National carrier South African Airways said on Thursday its operational health and safety procedures were in line with the World Health Organisation’s protocols to protect its passengers and crew from contracting Covid-19.
On Wednesday WHO declared the coronavirus disease a pandemic as it continues to spread around the world after being first detected in China in December.
"SAA follows procedures, advice and guidelines from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organisation, International Air Transport Association, Civil Aviation Authorities as well as the airports and customs authorities’ directives to ensure the safety of its customers," the airline said in a statement.
"The safety, health and wellbeing of our customers and crew is a number one priority," it said, citing among its protocols, the use of disinfectants approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and effective against Covid-19, to clean its aircraft.
"The cleaning protocols our teams use to clean our aircraft have been intensified and focus among other things, on high frequent touch points such as handles, seatbelt buckles, tray tables and armrests," it said.
"Hard surfaces such as lavatories, galley units and window shades are also thoroughly cleaned with multi-purpose cleaners. The Airbus fleet is equipped with state-of-the-art, high-efficiency particulate air filters that sift out and remove dust, bacteria, allergens and other unhygienic particles."
It said SAA crews were trained to handle situations involving communicable diseases or other medical emergencies on board, while all its aircraft were loaded with bio-hazardous spill kits in case of contamination.
On Wednesday, South Africa's health minister Zweli Mkhize announced six new cases of Covid-19 in the country, bringing the total so far to 13.
The latest update from WHO says the pandemic has now affected 118,326 people in 114 countries around the world. China alone has 80,955 confirmed cases, while 37,371 have been confirmed in 113 other countries.
The global death toll stands at 4,292, with China accounting for 3,162 lives lost.