The decision was made Wednesday following a meeting of the country’s Presidential Coordinating Council and Cabinet to assess covid case rates and the effectiveness of current guidelines.
The revelation comes as a huge relief to the country’s battered tourism economy, which has been all but wiped out by the pandemic for more than two years.
By lifting the remaining three key COVID-19 restrictions, Health Minister Joe Phaahla has effectively ended the era of state-led pandemic response.
According to Themba Khumalo, CEO of Tourism South Africa, the lifting of mask-wearing and all restrictions on gatherings and vaccination requirements at ports of entry is a step in the right direction that will benefit the entire tourism value chain.
“As custodians of tourism, we believe that the end of the restrictions is the tonic the sector needs to accelerate the rebound to pre-pandemic tourist arrival numbers and profitability levels,” Khumalo said.
“These revisions mean that we can now also open up more experiences and activities to our tourists from various parts of the world. We know that many travelers come to South Africa to be immersed in our culture, learn more about our history and heritage, and interact with the locals.
This means that the restrictions that have been in place for the past two years on live social events, business meetings, conferences, trade shows, and exhibitions will finally be lifted and delegates, exhibitors, and business travelers from around the world will be able to return to boost activity in a variety of other industries.
Two years before the pandemic, the travel and tourism sector employed 1.5 million people and contributed R425.8 billion (US$26.62 billion) to the national economy, accounting for 8.6 percent of the total economy. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s 2018 annual report, this makes South Africa the largest tourism economy on the African continent.