Travel to Africa and the Middle East: A Reopening Timeline, Country by Country

Holy Month of Ramadan in UAE During The Coronavirus Crisis
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As of October 9, Africa, a continent of more than two billion people, has had over 1.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 24,000 people have died from the disease. The novel coronavirus has cropped up in every country across the continent, with the largest outbreak centered in South Africa, where there have been more than 700,000 cases. Most countries across the continent have imposed strict lockdown procedures and travel bans, closing their borders to all except for returning citizens and permanent residents. In the Middle East, countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia have been hit the hardest, with smaller outbreaks in the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and elsewhere across the region.

Although some countries in the Middle East and Africa, such as Egypt and Rwanda, are already welcoming back tourists, precautions have been put in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Read on for a country-by-country listing of how many countries in Africa and the Middle East are handling border security, lockdowns, and more. 


Botswana has a travel ban on all foreign nationals entering the country and no commercial flights are currently operating. The Gaborone capital zone has been in and out of lockdown since June, but the official government Twitter posts frequent updates about the current circumstances. In September, Botswana's parliament voted to extend the country's state of emergency to March 2021.


International flights to Egypt resumed on July 1 and hotels, restaurants, and resorts have been operating at 50 percent capacity since early June. However, public parks and beaches are still closed. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, are allowed to enter Egypt so long as they can present proof of health insurance and a negative test taken within 96 hours of departure time. Test results must be presented on paper and digital copies will not be accepted. Children under the age of six do not need to be tested. There is no requirement to quarantine upon entering Egypt.


In the fall, Israel saw a sharp rise in cases and the country went back into lockdown on September 18. Since March, the Israeli government has barred travelers who are not Israeli citizens or permanent residents from entering the country. However, commercial flights are still operating and some exceptions can be made for non-nationals whose lives are based in Israel. U.S. citizens in possession of a visa are advised to contact the embassy to determine if they will be allowed to enter. If you do qualify for an exemption, you can travel to Israel without taking a test, but you may be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine if you are presenting symptoms upon arrival.


Commercial flights to Kenya have resumed, but the government is still prohibiting social and political gatherings over 15 people and restaurants may not stay open past 10 p.m. There is also a nightly curfew in place from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, will be allowed to enter Kenya so long as they can present a negative test, taken within 96 hours of arrival, and are not showing flu-like symptoms. U.S citizens will not be required to quarantine.


Morocco’s state of emergency has been extended through November 10 and international flights and ferries from Spain are suspended. Foreign nationals of visa-exempt countries, including the U.S., are allowed to enter Morocco as long as they have a reservation at a Moroccan hotel or are invited to do business by a Moroccan company. All travelers over the age of 12 will be required to show a printed-out negative test taken within 72 hours of arrival and will undergo a health screening at the airport. There is no requirement to quarantine.


On September 7, Mozambique moved from a "State of Emergency" to a "State of Public Calamity," which means that commercial flights, beach access, and indoor dining have returned. The country is open for U.S. citizens with the proper visas, but all travelers will need to show a negative test taken within 72 hours of their departure and will need to be tested again once they arrive in Mozambique. While waiting for their test results, they will be required to self-quarantine for 10 days, or they can complete a 14-day self-quarantine if they are unable to take another test.


Namibia reopened its borders for foreign tourists in September, including U.S. citizens, and commercial flights have resumed. Tourists entering Namibia will need to show a negative test taken within 72 hours before departing. There is no requirement to quarantine, but they will need to submit to another test on the fifth day of their trip. On the seventh day of their trip, they must be available to receive their results and if they test positive, they'll be transported to an isolation facility.


While Rwanda's land borders remain closed, international flights have resumed and foreigners, including U.S. citizens, are permitted to enter. Hotels and restaurants are open, but to enter the national parks, visitors will need to show a negative test result. A curfew is in place from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

All travelers must fill out the Passenger Locator Form and present a negative test taken within 120 hours before their flight. When entering Rwanda, they will be required to quarantine, at their own expense, in a designated transit hotel while awaiting the result of another test taken upon arrival. They will be allowed to leave when the test, which is supposed to take only 24 hours, comes back negative. Travelers will also need to be tested again, within 120 hours of their flight, before they leave Rwanda.

South Africa

On September 20, South Africa downgraded to a level one alert, but commercial flights are very limited. Tourism was allowed to return on October 1, but entry is restricted for those traveling from the high-risk countries, which are listed on the Department of Home Affairs website and includes the U.S. However, American travelers will be allowed to enter South Africa if they can prove they spent the previous 10 days in a country that isn't high-risk. Business travelers from high-risk countries can apply in writing for entry with the Minister of Home Affairs.

All travelers entering South Africa will need to show a negative test taken within 72 hours of departure, will be screened on arrival, and will be required to download the COVID Alert South Africa app. All travelers will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.


In May, Tanzania resumed international flights and removed the 14-day mandatory quarantine for new arrivals and returning residents. Those arriving in Tanzania will be required to show a negative test and if they are coming from a high-risk country, they may be tested again upon arrival.

The government has not released any data on the number of COVID-19 cases since April 29, and claims that the "corona disease has been eliminated." However, the international community remains skeptical of the claim, given the president's history of discouraging mask-wearing. According to the U.S. State Department, the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains high. 


On June 27, Tunisia reopened its land, air, and maritime borders, but only travelers from certain countries will be allowed to enter. U.S. citizens are currently barred unless they are dual citizens, in which case they will be required to show a negative test and undergo quarantine in a managed facility for two weeks. The most updated list of approved countries can be found on the Facebook page for Tunisia's Observatoire National des Maladies Nouvelles et Emergentes (ONMNE).


On October 1, the airport and land borders were reopened and all foreign nationals were allowed to enter Uganda. Arriving passengers will need to present a negative test taken within 72 hours of departing and will be subject to a health screening upon arrival. Travelers do not have to quarantine unless they are presenting symptoms, in which case they'll be transported to an isolation center. A national curfew is in place between 9 p.m. and

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) reopened its borders for tourism on July 7 and flights to Dubai and Abu Dhabi have resumed. Travelers from all previously-approved countries, including U.S. citizens, must show a negative test before flying taken within 96 hours and will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days and will need to be tested again at the end of the quarantine period. Some travelers may also be subject to random testing at the airport. Rules may vary depending on your port of entry. For example, travelers arriving in Abu Dhabi will be required to wear a GPS wristband during their quarantine.


Zimbabwe reopened its borders on October 1 and there are no more restrictions in place for who can visit. However, all visitors must test negative within 48 hours of arrival and will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

Article Sources
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  15. The United Republic of Tanzania — Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children. “Travel Advisory No. 3 of 18th May, 2020.” May 18, 2020

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  19. U.S. Embassy in Uganda. "COVID-19 Information." October 2, 2020.

  20. Visit Dubai. "Procedures for International Tourists Arriving to Dubai Overseas." October 2, 2020.

  21. U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe. "COVID-19 Information." October 22, 2020.

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