information at
  • Visa Services:  The United States Embassy and Consulates in South Africa remain unable to resume routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa services at this time.  We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date.  The MRV fee is valid and may be used to schedule an interview appointment in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment. If you have an urgent matter and need to travel immediately, please follow the guidance provided by our Visa Appointment Service or call our call center at +27 (0) 87 550 2160 to request an emergency appointment.
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