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 January 21, 2021, Africa, a continent of more than two billion people, has had over 2.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. The novel coronavirus has cropped up in every country across the continent, with the largest outbreak centered in South Africa, where there have been one million cases. Most countries across Africa, and also in the Middle East, imposed strict lockdown procedures and travel bans, closing their borders to all except for returning citizens and permanent residents.

Although some countries in the Middle East and Africa, such as Egypt and Rwanda, are already welcoming back tourists, precautions are in place to detect and prevent the spread of the virus. In December new variants discovered in the United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa, which are reported to be more contagious, spurred harsher restrictions for passengers who have traveled through those areas.

Read on for a country-by-country listing of how some countries in Africa and the Middle East are handling border security, lockdowns, and more. 

Botswana

In November, Botswana allowed charter flights to the Okavango Delta, the country's premier tourist destination, to resume. Foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, are allowed to enter, but they will need to be tested within 72 hours of their flight to Botswana. A 10-day quarantine at a government-approved hotel is mandatory for any symptomatic traveler. Anyone traveling in close contact with someone who tests positive will be asked to quarantine for 14 days.

Egypt

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 unless you arrive without a negative test. In this case, you can get tested at the airport and must quarantine until the results come back negative.

Israel

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. Starting January 23, anyone traveling to Israel will need a negative test taken within 72 hours and must quarantine for 10 days at a government facility. Or, if they get tested on arrival, they can isolate themselves in a hotel or at their place of residence. 

Kenya

Commercial flights to Kenya have resumed, but the government is still prohibiting social and political gatherings of over 15 people and restaurants may not stay open past 9 p.m. Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, will be allowed to enter Kenya so long as they can present a negative test, taken within 48 to 96 hours of arrival, and are not showing flu-like symptoms. U.S citizens will not be required to quarantine.

Morocco

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 negative test taken within 72 hours of arrival and will undergo a health screening at the airport. There is no requirement to quarantine for 14 days unless you test positive or have had direct contact with an infected person. Morocco suspended all flights to and from the UK until further notice and British nationals will not be allowed to enter.

Mozambique

Mozambique is open for U.S. citizens and all travelers will need to show proof of a hotel reservation and return ticket to obtain a visa on arrival. However, it's strongly recommended that you obtain your visa in advance. Anyone over the age of 11 will also need a negative test taken within 72 hours of their departure. There is no quarantine requirement. 

Namibia

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 seven days before arriving. With a negative test there is no requirement to quarantine, but arriving travelers may be screened for symptoms at the airport.

Rwanda

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.

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. Tests can be booked using the government's online platform.

South Africa

South Africa is experiencing a second wave of the virus on top of the discovery of a new variant and direct flights between South Africa and the UK have been suspended. Land borders are also closed until February 15. The country has returned to its level three lockdown restrictions, which enforce a nationwide curfew and limit gatherings to 10 people. However, it is still open for international travel and is welcoming foreign tourists, including U.S. citizens. All travelers will need to show a negative test taken within 72 hours of departure. There is no need to quarantine if you can provide a negative test result. However, travelers will be screened on arrival and asked to download the COVID Alert South Africa app.

Tanzania

All travelers entering Tanzania will need to show proof of a negative test, but will not be required to quarantine. 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 is high.

Tunisia

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). Tunisia has indefinitely suspended all flights from the UK.

Uganda

On October 1, Uganda's airport and land borders were reopened and all foreign nationals were allowed to enter. Arriving passengers will need to present a negative test taken within 120 hours of departing for Uganda and will be subject to a health screening upon arrival. When leaving Uganda, travelers must present another negative test taken within 120 hours, even if the destination country doesn't require it. 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 6 a.m.

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. U.S. citizens, must show a negative test before flying taken within 96 hours. anyone who plans on staying for more than four days will be required to take another test on the fourth and eighth day of their trip, or they could be subject to fines. Quarantine requirements vary by Emirate. Travelers in Dubai do not need to quarantine if they have a negative test, but travelers in Abu Dhabi will be required to wear a GPS bracelet for 10 days.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe locked down again in January and a daily curfew is in effect from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Any visitor entering Zimbabwe must have a negative test taken with 48 hours of departure. Alternatively, travelers can be tested upon arrival but will have to wait for the results in a government holding facility. Zimbabwean residents are required to quarantine, but visitors are not.

Article Sources
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  1. World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa. "Coronavirus (COVID-19)." January 21, 2021.

  2. U.S. Embassy in Botswana. "COVID-19 Information." January 20, 2021.

  3. U.S. Embassy in Egypt. "COVID-19 Information." January 18, 2021.

  4. U.S. Embassy in Israel. "COVID-19 Information." January 21, 2021.

  5. U.S. Embassy in Kenya. "COVID-19 Information." January 20, 2021.

  6. U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Morocco. "COVID-19 Information." January 21, 2021.

  7. Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: Morocco." January 15, 2021.

  8. U.S. Embassy in Mozambique. "COVID-19 Information." January 21, 2021.

  9. U.S. Embassy in Namibia. "COVID-19 Information." January 19, 2021.

  10. U.S. Embassy in Rwanda. "COVID-19 Information." January 19, 2021.

  11. Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: South Africa." January 21, 2021.

  12. U.S. Embassy & Consulates in South Africa. "COVID-19 Information." January 19, 2021.

  13. U.S. Embassy in Tanzania. "COVID-19 Information." January 21, 2021.

  14. U.S. Embassy in Tunisia. "Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Tunis, Tunisia." September 3, 2020.

  15. Government of the United Kingdom. "Foreign Travel Advice: Tunisia." January 20, 2021.

  16. U.S. Embassy in Uganda. "COVID-19 Information." December 30, 2020.

  17. Visit Dubai. "Procedures for International Tourists Arriving to Dubai Overseas."

  18. U.S. Embassy & Consulate in the United Arab Emirates. "COVID-19 Information." January 19, 2021.

  19. U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe. "COVID-19 Information." January 20, 2021.

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