iHeartRadio

After expanding its travel ban to include a total of 10 countries in southern Africa, the Canadian government has introduced a temporary exception for travellers who meet certain criteria.

Canadians who provide a negative PCR COVID-19 test from an accredited lab in South Africa within 48 hours of departing will be allowed to return home for the next week or so, the government announced Saturday.

The exemption also allows travellers to fly from Johannesburg or Cape Town to Frankfurt, Germany on a Lufthansa flight that leaves on or before Dec. 13, and then travel by either Lufthansa or Air Canada from Germany to Canada.

The amended rules allow Canadians currently stuck in South Africa to return home. One such traveller is Lara Dodo, a Toronto resident who has been trying to get home with her husband and three children. She recently travelled to South Africa to visit relatives after her father passed away from COVID-19 earlier this year.

“It’s completely surreal,” Dodo told CTV News Channel on Sunday. “Over the past week, there's been absolutely no clear information coming from Ottawa as to what our status is in terms of travel, or a clear and co-ordinated pathway home, so it's been stressful.”

The Canadian government first announced a ban on the entry of all foreign nationals who have travelled through southern Africa on Nov. 26. The legislation was introduced in response to growing concerns over the spread of Omicron, the new COVID-19 variant.

The ban initially applied to travellers from seven countries, but has since been expanded to include 10 – Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

While Dodo and her family have been able to secure a flight with Lufthansa this week, she said she’s still nervous about the departure going as planned.

“The real stress is receiving our five negative PCR tests,” she said. “And then the next venture, which is a government quarantine hotel.

“The idea of spending time in a government hotel is a little daunting at this stage, so one step at a time.”