With millions of citizens set to return to work, school and institutions of higher learning when the country moves to COVID-19 lockdown level 3, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has announced that public transport will operate throughout the day.
However, capacity restrictions remain, with minibus taxis still only permitted a 70% loading capacity. Buses are still expected to adhere to a maximum loading capacity of 50%, taking due regard of standing passengers. This will also be the case for e-hailing and metred taxis, as well as shuttle, chauffer and charter services.
Briefing media on the regulations under level 3 on Saturday, Mbalula said the condition for such operation is that public transport vehicles are only permitted to transport persons permitted to travel between provinces, in terms of the regulations.
Such travel is only restricted to:
- Persons undertaking work responsibilities or performing a service permitted under level 3, provided they are in possession of the requisite permit.
- Persons moving to a new place of residence.
- Persons caring for an immediate family member.
- Learners or students who have to commute to and from schools or institutions of higher learning during periods when schools or institutions are permitted to operate.
- Attendance of funerals.
- Transportation of mortal remains.
- Obtaining medical treatment.
- Persons returning to their place of residence from a quarantine or isolation facility.
- Permitted/authorised movement of children; and
- Members of Parliament performing oversight responsibilities.
Regarding maritime transport, Mbalula said restrictions remain on the movement of ships.
However, full operations for the Port of Mossel Bay and Port of Saldanha Bay for movement of cargo will now be permitted.
“Furthermore, allowance will be made for South African registered seafarers to embark and disembark ships, with a mandatory quarantine for those returning.
“The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) shall be directed to issue a Marine Notice to this effect,” said Mbalula.
Level 3 will see domestic air travel resume, but only limited to business purposes. This, said the Minister, will also be subject to restrictions on the number of flights per day and authorisation based on the reason for travel.
The phased approach will be guided by the various considerations. These include Port Health Capacity at the golden triangle airports – OR Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka international airports. The initial period will also serve as a trial period to stress test the system and measures to determine how they are holding up.
The Minister said Lanseria Airport will have to arrange Port Health Capacity that will be certified before any flight is allowed to operate.
Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, Polokwane International Airport and Bram Fischer Airport will begin operations in Phase 2. The airports in Kimberly, Upington, East London, Umtata and Port Elizabeth will resume in Phase 1.
“We have evaluated the plans in full and have also considered the non-pharmaceutical interventions, as well as mitigation strategies to be implemented by all airlines operating in our domestic markets. We are confident that they will assist in the containment of the spread of the virus,” Mbalula said.
The Transport Department has also assessed measures being rolled out globally in the airline industry and benchmarked against these when an assessment was done by the department on the state of readiness related to the aviation industry.
At airports, only passengers will be allowed inside the terminal buildings.
“Temperature screening will be conducted at the terminal building entrances before any passenger is allowed entry. No passengers will be allowed inside the terminal buildings without masks,” Mbalula said.
ACSA is expected to ensure effectiveness of the sanitisation process before entering the terminal buildings, which may result in the number of entrances being reduced.
“All the airports will have markings on the floor for social distancing of 1.5 metres. This will be applicable at check-in counters, security checkpoints and airport lounges,” the Minister said.
At boarding gates, boarding will be staggered and prioritised in terms of the number of passengers waiting to board. Sectional boarding will be implemented to avoid unnecessary contact inside the aircraft.
“Inside the cabin, full capacity will be allowed. It must be noted that the risk of COVID-19 infection on board a commercial passenger airliner is lower than in many other confined spaces. All our commercial aircrafts are fitted with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. These are manufactured to the same standard as those used in hospital operating theatres and industrial clean rooms, with the same efficacy of 99.97% in removing viruses,” Mbalula said.
Catering and magazines will not be allowed in the cabin. Last rows, Mbalula said, will be reserved for isolation of suspected cases, should they be detected on board.
All aircrafts must be disinfected before entering into service and after each flight.
“Loading capacity for all airport buses must be limited to 70%. These buses must be disinfected after off-loading. Drivers, baggage handlers and ground handlers must be fully equipped with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE),” said the Minister.
On arrival, all passengers will be screened as they enter terminal buildings, with suspected cases referred to Port Health.
Both virtual and contact aviation training will be permitted in aviation training, subject to all COVID-19 regulations and directions being observed.