Lowering infection risk at airports

The South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has issued guidelines for infection control for all airlines, which apply to passenger, cargo and baggage handling.

“These are guided by the general guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“Assessment exercises have been carried out across all our airports, in accordance with the WHO advisory to ensure that screening measures are implemented to limit the risk of exportation or importation of the disease, without unnecessary restrictions to international travel.

“In order to mitigate risk, the CAA will conduct ramp inspections on all identified high-risk airlines,” said Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on Tuesday at a briefing held at OR Tambo International Airport.

He hosted the briefing alongside the Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, after the President had announced the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak as a national disaster. To date, 116 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in South Africa, while nearly 8 000 deaths have been reported globally.

South Africa has imposed a travel ban on foreign nationals from countries hardest hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. Further, the Department of Home Affairs has revoked about 8 339 visas from China and Iran, which are on the list of countries affected by the travel ban.

Citizens from hot-spot countries (which also include Italy, France, Germany, USA and South Korea) will in future be allowed to travel to South Africa, but with a requirement on the visa to produce a health certificate to prove that they have been tested for COVID-19 and have been cleared.

Likewise, South Africans have been advised to refrain from all forms of travel to or through the European Union, the US, UK and other high risk areas.

SAA has since cancelled 162 flights due to COVID-19 and the travel restrictions put in place. A total of 38 international and 124 regional flights have been cancelled until March 31.

SA Express has also announced that it will suspend operations from 18 March 2020 until further notice.

Mbalula on Tuesday said government will finalise regulations that will legally support the implementation and enforcement of these safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The regulations will be published in a special gazette.

Safety measures

Furthermore, the following are mandatory measures for airlines and all handling agents:

• All airline and/or ground handling staff carrying out assisted passenger services (specifically passenger with reduced mobility) are required to use personal protective equipment (including surgical masks and gloves) when facilitating arriving international passengers.

• Passenger-facing personnel, particularly for all international arrivals, transfers terminal and the domestic recheck, are required to use masks and gloves.

• All handling agent staff that are at high risk of contact (including, but not limited to passenger escorting, VIP services facilitation, ticket sales, baggage handling and loading, aircraft grooming, bus drivers and crew transport drivers) are required to wear PPE.

• All passenger buses will require additional cleaning/sanitisation measures to be implemented and the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) will increase oversight in this aspect.

Source: South African Government News Agency