South Africa’s Transport minister Mbalula on Wednesday inspected the operational state of different airlines at OR Tambo International Airport.
The inspection follows the government’s decision to allow domestic air travel as the country continues to slacken lockdown regulations.
Mbalula was accompanied by his deputy Dikeledi Philistus Magadzi and officials from the different airlines.
The inspection was one of the preparatory measures in the run up to the beginning of flights.
Measures that have been put in place by the airlines to reduce the spread of the virus include limiting movements inside the terminal buildings. Airports will only be opened once the guidelines are implemented.
Mbalula said the aviation sector needed money after being hit hard by the pandemic.
He said the Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) would require a huge financial injection to address its financial situation.
“Acsa alone needs over R11 billion to address the financial situation airlines are faced with,” said Mbalula.
“Government has hope, it is discussing a recovery plan on how we are going to assist.”
He said the sector would resume operations with strict adherence to health protocols.
“We have consistently emphasised that working with civil society, with our people in general, we will redouble our efforts in ensuring that the transport is not responsible for the rapid spread of the virus.”
Now that the country had started opening up aviation, citizens must look ahead with determination in order for the transport sector to perform its vital economic role, Mbalula said.
The inspection included a walkabout in and around the airport and aircraft where airlines are setting up screening and sanitising stations at entry and exit points of the airport.
Mpumi Mpofu from Acsa said they have trained social distancing monitors in preparation for the opening of the airport who will ensure that passengers comply with the airport regulations. They are also putting up Covid-19 messages around the facility.
When flights commence, planes would be allowed to carry full capacity and will be fitted with high efficiency particulate air (Hepa) filters. The filters are effective in trapping microscopic particles such as small bacteria, viruses and fungi.
The first phase of commercial flights will start at OR Tambo, Cape Town International Airport, King Shaka International Airport and Lanseria International Airport. Other airports will follow at a later stage when they have fully adhered to the set measures.
The South African Civil Aviation Authority (Sacca) will continue monitoring compliance at all airports and airlines while ensuring that all airlines including charted aircrafts submit their procedures for review.
For now, domestic air travel is only open for business purposes. Travel permits are required at all entry points indicating the purpose of the business.