COVID-19 testing, 24/7, at ORTIA

Good news for travellers departing South Africa from OR Tambo is that they can get COVID-19 PCR-tested and collect their certificate at the airport prior to departure.

National Health Laboratory Service ( is operating three mobile COVID-19 Test Units in clearly identifiable vans located opposite the InterContinental Hotel, in front of the Police Station, on the lower level of the airport complex. The service is available 24/7 according to Port Health Services, at a cost of R600 (cash, cheque cards and credit cards are accepted, except American Express). Children under five years do not require a test.

Results are available in four to six hours and the traveller is advised by SMS that the test result and certificate are ready for collection. After testing, travellers can wait for the SMS at the airport or nearby, collect the certificate, and proceed to fly, or the test may be done a day or two prior to departure if preferred, and the certificate collected on the day of departure.

Inbound travellers to South Africa, including South Africans, must hold a negative PCR test certificate taken within 72 hours of their departure time. This certificate is valid for the duration of the traveller’s inbound journey and takes into consideration long stopovers at transit points, but the test validity has a maximum of 14 days, and is for a single entry only. (Every time a traveller departs for South Africa, a new test is required prior to departure.)

Turkish Airlines has an arrangement that authorises travellers bound for South Africa via Istanbul to skip the PCR test with the proviso that the traveller will then take the test at Istanbul Airport prior to departure for South Africa on their connecting flight.

On arrival in South Africa, the traveller must produce a printed copy of the test certificate. However, Port Health says travellers who receive their certificate on a mobile device whilst travelling, who are not able to print a copy, and only have the certificate on their phone/device, are permitted to email a copy of certificate to

On arrival, the traveller must show the Port Health authorities the certificate on the mobile device plus the proof of the email sent. The email can be sent prior to arrival in South Africa or once at the airport after arrival, but must be sent prior to reporting to Port Health for clearance.

For ease of tracking, passengers should their SURNAME/PASSPORT NUMBER/FLIGHT details in subject line.

Example: SUBJECT: COVID certificate STEYN/A00290456/TK1234 Arr 10DEC20

Foreign travellers are required to have COVID-19 Insurance for travel to South Africa, to cover any quarantine costs if applicable. In the event of a traveller arriving without a certified negative COVID-19 PCR test the following will apply, according to Port Health services:

1. The traveller will be screened for signs and symptoms.

2. Upon failure to produce a certified PCR negative test result, the traveller will be directed to a testing facility at the port of entry.

3. A staff member from NHLS will conduct the test immediately.

4. The testing cost (R600) will be borne by the traveller, payable before the testing takes place.These travellers have to wait airside for their results. This can be in one of the airside coffee shops, or at the Transit Hotel.

5. If the traveller tests negative, they will be allowed to proceed through the port of entry.

6. If the traveller tests positive they must quarantine at a facility designated by that particular port of entry.They will not be permitted to travel across provinces. Contacts of a traveller testing positive at the point of entry, including those who were in proximity to the traveller onboard the aircraft, will be tracked.

7. Travellers who arrive without a certificated negative PCR test and who refuse to test at the port of entry will not be permitted to enter the country and must quarantine at a designated facility. Cost of quarantine for foreign passport holders is at their own expense.

Port Health says it is mandatory for all foreign passport holders to download the South African COVIDAlert SA app, preferably prior to arrival in South Africa.

South African passport holders are not obliged to, but are encouraged to download the app.