As South Africa’s COVID-19 numbers decline, the nation reopened its land borders on Monday, with at least 20 entry points now allowing travel to surrounding countries, the Associated Press reported.
The hard-hit nation had previously closed off all its borders on Jan. 11, as the new 501Y.V2 variant, which was first detected there late last year, started spreading. Among the border crossings now open are Lebombo with Mozambique, Beitbridge with Zimbabwe, as well as crossings to Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland).
Even before they were closed, there had long been issues at the border crossing with false COVID-19 tests being used. Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi said those with fake certifications will now be banned from entering South Africa for at least five years. “We appeal to travelers to ensure that they have all the requisite travel documents, including valid COVID-19 tests, when they present themselves to officials at our borders,” Motsoaledi said, according to the AP.
To date, South Africa has had 1,492,909 COVID-19 cases and 48,094 deaths, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Those numbers represent 41% of all the cases on the continent — the majority share of the 54 countries — the AP reported, adding that on Monday, there had been 1,744 new infections and 78 deaths in the prior 24 hours.
The country is also set to start its first doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, Reuters reported.
South Africa had previously reopened its international borders in December, hoping to jumpstart its travel industry. At the time, it also shut down many of its beaches, extended curfews, and limited alcohol sales, but the nation saw a major resurgence at the beginning of 2021, which lead to the recent borders closings.