South Africa Department of Home Affairs says it is in discussions with government health officials about the reopening of South Africa’s land borders.
The borders were closed in January at the peak of the country’s second Covid-19 infection wave, and remain closed under the country’s eased level 3 lockdown restrictions which were announced last week.
President Cyril Ramaphosa had previously said that the country will close its land borders until 15 February to reduce crowding. This included the six busiest border posts, which are Maseru Bridge, Beitbridge, Lebombo, Oshoek, Ficksburg and Kopfontein.
There are a number of exceptions to this rule, including for the transport of fuel cargo and goods, medical attention, the return of South African nationals, and the departure of foreign nationals.
In a parliamentary presentation on Tuesday, Home Affairs said that there are now ongoing discussions with the Department of Health to finalise a health plan to support the reopening.
This plan should be finalised by Wednesday (10 February), with further discussions set to be held later today, it said.
Once discussions and the plan are finalised, it will be submitted to government’s National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) for approval.
Home Affairs said that some of the key points which are under discussion include:
- Additional capacity will be deployed to strengthen Covid-19 testing capacity at the Beitbridge and Lebombo borders;
- Testing should be diverted and confined to a selected number of ports where adequate capacity exists;
- The inclusion of private-sector testing stations to ensure adequate services are available;
- The implementation of a ticket system that will manage the queues for those travellers who are in need of antigen testing. Only the approved number of tickets will be allowed into the port for testing.
The department also indicated that other changes have been introduced at the country’s border posts including signage, markings for social distancing, increased law enforcement and additional testing capability.
The department also plans to introduce specific traffic plans to prevent potential congestion caused by the reopening, with no truck queues longer than 700 metres between the weighbridge and the port allowed.
Discussions have also been held with neighbouring countries to align border times with the country’s evening curfew, and for increased testing.