SAA, which currently flies to two COVID-19 high-risk countries in Europe, is receiving requests from other airlines to consider flying their passengers.

“The national carrier is also getting requests from South Africans wanting to fly back home,” said the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, speaking at another inter-ministerial press briefing held at OR Tambo International Airport this evening (March 17).

He said as the global COVID-19 health challenge evolved, it has resulted in travellers moving their flight bookings up and filling airline seats. “As the situation changes so rapidly, airlines are making decisions almost every hour if it is sustainable.”

Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, agreed, pointing out that since President Cyril Ramaphosa – and other global leaders – announced several travel restrictions, a number of airlines had cancelled their flights.

He added that, effective March 18 (Wednesday) all charter operators from national, regional and global destinations would be rerouted to South Africa’s international airports to ensure that the correct safety and hygiene protocols were followed and to prevent foreign nationals from the nine high-risk destinations entering the country via neighbouring airports.

Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, noted that France was added as the ninth high-risk country this evening and that all French travellers to South Africa would also need to apply for a visa.

He further clarified that foreign nationals who were currently in the country could apply for visas or for visa renewal, based on certain conditions.

More details will be shared as events unfold.