South Africa backtracks after Emirates cancels flights - CH-AVIATION
OCTOBER 10, 2020
The South African government has backtracked on visa obligations for certain travellers and has clarified health requirements for flight crews after Emirates (EK, Dubai Int'l) cancelled flights to Durban King Shaka following confusion over South Africa’s new international travel regulations.
The country on October 1 reopened for international travel but travellers from high-risk countries are restricted in terms of a “risk-adjusted strategy” to be reviewed every two weeks. Emirates resumed flights to Johannesburg O.R. Tambo and Cape Town on October 1, however a NOTAM issued by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) on October 3 said both flight crew and passengers required a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) certificate not older than 72 hours in order to move freely in South Africa upon arrival.
This resulted in Emirates cancelling flights to Durban, which were meant to have resumed on Sunday (October 4), with reports of international passengers being offloaded or denied boarding in Dubai on Saturday afternoon, prompting intervention by airline and tourism lobby groups in South Africa concerned over the impracticality and impact of the requirements.
Following an emergency meeting by the Ministers of Transport, Health, Home Affairs and Tourism on Saturday afternoon, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) on Sunday issued a statement saying it had decided to reinstate the visa exemptions - temporarily revoked at the start of the country’s lockdown on March 26 - of citizens from the following countries: South Korea, Spain, Italy, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, USA, UK, France, Portugal and Iran. Nationals from these countries were now free to visit South Africa subject to complying with applicable health regulations and protocols, it confirmed. The DHA said “immigration officers will be required to assess the movement and place of origin of the traveller and not the country of origin of the airline concerned”.
In a separate statement, the Department of Transport (DoT) moved to clarify confusion over the health requirement for flight crews: “Air crew who are not in possession of a negative PCR certificate will still be permitted entry into South Africa, but will not be permitted to move around freely. Such crew members are expected to self-quarantine at their hotel,” the DoT said.
Airline lobby group, the Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa, argued that flight crews were already operating in a safe “bubble” while quarantined in their quarters and that a PCR test for flight crews was neither feasible nor a requirement anywhere else in the world.
However, the Airline Association of Southern Africa (AASA) on October 5 said the requirements for aircrews on regional flights to and from South Africa had not yet been resolved. AASA was awaiting clarity on the issue from the DoT, a spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the DHA said regional business travellers providing services across SADC (Southern African Development Community) borders needed a PCR test not older than 72 hours, but it would be valid for 14 days.
Transit air travellers through South Africa would be allowed to connect to their destinations, subject to complying with applicable health protocols, but need not produce the 72-hours negative test result. Anyone from a country listed as having a high COVID-19 infection and transmission rate, who wished to travel to South Africa on business, must apply in writing to the Minister of Home Affairs.
According to Emirates current flight schedule, flights to Durban will resume on October 8, 2020.