Is This The End of Travel Related PCR Testing?

I'll never forget that moment when, during the height of the Covid 19 Pandemic, the world started to open up through PCR testing and that a negative PCR test quickly became your ticket to ride!

It was a massive relief to think that things could be starting to return to normal. Then came the realisation that so many travel plans, especially multi-country travel plans, had been built with the intention of minimising any"down-time" in the big cities.

How on earth would we get our guests from their lodge in the Sabi Sands, back to Johannesburg, PCR tested and out on their original flight out to Zambia the next day - yet alone on that same afternoon!

Thankfully, the travel and hospitality industry made some remarkable decisions and partnerships which has seen PCR Testing and travel that much easier over the last 18 months.

Measures implemented ranged from taking samples at the lodge and having them processed in the nearest town, to on site clinicians and tests right the way through to having your very own nurse fly in on a helicopter into the middle of the Okvango Delta to collect your sample for processing in Maun.

PCR Testing in the Masai Mara
PCR Testing at the Oloololo Gate in Kenya's Masai Mara

Turn around times we pretty much guaranteed and towards the middle of 2021 you could even have a PCR Test done at OR Tambo International Airport with a guaranteed result within 2 hours!

The downside to all of this is that it came at a cost, and sometimes, this cost was significant - especially for families.

I think the cheapest PCR test I have take in the last two years was in Zimbabwe's capital Harare. $35 pp for a test conducted at our guest house in town with results received by email within 4 hours and the hard copies printed and hand delivered the very next morning.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the most expensive test involved the helicopter visiting us in the middle of the Okavango Delta, coming in around $350 per person.

Add to this the complexities around trying to establish the "lifespan" and validity of your PCR test on arrival in your final destination and, well, PCR testing always managed to get the heart rate fired up a bit prior to travelling.

Its no wonder then that travellers and the tourism industry alike are getting very excited about the trends which seem to suggest that the need for travel related PCR testing is on the decline.

If you are fully vaccinated.

PCR Testing in Botswana's Okavango Delta
PCR Testing in Botswana's Okavango Delta

I'm not going to enter debates around Vaccines but what I can say is that for those who are fully vaccinated, multi country travel just got a whole lot easier in several African countries.

No more expensive PCR testing in remote areas to protect the integrity of your itinerary and, possibly even more important, no chance of you being stranded and ending up in isolation as a result of a false positive result.

As of 28 March, the following African countries have all implemented some sort of relaxation measures which include dropping the need to present a negative PCR test on arrival for fully vaccinated travellers:

Navigating PCR Testing Changes & Requirements

Our travel logistics team have done a stellar job of staying up to date with the latest travel restrictions and keeping our guests update not only on what the requirements are, but how we intend on making sure their travel plans remain in tact and run smoothly.

It would be wrong for me to share this post without recognising Judy, Tanya, Candice and Lara and their hard work on managing this and several other aspects of the pandemic over the last two years.

In closing, I do believe that this is the end of travel related PCR testing and I for one am looking forward to finishing off this years' safaris with a G&T around the fire rather than an ear bud up my nostril!

Andrew Beck

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