Since the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that South Africa would embark on a 21-day national lockdown, the majority of aviation activities have slowed dramatically, with all domestic airlines having halted passenger flights effective from the start of the lockdown.
South Africa’s lockdown started from midnight on March 26, and is, so far, expected to end on April 16.
During a media briefing on March 31, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula indicated that, following the President’s announcement, aviation-related queries were dominated by foreign nationals and South African citizens requesting repatriation and evacuation.
Queries were also lodged with regard to technical flights, foreign crew disembarkation and quarantining, as well as requests for a definition of essential cargo and services.
As far as international and domestic passenger flights, as well as evacuation, repatriation and technical flights are concerned, Mbalula highlighted various transport directives during the briefing on Tuesday afternoon.
All international and domestic passenger flights are still prohibited, irrespective of the risk category of the country of origin. The only flights that are exempted from this are flights especially authorised by the Transport Ministry for the evacuation of South African nationals in foreign countries.
The repatriation of foreign nationals from South Africa back to their respective countries is allowed, provided the foreign countries charter their own aircraft to South Africa with its crew, without passengers.
Should this occur, the crew will not be allowed to disembark the aircraft.
The evacuation of South African citizens who desire to come back home is allowed provided that the person/s have fully paid for a return flight ticket, and that, on arrival back on South Africa’s shores, they will be subjected to mandatory quarantine for 21 days.
In this instance, the crew will be allowed to disembark, subject to mandatory quarantine laws as may be applicable at that time.
Only medical evacuation flights, aircraft state of emergency, overflights, technical landings for refuelling and aircraft operations related to humanitarian aid, relief flights and other safety related operations, will be allowed under the technical flight category.
Medical evacuation flights, in particular, should not carry passengers except patients and crew that will, upon landing, be subjected to mandatory quarantine laws as may be applicable.
Technical landing flights are allowed on condition that no passenger may disembark.
Airports in Port Elizabeth, Bram Fischer, Upington, Polokwane and Kruger Mpumalanga will have standby operational staff who will receive aircraft that are in distress.
While the air transportation of all cargo, both essential and nonessential, is permitted, flight cargo crew disembarkation will be permitted on the condition that they will be subjected to the quarantine laws as applicable at that time in South Africa.
The same directives will apply to South Africa’s maritime and port sectors and will be implemented from April 1.