Why are flights not banned under level 4 lockdown? Fikile Mbalula clears the air

30 June 2021 - 11:30
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says airlines are not superspreaders and will be allowed to operate during alert level 4. File photo.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says airlines are not superspreaders and will be allowed to operate during alert level 4. File photo.
Image: Masi Losi/Sunday Times

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula said on Tuesday the government is not considering halting airline operations under alert level 4 lockdown as it has been advised they are not superspreaders.

Speaking at a media briefing by the national coronavirus command council (NCCC) about the heightened regulations, the minister said the government cannot afford to shut down the aviation industry as this would negatively affect the economy.

“We take advice on all health protocols from the ministry of health, NCCC and relevant health advisers. International and domestic airlines adhere to health protocols. All passengers are screened and advised to wear masks. We have been advised the aviation sector and airlines are not superspreaders,” said Mbalula. 

“People need to travel for the economy to function so we can’t shut aviation again.”

The minister allayed fears around the ban on flights from India, which is being ravaged by the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

He said SA does not operate direct flights from the country and travellers from India undergo screening during connecting flights to SA.

“Between SA and India there are no airlines, so there is nothing to ban. If you come from India, you come via other countries and you are subjected to the same regulations and a Covid-19 test upon entry. If there were flights between SA and India, we would have responded accordingly,” said Mbalula.

Last month, the DA and EFF called on the government to impose a travel ban on India due to concerns about the surge in Covid-19 infections in that country.

There were fears after a person who recently travelled from India to SA was treated for Covid-19 in a KwaZulu-Natal hospital, and 14 crew members of a cargo bulk carrier that sailed to Durban from India tested positive for Covid-19.

Under alert level 4, travellers are only allowed to leave or enter Gauteng under strict regulations.


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