Seychelles’ Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Sylvestre Radegonde, has stated that visitors from South Africa will still be barred from entering the island nation “to protect the European market” as the country announced it will reopen its borders to international travellers on 25 March 2021.
According to a report from businessinsider.co.za, the idyllic cluster of islands, situated 1,500 km off the east coast of Africa, has traditionally been a popular holiday destination among South Africans.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 12,000 South Africans – who don’t need a visa – made the five-hour flight from O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to the Seychelles every year.
But the global pandemic swiftly scuppered holiday plans and, due to the discovery of the 501Y.V2 COVID-19 variant towards the end of 2020, the Seychelles added visitors from South Africa to its list of prohibited arrivals on 31 December.
International visitors who were permitted to enter the Seychelles were still subjected to a 14-day quarantine period at the time.
These travel restrictions have had a hugely negative impact on the Seychelles’ tourism industry which accounts for approximately 60% of the country’s total GDP.
With the global vaccine rollout now well underway, the Seychelles has taken a bold step in reopening its borders to all international travellers and revoking its quarantine rule.
Tourists will still, however, need to produce negative COVID-19 PCR test result which must be obtained within 72 hours prior to departure.
This offer is not extended to visitors who have travelled from or through South Africa.
“The government has done everything in its power to make sure that the population is protected,” Radegonde said in a statement.
The Seychelles has launched an immunisation drive which has administered jabs to almost 70% of the country’s population.
But European travellers – numbering more than 240,000 in 2018, of which 12% were from the United Kingdom (UK) alone – are far more valuable to the Seychelles’ economic recovery efforts than those from South Africa.
Allowing South Africans into the Seychelles could keep the island on the “red list” status which prevents non-resident travellers from entering the UK, according to Radegonde.
“The problem is the European market,” says Radegonde.
“We are already on a red list in England associated with flights to South Africa.”
“So, we are in discussions with the British authorities to better understand what their problem is and how to resolve this. Once resolved we will open to everyone including South Africa.”
While British or Irish Nationals travelling from “red list” countries are allowed to re-enter the UK, they are subjected to strict testing measures and a mandatory ten-day quarantine at a state-run hotel. Returning residents need to foot the £1,750 (R37,500) quarantine bill.
Radegonde reminded visitors to the Seychelles that the reopening of borders did not negate compliance with public health measures and that all tourists will still need to wear face masks when in public and practice social distancing