The rapid spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) has grounded all domestic airlines and aircraft services in South Africa.
Coronavirus: A low-blow for SA travel and tourism
Four weeks since the first case was reported in South Africa, the government has moved to implement a 21-day nationwide lockdown, shutting down most industries.
Tourism, a crucial shareholder of a large stake in South Africa’s economy, has suffered the most. During an inter-ministerial media briefing held on Wednesday, the Department of Tourism confirmed that the industry is deemed as non-essential.
This, Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said, was a measure in line with the plan to restrict movement and stop the spread of coronavirus.
The sentiments were shared by South African Tourism who advised, in a statement, that all tourism businesses ought to comply with the president’s call to suspend all services that are not essential for human survival.
“We urge all tourism stakeholders, particularly accommodation owners, to co-operate and make sure none of their international guests leave unless they produce their flight ticket and are catching the next flight home,” SA Tourism said in a statement.
Transport has also been hit with restrictions. Modes of transport used for mass travel have been banned for the duration of the nationwide lockdown.
Minibus taxis and a small fleet of buses will be allowed to operate in this 21-day period, in intervals during the day and evening.
Domestic air travel has been wholly suspended and foreign nationals looking to enter the country will not be allowed to disembark.
These airlines have suspended all domestic services
The below-listed air travel companies have, in the last 24 hours, confirmed that all services will be halted from the commencement of the lockdown until further notice.
The airline confirmed in a statement that all operations will be suspended from Thursday 26 March until at least 20 April.
“We intend to gradually reinstate a new optimised schedule of services once the lockdown has been lifted. Whilst the restrictions are currently intended to last for 21 days, we will take our cue from the Government and the relevant health authorities,” Airlink Managing Director Rodger Foster noted.
South African Airways
The national carrier has indicated all operations and departments would not be open during the lockdown from Thursday for at least 21 days. Customers who need assistance during this period have been advised to contact:
- [email protected] for COVID-19 enquiries on policies or travel bans, and general enquiries relating to SAA business continuity;
- [email protected] for changes to existing bookings for future travel and new bookings;
- [email protected] for Voyager Blue, Silver and Blue members. Voyager Platinum members will continue to be supported via the dedicated email channel
All British Airway and Kulula.com flights and services have been suspended too. The airline hopes to reopen as early as 19 April, where a largescale retrenchment is expected.
“Reducing our staff complement is a decision taken with great regret. We continue to pursue cost reduction measures across the group to mitigate the impact on our staff,” Comair CEO Wrenelle Stander noted in a statement.
The latest information on the total number of infections is from Wednesday-Thursday statistics, wherein 155 new cases were recorded.
This takes the tally to 709. The health department has yet to issue the latest figures which should have increased by now, seeing that the Africa region recorded 359 new cases in the last 24 hours.