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Here's how domestic air travel will work under level 3 lockdown

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announcing the regulations for level 3 lockdown. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announcing the regulations for level 3 lockdown. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

Published May 30, 2020


Cape Town - Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has announced the regulations governing domestic air travel when the country moves to level 3 of the national lockdown on June 1. In a surprise move, Mbalula has announced that aircraft wil be allowed to carry their full capacity.

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He said that the risk Covid-19 infection onboard an aircraft is significantly reduced because of the High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters all aircraft are fitted with. The filters, Mbalula said, had a 99.97% efficacy in "removing viruses".

In his briefing on Saturday, Mbalula said the rollout of domestic flights will be done in three phases, and that the number of flights per day would be restricted. The scheduling of flights will also be guided by the availability of  port health services at the various airports.  

Mbalula said his department is doing everything in its power to ensure that, in the process of opening up the transport sector, they are not responsible for an increase in Covid-19 infections.

"As the country moves to level 3, with more industries resuming operations, learners returning to school, the transport sector must be responsive to enable mobility of both workers and learners," Mbalula said. 

"In doing so, we must maintain a delicate balance between enabling mobility and arresting the spread of the virus. Our commitment to preservation of human life above all else, is informed by our constitution, which enjoins us in ensuring that the right to life is non-derogable and therefore supercedes all other rights."

Which airports will be allowed to open under the three phases:

Phase 1

* OR Tambo International Airport

* Cape Town International Airport

* King Shaka International Airport, and

* Lanseria International Airport

Phase 2

* Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport

* Polokwane International Airport

* Bram Fischer International Airport (Bloemfontein)

Phase 3

* Kimberley Airport

* Upington Airport

* East London Airport

* Umtata Airport

* Port Elizabeth Airport

Factors that will guide the phased opening of the aviation sector:

* Port Health capacity at the "golden triangle" airports - OR  Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, Cape Town International and King Shaka International Airport in Durban.

* The initial opening period will also serve as a trial period to stress test the system and measures to determine if they are holding up or not.

* Lanseria Airport must arrange Port Health capacity and government must certify it before any flights are allowed to take off or land there. 

* The move to Phase 2 of opening the secor will be informed by the current low infection rates in the inland provinces, Mbalula said.

* The transport ministry will further engage with the Industry stakeholders on the contributions that are necessary for Port Health capacity in the operations of Phases 2 and 3 of the roll-out.

These factors will determine whether  commercial flights will be allowed from these airports during each phase, Mbalula said.

Safety and physical distancing

Only passengers will be allowed inside airport terminals and temperature screening will be conducted at the entrances to all terminals. Passengers will be required to wear face masks at all times.

Check-in counters, security checkpoints and airport lounges will have clear marking on the floor indicating the required 1.5-metre physical distancing that all passengers will be required to observe.

A irline check-in agents will wear face shields and counters will be fitted with protective screens and frequently sanitised, Mbalula said.

Mbalula said ACSA would ensure that sanitation protocols were observed at all entrances to terminals and that this could result in a reduction in the number of entrances which will be operational.

Transport between the terminal and aircraft

* loading capacity for all airport buses is limited to 70%

* buses must be disinfected after off-loading passengers  

* drivers, baggage handlers and ground handlers must be fully equipped with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)

Inside the cabin

* no catering will be allowed;

* no   onboard  magazines;

* The last row of each flight will be reserved for isolation of suspected cases.

All aircraft must be disinfected before entering into service and after each flight, Mbalula said.