- Mauritius reopened its doors on Friday to travelers from South Africa and eight other previously restricted countries.
- The popular island destination originally announced that the Omicron-induced ban would last until January 31.
- The latest reprieve comes after similar measures by Seychelles and Maldives.
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Mauritius is the latest island country to lift its travel ban on South Africa, three weeks ahead of schedule.
Bans on South African travelers immediately after detection of the Omicron coronavirus variant in late November are easing. The popular holiday destination of Mauritius is the latest country to lift its restrictions, which were only due to be lifted at the end of January.
Mauritius’ decisions to reopen trips with South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia come just a day after the other island nation , the Seychelles, did the same.
Mauritius’ ban on travelers from these southern African countries was initially imposed on November 27 and added to the long list of countries with controversial restrictions induced by Omicron.
“High infection rates in more than 50 countries mean that a person is as likely to catch the Omicron variant in Port Louis, Berlin, Brussels or Paris as they are in Johannesburg or Cape Town. Travel bans have become redundant in the face of this reality, ”said Otto de Vries, CEO of the Association of Travel Agents of Southern Africa (ASATA), in reaction to Mauritius’ ban.
“ASATA is deeply frustrated and disappointed with the decision of the Mauritian government to further extend the travel ban when it is evident that there is no scientific basis to uphold the ban.”
And although Mauritius’ initial decision to extend the travel ban until January 31 was met with contempt, the island nation suddenly changed its plans in an announcement on Thursday.
Commercial passenger flights from South Africa and its neighboring countries to Mauritius were allowed to resume on Friday.
“We are very happy that South Africans are able to visit Mauritius again,” said Arvind Bundhun, director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA).
“Covid-19 has put tremendous pressure on all nations to do the right thing and we thank South Africans and the South African travel industry for their patience in this regard. “
Mauritius, which has passed much of the isolated pandemic, has reopened its doors to international travelers on a phased approach, starting in September. The first phase restricted travelers to designated resorts. South Africans were controversially excluded from this reopening and were only allowed to visit the island nation during the second phase which began in October.
Fully vaccinated South African visitors were allowed to arrive and explore the island, with no restrictions on their movement, until fear of Omicron suspended travel.
With the travel ban now lifted, Mauritius is joining the ranks of the Seychelles, Maldives and Zanzibar as the latest idyllic getaway open to South African visitors.
Fully vaccinated travelers in Mauritius must always present a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours of departure and purchase Covid-19 health insurance coverage. Additionally, visitors will be required to undergo another free Covid-19 test upon arrival in Mauritius and a self-administered antigen test on the 5th day of their vacation.
FlySafair and South African Airways (SAA) operate flights directly to Mauritius but have not yet confirmed when these services will resume.
(Compiled by Luke Daniel)