NATIONAL NEWS - Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula has released an update on the Travel Ban due to the COVID-19 outbreak tonight, 17 March.
Aviation has been listed as one of the high-risk sub-sectors of transport, which enables high levels of mobility and by extension the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Mbalula stated that as a sector they are continuously putting in place measures to mitigate the risks.
Assessment exercises have been carried out across all airports, by the World Health Organisation (WHO) advisory to ensure that screening measures to limit the risk of exportation or importation of the disease are implemented.
Since then, the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) has procured and distributed masks for all frontline staff at all ACSA airports.
South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has been directed to monitor full compliance with these directives from the date of applicability.
The Civil Aviation Authority has issued guidelines for infection control for all airlines in respect of passenger, cargo and baggage handling. These are guided by the general guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
As an integral part of the airport operations value chain, the following are mandatory measures for the airlines and all handling agents:
- All airline and/or ground handling staff carrying out assisted passenger services specifically for passengers with reduced mobility are required to use personal protective equipment such as surgical masks and gloves when facilitating the arrival of international passengers
- Passenger facing personnel, particularly for all international arrivals, transfer terminal and the domestic recheck are required to use surgical masks and gloves.
- All handling staff that are at high risk of contacts such as ticket sales, baggage handling and loading, aircraft grooming, catering, bus drivers etc are required to use surgical masks and gloves.
- All passenger busses will require additional cleaning and sanitation measures to be implemented.
Of importance is the fact that Cabinet resolved, as announced by the Hon. President travel restrictions to the currently identified High-Risk countries including:
• South Korea,
• The United State of America,
• The United Kingdom, and
The department will finalise these regulations by the end of Business today, working with the following Aviation entities of the Department of Transport:
• South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACCA),
• Airport Company South Africa (ACSA), and
• Air Traffic Navigation Systems (ATNS)
In anticipation of the implementation of these regulations and the enforcement of the travel bans, the entities in the aviation, have now finalised their implementation plans.
These operational plans include amongst others, the following:
- Should the foreign nationals from the high-risk country be airborne and land in South Africa, ATNS together with ACSA will follow the process that they have in place where the aircraft will be redirected to a remote parking apron and relevant authorities will be notified.
- In a case where some of the passengers from high-risk countries arrive in South Africa connecting or transiting to other neighbouring countries, the airport authorities, Port Health, together with the immigration team will conduct a robust assessment and do a thorough travel history check and implement quarantine when required.
- It is important to note that for all South African citizens returning from high-risk countries, Port Health Services will conduct health checks including the clinical assessment and quarantine.
Charter Operators will be re-routed to international airports that have the Ports Health capability to manage a suspected case.
The following international airports have the necessary capacity and will be ready to handle charter flights:
- OR Tambo
- King Shaka
- Bram Fisher
- Kruger Mpumalanga International
- Port Elizabeth
- Cape Town
Minister Mbalula lastly stated that it is very important to note that the biggest denominator on the department implementing quarantine will be based on travel history, not nationality. This process also deals with stigma issues that should be eliminated from this process.
“This is time for solidarity, not stigmatisation,” – Mbalula concluded.