Minister Fikile Mbalula: Coronavirus COVID-19 level 3 lockdown transport measures

30 May 2020

In his address to the nation on Sunday, President Ramaphosa announced that the alert level for the whole country will be lowered from Level 4 to Level 3 with effect from 1 June 2020.

The President further emphasized that we must get used to living with the coronavirus for some time to come.  We must therefore internalize the new normal.  We have consistently emphasized that working with civil society, we will redouble our efforts in ensuring that the transport sector is not responsible for the rapid spread of the virus.

As the country moves to level 3, with more industries resuming operations, learners returning to school, the transport sector must be responsive to enable mobility of both workers and learners.  In doing so, we must maintain a delicate balance between enabling mobility and arresting the spread of the virus.  Our commitment to preservation of human life above all else, is informed by our constitution, which enjoins us in ensuring that the right to life is non-derogable and therefore supersedes all other rights.

The consultations we have held with industry bodies, across various modes of transport, have given us confidence that the majority of the sector is ready to resume operations with strict adherence to health protocols.  

Regulations published by the Minister of Co-operative Governance, which give effect to Level 3, enjoins us to publish Directions, responsive to the gradual easing of the lockdown.  The re-opening of the schools and some institutions of higher learning in June require of us to put measures in place to enable safe movement of learners and students.  Similarly, the increase in the number of people returning to work means more activity on our roads.

Our level 3 Directions, which come into effect on 1 June 2020, demonstrate the careful balancing act of enabling mobility while arresting the spread of the virus through the transport system.


We have taken note of advisories from the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health, discouraging the use of sanitizing booths due to health concerns.  We will ensure that these are not utilized at our transport facilities.

MARITIME TRANSPORT

There will be no changes to the Directions regulating the movement of ships.  The ban on passenger vessels and cruise liners remains in place, and only vessels bringing in cargo are allowed to call on our ports.

However, it is important to note that movement of cargo from our sea-ports to its final destination is allowed.  Similarly, full operations for the port of Mossel Bay and port of Saldanha Bay for movement of Cargo will be permitted.

Furthermore, allowance will be made for South African registered seafarers to embark and disembark ships with a mandatory quarantine for those returning. To this extent, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) shall be directed to issue a Marine Notice to this effect.

AVIATION

Limited domestic air travel for business purposes will be allowed, subject to restrictions on the number of flights per day and authorization based on the reason for travel.  The availability of port health services will also guide the scheduling of flights.  The resumption of domestic flights will be rolled out in three phases.  This phased approach will be guided by the following considerations:

  • Port Health capacity at the golden triangle airports.  These are OR  Tambo International, Cape Town International and King Shaka International airports.
  • Initial period will also serve as a trial period to stress test the system and measures to determine if they are holding up or not.
  • Lanseria Airport to arrange Port Health Capacity and government to certify it before any flight is allowed to take off or land. We will in this regard, work closely with the management of this privately owned airport to ensure that all the necessary measures are in place.
  • Move to phase 2 is informed by the current low infection rates in the inland provinces.
  • We will further engage with the Industry stakeholders on the contributions that are necessary for Port Health capacity in the operations of Phases 2 and 3 of the roll-out.

Guided by these considerations, commercial aircraft movement will be allowed from these airports during each phase:

Phase 1

  • OR Tambo International Airport
  • Cape Town International Airport
  • King Shaka International Airport, and
  • Lanseria International Airport

Phase 2

  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport
  • Polokwane International Airport
  • Bram Fischer Airport

Phase 3

  • Kimberley Airport
  • Upington Airport
  • East London Airport
  • Umtata Airport
  • Port Elizabeth Airport

Guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus in civil aviation activities have been developed by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and these will be implemented by the industry, with SACAA playing an oversight role.

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 and are confident that they will assist in the containment of the spread of the virus.  We have also assessed the measures being rolled out globally in the airline industry and benchmarked against these, when an assessment was done by the Department of Transport on the state of readiness related to the aviation industry.

Airports

Limited domestic air travel also means that flights will only be allowed to depart and land at selected airports in a phased manner as earlier explained.

Only passengers will be allowed inside the terminal buildings.  Therefore, no accompanying members of the public 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.

ACSA will ensure effectiveness of the sanitization 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.

All airline check-in agents will wear face shields and the counters will be installed with protective screens.  Check-in counters will also be frequently sanitized.

All airport personnel will wear masks.

Passengers are encouraged to use self-check-in to avoid queues at the airport.

At boarding gates, boarding will be staggered and prioritized in terms of the number of passengers 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 onboard a commercial passenger airliner is lower than in many other confined spaces.  All our commercial aircrafts are fitted with the 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.  

While the total air supply inside the cabin is essentially sterile and particle free, the biggest risk is if someone enters or remains in that environment, while unwell with a viral infection.  This risk will be mitigated through the adoption of effective sanitization and personal hygiene protocols.

The following measures will apply inside the cabin of the aircraft:

  • no catering will be allowed;
  • no magazines on board;
  •  The last row will be reserved for isolation of suspected cases.

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).

On arrival, all passengers must be screened as they enter the terminal building.  Suspected cases must be referred to Port Health.

Aviation Training

Aviation Training Organisations are allowed to conduct both virtual and in contact aviation training to students that are South African citizens and to foreign students that are already in South Africa, subject to all applicable COVID-19 Regulations and Directions.

Foreign students who are not within the borders of South Africa are allowed to only conduct virtual training.

Additional authorisation for training flights is not required, provided that the aircraft used is registered with an approved Part 141 Aviation Training Organisation.

Skills tests are allowed provided that the Examiner or Instructor is authorised to conduct a flight test by the South African Civil Aviation Authority.

General Aviation operators will be required to develop and implement procedures consistent with applicable COVID-19 Regulations and Directions.

RAIL

When we presented Level 4 Directions, we indicated that commuter rail will resume operations gradually on an incremental basis, based on detailed plans submitted by operators.  Indeed, the Gautrain resumed its operations at the beginning of May 2020.  As on 1 June 2020, the Gautrain will resume the airport service.

Through our ongoing engagements and evaluation of PRASA’s state of readiness to resume operations, we have concluded that PRASA is not ready to resume with the Metrorail commuter service.  We continue to work closely with PRASA in assessing each line and put measures in place to achieve an acceptable level of readiness.

We have therefore revised our timelines in respect of the resumption of the Metrorail commuter service.  The revised target date is now 1 July 2020, on the following lines:

  • Pretoria to Pienaarspoort;
  • Cape Town to Simonstown;
  • East London to Berlin; and
  • Port Elizabeth to Uitenhage

Long distance trains remain prohibited.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

With the increase in the number of people returning to work and learners and students returning to institutions of learning, long distance public transport crossing Provincial, Metropolitan or District boundaries is permitted to operate.  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:

  • Perons undertaking work responsibilities or performing a service permitted under Alert 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 those schools or institutions of higher learning during periods when those 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;
  • Movement of children; and
  • Members of Parliament performing oversight responsibilities.

The time restrictions on all road-based public transport modes are lifted.  Public transport will now be allowed to operate throughout the day.  However, capacity restrictions remain:

  • Minibus-taxis remain at 70% loading capacity;
  • Buses must adhere to a maximum loading capacity of 50%, taking due regard of standing passengers;
  • eHailing and Metred Taxis remain at 50% loading capacity
  • Shuttle, Chauffer and Charter services remain at 50% loading capacity.

DRIVERS’ LICENCE TESTING CENTRES, VEHICLE TESTING CENTRES AND PROVINCIAL REGULATORY ENTITIES

All Drivers’ Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs), Vehicle Testing Centres (VTCs) and Provincial Regulatory Entities (PREs) will resume their operations on 1 June 2020, subject to strict application of health norms and standards and their ability to pass the assessment on their state of readiness test conducted by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).

CONCLUSION

We remain guided by the Risk-adjusted approach of government and have taken a cautious approach to the measures easing the lockdown effects on transport. We will further continue with our engagement with the stakeholders within the transport sector to find solutions to the difficult task at hand of balancing the competing interests and preservation of lives and supporting livelihoods.

More information:    
Ayanda Allie Paine
072 566 0827

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