Tito Mboweni hits out at airlines for not following Covid-19 protocols

Finance minister cites lack of non-pharmaceutical measures — including lax social distancing and loading of maximum passengers — as some of the 'wrong things' airlines are doing

18 March 2021 - 19:05
Tito MboweniI says people have forgotten about sanitisers and social distancing.
Tito MboweniI says people have forgotten about sanitisers and social distancing.
Image: . Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Finance minister Tito Mboweni slammed airlines' lack of adherence to Covid-19 protocols, warning the country might face multiple waves of the pandemic as a result.  

He cited the lack of non-pharmaceutical prevention measures — including social distancing and loading maximum numbers of passengers — as some of the “wrong things” airlines were doing.

Mboweni was answering questions at the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Thursday, where he warned that the behaviour at some of the country's airports had been “over-normalised” when the country was not out of the woods yet.   

“These aeroplane people really have to be forced to adhere to Covid-19 related passenger management. What they are doing at the moment is wrong, and I will make it very clear to them. They are packing the aeroplanes, they are not adhering to the [health] standards, and it's not helpful at all. So we are going to see these waves coming from time to time,” he said.

The minister said the country had leant valuable lessons since the country first underwent a hard lockdown under level 5.

“We learnt a lot  of lessons. Now we are at level 1, we are learning very bad lessons, because people think we are out of the Covid situation. Yet we are not out of the woods yet.

“I can see gatherings, partying, non-wearing of masks. People have forgotten about sanitisers. If you go into the airport, flying from Joburg to Cape Town, it looks like it's over-normalised. There's no social distancing and so on,” he said.

MPs quizzed the minister on various issues on the state of the economy, even post the pandemic.

Mboweni jokingly accused them of being in a “fighting mood” while he was in a “peaceful mood”.

He assured the ministers of his department's commitment to keeping the economy afloat despite threats of a coronavirus third wave.

“If the third wave comes, we should use the experience that we gained during the second wave on how to keep the economy going while still trying to protect the lives of our people. I think we should all co-operate in ensuring that we avoid the third wave.  If it comes, it has to be managed in a manner that still keeps economic activity going,” he said.  

While some MPs expressed concern at the possibility of the country being downgraded further by ratings agencies, Mboweni assured them that this would not be the case. He confirmed that he was due to have conversations with some of the agencies soon. One of the main points he would raise was the “unfair” decision they took to downgrade the country the last time.

Mboweni added that the speed at which the country would roll out the Covid-19 vaccine would be of assistance in mitigating against the third wave.

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