Tanzania, which refused to enter lockdown and stopped reporting Covid-19 cases in May 2020, is now taking the pandemic more seriously.
A new travel advisory came into effect on Tuesday and requires travellers from countries with new Covid-19 strains to endure a mandatory two-week quarantine.
This applies to visitors from South Africa, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Japan and potentially India.
It also means holidaymakers won’t get to enjoy the pristine beaches of Zanzibar.
Tanzania, which has faced fierce criticism for its lacklustre approach to combatting Covid-19, has introduced several new travel restrictions.
The new laws came into effect on Tuesday and require travellers from countries with new Covid-19 variants, like South Africa, to endure a 14-day quarantine.
It’s been almost a year since Tanzania stopped reporting the number of identified Covid-19 infections and deaths.
The East African nation has only officially confirmed 509 cases and 21 fatalities on instruction by former President John Magufuli.
Although the country initially responded to the pandemic by quarantining travellers and reissuing guidelines presented by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – regular handwashing, social distancing and mask wearing – Tanzania was not placed under lockdown.
Magufuli argued that a lockdown would push more Tanzanians into poverty,
and stopped the reporting of caseloads because it was “fuelling public panic”.
The testing and quarantine of both locals and visitors ended in mid-May, and in June 2020, Magufuli declared Tanzania “Covid-19-free”.
Magufuli died on 17 March 2021, at age 61.
While the official cause of death was listed as “heart complications”,
Tanzania’s main opposition leader Tundu Lissu argued that Magufuli had succumbed to Covid-19.
In the wake of Magufuli’s death, Tanzania has begun to take the pandemic more seriously.
Although the government, now led by Samia Suluhu Hassan,
is still not releasing any Covid-19 data, the president has established an advisory panel of health experts to help plot Tanzania’s response to the pandemic.
Travel Advisory No.6 of 3rd MAY, 2021. pic.twitter.com/PdLWhw69kj
— Wizara ya Afya Tanzania (@wizara_afyatz) May 3, 2021
Part of this new approach was the announcement of a strict travel advisory on Monday.
“Based on the global epidemiological situation and emergence of new variants of viruses
that cause Covid-19, there is an increased risk of their importation into our country,”
explained the ministry’s permanent secretary, Professor Abel Makubi.
“As such the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania has decided to elevate and
enhance prevailing preventative measures especially those with regard to international travel.”
The new travel advisory requires that face masks be worn at airports and all travellers – whether foreigners or returning residents – present a negative PCR test certificate upon arrival in Tanzania.
The wearing of masks in public spaces, however, is not mandatory.
Travellers arriving from countries with a “high number of Covid-19 cases” will also be re required to undergo a rapid antigen test.
The cost of this test – $25 (R360) – will need to be covered by the traveller.
All visitors will still need to submit a Traveller’s Surveillance Form.
Rules are harsher for those who have travelled from or through countries which have recorded new Covid-19 variants.
These travellers will be subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period at their own cost.
The government of Tanzania says its list of high-risk countries is informed by the WHO, which currently lists the following Variants of Concern (VOC) in:
- South Africa (501Y.V2/B.1.351)
- United Kingdom (B.1.1.7)
- Brazil (B.22.214.171.124, alias P.1)
- Japan (B.126.96.36.199 alias P.1)
The B.1617 variant, currently wreaking havoc in India, is also expected to be added to the VOC list.
The latest regulations come as a blow to South African holidaymakers who found solace in Tanzania’s relaxed travel rules.
This is especially true for travellers to the island of Zanzibar which was one of the only holiday destinations open to South Africans.
Visitors to the island will now be subjected to Tanzania’s quarantine laws.