Go back! OR Tambo grounds 14 flights from high-risk coronavirus countries

By Botho Molosankwe Time of article published Mar 20, 2020

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Johannesburg - Fourteen international flights were grounded at OR Tambo International Airport on Friday in line with the travel ban pertaining to foreign nationals from Covid-19 high-risk countries.

The South African government announced this week that it would be denying visas to travellers from high-risk coronavirus countries such as China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, the UK and the US among other countries. The government said it was taking the extraordinary measure in a bid to protect locals from the rapidly spreading Covid-19 virus. 

The OR Tambo International Airport by Friday 2pm said it had grounded 14 such flights from high-risk countries.

The airport's spokesperson Betty Maloka said only permanent South African residents and citizens would be allowed to disembark from the flights.

She said with the help of the Department Health which was on site, those that have been allowed to disembark would undergo high-intensity screening, be isolated and taken into quarantine if it was necessary to do so. 

She said the the planes would be grounded then sent back to their countries of origin with the foreign nationals onboard.

On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said a travel ban would have to be imposed in light of Covid-19 whose infection rates kept rising.

“We are imposing a travel ban on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and China as from 18th March 2020. 

"We have cancelled visas to visitors from those countries from today and previously granted visas are hereby revoked. South African citizens are advised to refrain from all forms of travel to or through the European Union, the United States, United Kingdom and other identified high-risk countries such as China, Iran and South Korea. This is effective immediately," the president said.

This was reiterated later in the week by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who said foreigners from high-risk countries who were already in the country would still be allowed to renew their visas at least until July.

An Air China flight is one of 14 air craft from high risk countries that has been grounded at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Picture: Twitter

The Star

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