South Africa further eases restrictions on domestic air travel

A South African Airways (SAA) aircraft is seen parked on the tarmac at Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town, South Africa, November 14, 2019. REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: A South African Airways aircraft (bottom) arrives as a Kenya Airways aircraft prepares to take off at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

The South African government on Monday announced the further easing of restrictions on domestic air travel despite continued surges in confirmed COVID-19 cases.

In addition to the original four airports that are currently operating, more domestic airports will reopen from July 1, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said in a statement.

These include Bram Fischer International Airport, Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, Pietermaritzburg Airport, Port Elizabeth International Airport, Richardsbay Airport, Skukuza Airport and Upington International Airport.

All international passenger flights are still prohibited except those flights authorized by the minister of transport, the statement said.

On May 30, Mbalula announced the reopening of domestic air travel for purposes of business and other essential travel, allowing four airports — the OR Tambo, King Shaka, Cape Town and Lanseria international airports — to resume operations.

“We have witnessed airlines gradually taking to the skies mainly through the phase-one approved airports,” the minister said.

The phase-one reopening was critical to test the efficiency and impact of the guidelines regarding the health and safety of the passengers and aviation personnel operating in this space, Mbalula said.

“We’re pleased with the progress we have observed to date,” he said.

The further easing of restrictions on domestic air travel is in line with the gradual reopening of the economy, “as we enter a new normal and journey together, towards a healthier, safer and more prosperous South Africa,” the minister said.

The announcement came after South Africa on Sunday reported 6,334 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the previous 24 hours, bringing the tally to 138,134.

Meanwhile, the national death toll reached 2,456, of which 43 were recorded since Saturday.