African Countries Impose Travel Restrictions On Hardest-Hit Countries Including The U.S. To Control Virus Spread

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
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African countries have imposed travel restrictions on the hardest-hit countries including the U.S., the U.K., and Italy to control the spread of the virus. A man wearing a face mask walks at the Yaba Mainland hospital where an Italian citizen who entered Nigeria on Tuesday from Milan on a business trip, the first case of the COVID-19 virus is being treated in Lagos Nigeria Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. Image: AP Photo/ Sunday Alamba

As Africa battles the coronavirus outbreak that is spreading across the globe, some African countries have issued travel restrictions on countries that have been hardest hit by the virus.

There are fewer than 400 confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa, with the virus now present in at least 25 of the continent’s 54 countries. Globally, there have been more than 170,000 people infected resulting in more than 6,500 deaths.

In an effort to keep the COVID-19 virus from spreading, African countries have been proactive in closing schools, outlawing large gatherings and restricting travel from countries that have been heavily affected by the coronavirus, according to TheIntercept.

South Africa, which had 61 confirmed cases of the virus on March 15, has banned people from hard-hit countries including the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Spain, Germany, China, South Korea, and Iran from entering the country from midnight on March 18, Timeslive reports.

U.S. citizens visiting South Africa for 90 days or less for tourism or business purposes do not need visas but will not be permitted to board a flight from the U.S. to South Africa due to the travel restrictions.

Americans who have successfully applied for and attained longer-term visas to visit South Africa and have not yet traveled to the country will have the visa revoked. No new visa applications will be considered at this time.

South African citizens returning from the U.S. or other affected areas will undergo thorough screening procedures upon arrival and be asked to self-isolate for 14 days if found to be without symptoms.

The visas of citizens of other high-risk countries or non-U.S. citizens traveling from the U.S. to South Africa will have their visas revoked. This applies to people who are not yet in South Africa and whose plans involve travel to the country after March 18.

Almost 9,000 visas issued in January and February have been revoked from Chinese and Iranian nationals.

Six high-risk countries that have traditionally enjoyed visa-free entry into South Africa — the U.S., Italy, South Korea, Spain, Germany, and the U.K. — will now be required to apply for visas, according to TourismUpdate.

It is not clear how long these restrictions will be in place but the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg can be contacted for further information.

Those individuals whose visas are revoked will need to reapply for a South African visa when applications reopen at a later date that is yet to be determined.

U.S. citizens affected by the travel restrictions are encouraged to visit the U.S. State Department‘s website for up-to-date African travel information for U.S. citizens.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster and issued a sweeping set of measures on March 15 that includes school shutdowns, port closures and bans on gatherings of more than 100 people.

“We have decided to take urgent and drastic measures to manage the disease, protect the people of our country and reduce the impact of the virus on our society and on our economy,” the South African president said in a nationally televised address.

Ghana, which has reported six cases of the disease, has also banned travel to Ghana from any country that has more than 200 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to PremiumTimes.

That would include all of the countries listed previously, as cases there are in the thousands, plus many others including France, Canada, Australia, and Japan.

Citizens from countries impacted by the Ghanaian travel ban will not be allowed to embark on flights from their country of origin if their final destination is in Ghana. The U.S. State Department’s website should be consulted for updates or changes to this policy.

Kenya has also imposed a blanket ban on travelers from countries that have confirmed cases of the coronavirus after discovering the East African country’s first confirmed case on March 14.

“Only Kenyan citizens and any foreigners with valid residence permits will be allowed to come in provided they proceed on self-quarantine or to a government-designated quarantine facility,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a televised press briefing.

“All persons who have come into Kenya in the last 14 days must self-quarantine.”

The travel suspension takes effect from the evening of March 17, lasting 30 days or until further notice, according to the Kenyan president.

The Democratic Republic of Congo imposed strict quarantine measures on foreigners arriving in the country from Italy, France, China, and Germany.

Mauritania, Tunisia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Mali have also imposed quarantine measures for travelers arriving from Europe.

When West Africa suffered from a major Ebola crisis from 2014-2016, many airlines cut flights to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone with the U.S. banning travelers from the region.

Now, with the majority of the confirmed cases in Africa being imported from Western countries, Africans are hopeful that a ban on travel from those countries will help to keep the virus at bay.

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Experts consider the African continent to be at high risk for the spread of the coronavirus due to its relatively weak health systems in some countries, SCMP reports.

Global health officials and researchers are concerned that coronavirus cases might be going undetected in some countries that are considered at high risk of an outbreak but are reporting fewer cases than expected, or none at all, according to VOA.