South Africa will begin allowing some international tourists to enter the country on Thursday, for the first time since a national lockdown took effect in March.
But in a blow to hopes of reviving the country’s key tourism sector, at least a dozen high-risk European countries — those whose infection rate exceeds that of South Africa, including Britain, France, Russia, Iceland and the Netherlands, as well as the United States and most of Latin America — will remain on a no-fly list.
South Africa has reported 672,572 cases of the virus, including 16,667 deaths, the highest official death toll on the continent. But the infection rate has slowed drastically in recent weeks, and President Cyril Ramaphosa eased restrictions this month.
“We have arrived at a point where the infection rate has started to go down, and we believe we can now accommodate the process towards a return to a more normal side of business in South Africa,” Naledi Pandor, the foreign minister, said Wednesday in a televised address, noting that the developments had occurred “in the context of a new normal.”
The list of permitted countries will be reviewed every two weeks, Ms. Pandor said.
The announcement comes ahead of what would normally be the beginning of a new tourism season — when colder weather in the northern hemisphere starts luring up to 10 million foreigners annually to the country’s pristine beaches and luxurious game safaris.
Many of those visitors come from countries with major outbreaks, including Brazil, the United States and Britain, or countries otherwise on the banned list, such as the Netherlands. Several major airlines, including British Airways and KLM, had said they were planning to resume daily flights to South Africa as restrictions eased, and had started taking bookings.
No African countries were on the list, and leisure travelers will be permitted from countries deemed “low risk.”
Visitors will be required to have travel insurance, and to present a negative P.C.R. test performed no more than 72 hours prior to arrival. Business travelers, diplomats and those with critical skills will be permitted to enter starting Thursday, even if they are coming from countries considered high-risk.
Border closures and national lockdowns have devastated Africa’s $39 billion tourism industry. In South Africa, tourism employs some quarter of a million people directly, although more than double that number of jobs remain threatened by the lockdown, according to Tourism South Africa.