Germany eases SA ban; vaccinated visitors can avoid quarantine

SOUTH African travellers are now permitted to enter Germany, after being banned from visiting the country since mid-January. Fully vaccinated travellers will not be forced to quarantine.

For most of the year Germany imposed one of the strictest travel bans on South Africans owing to the Beta variant of Covid-19 which was first detected in the Eastern Cape towards the end of 2020. Following the global trend, set by countries like the United Kingdom (UK), South Africa was swiftly identified as an “area of variants of concern” by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) which is responsible for disease control and prevention in Germany.

This classification, the highest risk level determined by the RKI, effectively shut Germany’s borders to anybody who had travelled from or through South Africa. Only returning German citizens and residents were exempt from the ban

South Africans students, unmarried couples, and those who had already secured work in Germany were left in an agonising limbo. This prompted a wave of criticism aimed at the German government, the RKI, and South Africa’s own department of international relations and cooperation.

With opposition to the outright ban mounting, the RKI announced on Saturday that, from 1 August, South Africa would no longer be recognised as an “area of variants of concern” and would instead be downgraded to a high-risk country.

Bringing an end to the seven-month ban, Germany’s reclassification allows certain South African travellers to enter the country. This applies to travellers who:

Have a current long-term residence permit from an EU or Schengen country, and their families.

Serve in an important role or have an urgent need to travel (including students and people immigrating to Germany to join their families).

Have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with doses approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Both vaccines currently in use in South Africa – BioNTech/Pfizer’s Comirnaty and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen – are approved by the EMA. A period of at least 14 days must have elapsed since receiving the last vaccine dose to be eligible for travel to Germany.

And while there has been debate around South Africa’s vaccine certificate – and if it is recognised by European Union (EU) authorities using the Digital Green Certificate – Germany says it will accept physical cards as proof if they contain the following details:

The personal data of the vaccinated person (at least family name, first name and date of birth or Passport/ID-Card-no.)

Date of vaccination and number of vaccinations

Name of vaccine,

Name of disease vaccinated against,

Name and address of the person/institution responsible for administering the vaccine.

Where no “qualified electronic signature or a qualified electronic seal” – like a QR code – is available, the use of a “stamp or a state symbol” will suffice.

Fully vaccinated travellers won’t be forced to endure a mandatory quarantine period.

Unvaccinated travellers, who need to provide a negative Covid-19 PCR test result within 72 hours of arriving in Germany, will be forced to quarantine for at least five days.

Proof of recovery – in the form of a positive PCR test result carried out at least 28 days, but no more than six months, previously – can also be used to exempt the traveller from quarantine.