The Netherlands has lifted its strict travel restrictions on Southern African countries, that were imposed last month after the discovery of the Omicron variant.
The announcement follows last week’s decision by the UK government to drop 11 African countries, including South Africa, from its “red list” barring incoming travel.
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The Dutch government on Wednesday updated its entry rules for all travellers from outside the European Union (EU) and Schengen Area, with the new rules taking effect from Thursday.
However, countries in Southern Africa – South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe – would remain classified as “very high risk with a virus variant of concern”. Fully vaccinated travellers would also not be exempt from the EU entry ban.
As per the regulations, all travellers over the age of 12, regardless of vaccination or recovery status, will have to produce a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result based on a sample collected no more than 24 hours before departure from their country.
Travelers would also be required to self-quarantine for ten days, but it was shortened to five days in the event of a negative test in the Netherlands.
“A reduced number of exceptions from the full list apply. Please confirm that you qualify for exemption before travelling,” the Dutch government said.
“You must be able to prove that the exception applies to you. Travelers must always have a completed quarantine declaration, even if you do not have to quarantine.”
Passengers in transit would not be required to quarantine, but must complete a quarantine declaration.
“Keep in touch with your airline and check your travel advice regularly.”
As other nations were banning travel to and from South Africa, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) cautioned the countries “not to engage in knee-jerk reactions”.
Dirco said new variants had been detected in other countries as well, with these cases showing “no recent links with southern Africa”.
The department also said the reaction to other variants “is starkly different to cases in southern Africa”.
“This latest round of travel bans is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker. Excellent science should be applauded and not punished.”
Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe. Additional reporting by AFP