First repatriation flight leaves SA for Brazil
Brazilian travellers stranded in South Africa due to covid-19 travel restrictions flew back to Sao Paulo in Brazil on Wednesday. This was the first repatriation flight permitted in terms of revised regulations announced on Tuesday by Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula.
The flight carrying 321 passengers departed from O. R. Tambo International Airport on Wednesday morning. They flew on LATAM airlines.
Airports Company South Africa’s Group Executive for Corporate Affairs Refentse Shinners said that there were no major challenges in making the necessary operational arrangements for the LATAM flight.
“We are very grateful to our staff and the various role players that moved quickly overnight to ensure the successful facilitation of this repatriation flight,” she said.
Shinners commended the work of the Brazilian embassy.
“We are especially appreciative of the work done by officials of the Brazilian Embassy who managed the process exceptionally well and ensured that the passengers were safely transferred to the airport by bus,” she added.
Shinners said the crew of the LATAM aircraft did not disembark.The aircraft carried an additional 16 crew members so that it could do a crew change at the airport.
The 16 crew members for the flight into South Africa , therefore,returned to Brazil as passengers.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced on Tuesday that Foreign nationals stranded in South Africa will be allowed to be repatriated under strict conditions, while South African nationals abroad who wished to return home would be allowed to do so.
Mbalula was speaking at a media briefing by the government’s inter ministerial committee on Covid-19 in Pretoria on Tuesday.
He stipulated the following conditions for the repatriation of foreign nationals:
The home country must charter a flight carrying only the crew, who will not be allowed to disembark at the airport.
South Africans wishing to return home would be allowed to do so under the following conditions:
They must be in possession of a fully paid return air ticket;
On arrival they would be subjected to mandatory quarantine of up to 21 days;
With cargo planes, Mbalula said the crew would be allowed to disembark, rest and check-in to specific undisclosed hotels. He said the crew would be allowed to disembark subject to mandatory quarantine regulations.
According to Internatinal Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor 1 471 South Africans stranded abroad have requested repatriation. Of this number 723 are students, 203 work abroad and 224 are tourists. There are 320 who have not indicated their status but have expressed a desire to be repatriated.