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 May 19, Africa, a continent of more than two billion people, has had 2,834 deaths from COVID-19. The novel coronavirus has cropped up in every country across the continent, with the largest outbreak centered in South Africa, where there are more than 16,000 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 have been hit the hardest, with smaller outbreaks in the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and elsewhere across the region. 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 currently has a travel ban on all foreign travelers entering the country (not applicable to residents). After a five-week lockdown beginning in early April, Botswana started to lift its restrictions as of early May. It’s currently in phase three, which allows certain shops and industries to reopen. The official government Twitter posts frequent updates about the circumstances.


On May 19, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced an indefinite extension to the existing ban on all international flights to and from the country. And since mid-March, many businesses have either been mandated to close or adhere to enforced curfew hours. Last week, a three-phase reopening plan was released, but no official date of when that might start has been announced. 


Foreign travelers are not permitted to enter Israel as of March 18. Citizens and residents of the country are allowed to return. Still, they are subject to a health screening, and they must prove that they can self-quarantine for 14 days in a private residence, or instead, isolate in an official government quarantine center. 


All international flights to and from Kenya are suspended until mid-June, except for flights arriving to vacate foreigners. Anyone arriving must quarantine at a government facility for 14 days on their own dime. (The country’s quarantine centers have been criticized for unsanitary conditions, extreme measures, and unanticipated fees.) Within the country, there’s a nationwide curfew in effect and restricted travel between certain counties through June 6. 


Morocco’s state of emergency has been extended through June 10. At this time, travel is not permitted, and all commercial flights to the country have been suspended. Several governments chartered repatriation flights for stranded citizens. On March 17, 2020, the Moroccan government stated that travelers stuck in the country for greater than 90 days would not be penalized for overstays upon leaving. 


International passenger flights are suspended through May 31, and beaches, museums, theaters, libraries, bars, pools, and gyms are all closed. If you do enter the country, the Mozambican government has mandated a 14-day self-quarantine, regardless of citizenship. Visas, even if expired, are extended through June 30, 2020.


On March 24, Namibia’s health minister banned all foreign nationals from entering the country for 30 days. Additionally, government officials also banned Namibian citizens and permanent residents from leaving. The country’s land borders, maritime ports, and airports are closed. Dr. Kalumbi Shangula, the country’s minister of health and services, stated on May 10 that said, “Despite a relatively stable situation, Namibia cannot afford to relax her guard. The world is a global village despite the fact that the borders are closed.”


Rwanda has reported only sporadic cases of COVID-19 (and zero deaths). The country closed its borders to foreign nationals on March 21 and suspended commercial flights. On May 4, the country eased some restrictions, allowing hotels and restaurants to resume operation. Borders remain closed, and returning citizens and legal residents are instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days.

South Africa

South Africa has been at a level four alert since May 1, restricting most economic activity. International and domestic commercial flights are banned. Domestic flights may resume when the country is on a level three alert, though several airlines have no plans to resume operations until the alert is at level two. 


Tanzania resumed international flights and removed the 14-day mandatory quarantine for new arrivals and returning residents. Travelers only have to undergo COVID-19 screening when leaving or entering the country. They also must fill out a Traveler Surveillance Form. Scheduled and non-scheduled international passenger, diplomatic, and humanitarian aid flights are permitted in the country.


Tunisia began easing lockdown restrictions on May 4; however, all commercial flights to and from the country are still suspended. Intercity and inter-region travel is still restricted, and there is a nightly curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.


Uganda has been in lockdown since the end of March, having instituted a strict curfew and placing a ban on public and private transportation. International flights—except for emergency and cargo flights—have been canceled as well. President Yoweri Museveni began easing business restrictions on May 5 and is expected to allow public transit on June 2. 

United Arab Emirates

No valid visa holder is currently able to enter the UAE. However, foreign nationals with valid resident visas can return on June 1 (Emirates News Agency. “UAE Welcomes Return of Foreign Nationals Holding Valid Residence Visa from June 1.” May 19, 2020.). Currently, Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways are running a limited number of one-way flights to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Starting May 21, Emirates will operate between nine global destinations, including Chicago and Toronto. Everyone at Dubai International Airport is required to wear a face mask and gloves and is subject to a temperature check. The UAE requests that all returning travelers self-quarantine for 14 days.


Zimbabwe’s borders are closed to all travelers except for returning residents. Ethiopian Airlines is operating flights out of the country on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays; tickets must be booked directly through an Ethiopian Airlines agent.

Article Sources
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  1. World Health Organization. "Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Situation Report – 120." May 19, 2020

  2. U.S. Embassy in Botswana. “Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Gaborone, Botswana.” 

  3. U.S. Embassy in Egypt. “COVID-19 in Egypt.” 

  4. State of Israel Ministry of Health. “Frequently Asked Questions.” 

  5. U.S. Embassy in Israel. “COVID-19 Information: Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.”

  6. U.S. Embassy in Kenya. “COVID-19 Information: Kenya.” May 18, 2020

  7. Kenya Ministry of Health. “President Kenyatta extends curfew by 21 days Nairobi.” May 16, 2020

  8. U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Morocco. “Health State of Emergency Extended Until June 10.” May 18, 2020

  9. U.S. Embassy in Mozambique. "COVID-19 Information." May 19, 2020

  10. Republic of Namibia Ministry of Health and Social Services. “Statement by Dr. Kalumbi Shangula, Minister of Health and Social Services, on the Further Recovery from COVID-19.” May 10, 2020

  11. U.S. Embassy in Rwanda. “COVID-19 Information.” May 18, 2020

  12. Government of South Africa. “COVID-19 / Novel Coronavirus.” May 19, 2020

  13. 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

  14. U.S. Embassy in Tunisia. “Message to U.S. Citizens: Updates to Gradual Lifting of Government of Tunisia COVID -19 Confinement Measures.” May 15, 2020

  15. U.S. Embassy & Consulate in the United Arab Emirates. “COVID-19 Information.” May 18, 2020

  16. U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe. “Health Alert and Commercial Flights.”

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