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South Africa opens borders on October 1 to resume international travel

South Africa will move to Level 1 of lockdown on September 21, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced during a briefing on September 16. He has also opened borders from October 1, for inbound and outbound international leisure travel – with restrictions.

The country will gradually and cautiously return to international travel from October 1 but will be restricted to and from certain countries with high infection rates, Ramaphosa said.

The King Shaka, OR Tambo and Cape Town International airports will be open for international flights.

On arrival, travellers must present a negative COVID-19 test from no longer than 72 hours prior to departure. Those who do not, will be put under mandatory quarantine at their own cost. Travellers will be screened and those presenting symptoms must also quarantined.

‘It is time to move to what we will call our new normal,’ Ramaphosa said. ‘It is time to remove as many restrictions on the economic and social activity as it is safe to do.’

The curfew has also been relaxed, and will now be from midnight to 4am and alcohol will be sold from retailers from Monday to Friday and on-site until midnight.

From March 2020, over 15 000 people in the country have died due to the virus and over 650,000 infections were recorded. South Africa’s infection rate is steadily decreasing, but Ramaphosa emphasised the necessity to avoid a second wave of the virus.

He also encouraged citizens to download the new coronavirus tracking app called ‘COVID Alert South Africa‘, which will aid in effective tracing should a user be exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

More details will be provided by relevant Ministers in the following weeks.

Image credit: Screenshot from live briefing

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Seth Rotherham

Department Of Tourism Outlines When We May Expect International Travellers Again

04 Aug 2020 by Carrie in Aviation, COVID-19, Health, Lifestyle, South Africa, Travel

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[imagesource: Brian Stauffer/ Foreign Policy]

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the tourism sector.

Governments across the globe have had to close borders to limit the spread of the virus, depriving the industry of foreign tourists that would ordinarily contribute significantly to the economy.

In South Africa, thousands of businesses and jobs are at risk. Hoteliers large and small have closed establishments, attractions are shut, and airlines have ceased operations.

The only way to combat this is for the sector to reopen, but this comes with some unavoidable risks. The recovery for the tourism industry once it resumes operations will be a long and difficult one.

A draft recovery plan, published by The Department of Tourism, details international and local predictions for when tourism may open up to international travellers, using modelling that accounts for infection patterns and recovery scenarios.

Current estimates forecast a global re-opening between August 2020 and early 2021. This scenario assumes that the generally observed global recovery trajectory persists and that progress towards enhanced treatments for COVID – 19 continues.

South Africa itself looks set to emerge more slowly than many regions, although key source markets in Europe and North America are also facing a fragile recovery.

Tourism in South Africa is expected to recover through a series of phases, ranging from hyper-local community attractions, through to broader domestic tourism and, finally, the resumption of international travel.

To facilitate gradual re-opening, the tourism sector, guided by the country’s Risk Adjusted Strategy has been pro-active in establishing biosecurity protocols that reduce transmission risk across all sub-sectors and can adapt to changing requirements and best practice.

These will be rolled out under a self-regulation framework in conjunction with the government’s risk-adjusted strategy and will determine when and how various industries within the tourism value chain are able to resume operations.

This infographic outlines the three-tier plan that the Department of Tourism plans on rolling out over the next few months:

Image: Department of Tourism

If you’re struggling to read the above, you’ll find it on page nine of the full PDF.

Or, take in a simplified version:

As for when we can expect international tourists to return to the country, the model below outlines some of the estimated travel periods for the primary “source countries” for tourism:

Image: Department of Tourism

You’ll find a larger version of the graph on page 33 of the full PDF.

The model depicts predictions between August 2020 and May 2021, according to data collected about the virus in each country. For domestic travel, within the respective country, the opening window is set between August 2020 and mid-February 2021.

International travel to and from the respective country is set between November 2020 and May 2021, which would allow travel to South Africa, depending on where we are in terms of our own COVID-19 cases and whether or not it is safe, and procedures are in place to receive foreign visitors.

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Two further global scenarios outlined by the department include a more fragile recovery with isolated setbacks that takes longer, or a prolonged pandemic where the hunt for a vaccine is largely unsuccessful and transmission of the virus is not adequately contained.

If you’d like to take a deep dive into the facts and figures, BusinessTech broke down the details of the report.

If global trends continue they way they’re going we could be looking at reopening out borders to international tourists sooner than anticipated.

Qantas direct flights from SA to Australia now only seem likely to restart well into 2022

Airlines flying to South Africa

South Africans have very limited international travel options thanks to extended border closures, concerns around new coronavirus variants, and lack of demand.

And on Thursday, a key foreign airline again postponed its return to South African airports, in something of a trend that has seen carriers hopeful, but ultimately unwilling or unable to reinstate services.

The reopening of South Africa’s borders towards the end of 2020 was supposed to revive travel and tourism. Instead the discovery of a new, more infectious coronavirus variant – 501Y.V2 – which was first identified in samples gathered from the Eastern Cape, led to a wave of fresh restrictions for South Africans.

Many international airlines which last departed South Africa in March 2020 have yet to return.

Throughout January and February, countries in Europe, Asia and North America added new restrictions and extended bans on South African travels. With that, major airlines, some of which had tentatively resumed operations in the window of opportunity between South Africa’s reopening of borders and the discovery of 501Y.V2, quickly suspended operations.

Today, less than half of the international airlines which operated regular routes to South Africa in pre-pandemic 2020 have resumed operations, according to the Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa (Barsa). This coincides with South Africans being ranked as the most restricted travellers in the world, according data supplied by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Most international airlines have indicated tentative return dates but point out that these timelines are intrinsically tied to their respective countries’ government-ordered travel restrictions for visitors from South Africa. The plans are more best-case-scenario than any guarantee.

Here is when some of the most important international airlines intend to resume passenger flights to and from South Africa, with South Africans aboard.

Singapore Airlines – Operational (but only for South African travellers in transit)

Singapore’s ban on travellers from South Africa, which was reintroduced amid the emergence of the 501Y.V2 variant at the start of 2021, has been lightened. While most travellers who have visited South Africa within the last 14 days will still be prohibited from entering the country – unless they’ve obtained specific entry approval from the ministry of health – Singapore’s Changi Airport will accommodate passengers-in-transit.

The updated regulations came into effect on Friday 23 April and allow Singapore Airlines to transport South African travellers to countries in Asia and the South-West Pacific region. The airline had previously operated a limited schedule between South Africa and Singapore, only carrying returning residents and citizens back home.

These returning residents – or visitors cleared for “critical and essential official travel”— will now be subjected to a mandatory 21 days of quarantine. This Stay Home Notice (SHN) is split between a dedicated government-run facility (14 days) and the traveller’s residence (7 days), during which follow-up PCR tests will be conducted.

Singapore Airlines operates five weekly flights between Johannesburg and Changi Airport.

El Al Airlines (Israel) – Cancelled (was due to resume on 6 May)

Israel’s flag carrier, El Al Airlines, was due to resume flights to and from South Africa on 6 May 2021 with a weekly flight between Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International.

Just three days before El Al was scheduled to restart flights to and from South Africa, the Israeli Health Ministry announced heightened international travel restrictions.

The new travel rules, which came into effect on 3 May, prohibit Israeli citizens from travelling to South Africa and require returning residents to quarantine for two weeks.

This comes as a setback to Israel’s plan to welcome back vaccinated tourists. The country had previously hoped to welcome tourists back on 23 May. This has now been postponed to the end of June.

Emirates – extended to 30 May 2021 (for South African passengers)

Emirates has extended its flight restrictions on South African travellers for a fourth time in April. The flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was initially due to resume its operations on 8 April.

On 15 April, the revised date of return, Emirates confirmed that flight suspensions would continue until at least 30 May. The airline will continue to operate limited commercial passenger flights into, but not out of, South Africa.

“Daily passenger flights to Johannesburg will operate as EK763, however outbound passenger services on EK 764 remain suspended. Customers who have been to or connected through South Africa in the last 14 days will not be permitted on any Emirates flights bound for Dubai.”

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KLM – 1 June 2021 (for South African passengers)

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines continues to operate limited passenger flights to and from South Africa but is only carrying Dutch Nationals and EU Residents as outbound passengers.

“KLM is currently operating a daily flight from Johannesburg to Amsterdam, and three flights per week from Cape Town to Amsterdam,” said a representative of the airline.

“KLM has maintained this schedule to South Africa since the international borders were reopened in October 2020. The current Air France schedule between Johannesburg and Paris has increased from three to five flights per week with effect 29 March 2021.”

South African travellers are currently banned from entering The Netherlands, with its Ministry of Foreign affairs expected to review border restrictions on 1 June.

British Airways – extended to 1 June 2021

British Airways, which operated daily flights between London, OR Tambo, and Cape Town prior to the pandemic – and returned with limited services in October – suspended all flights to and from South Africa on 23 December.

This flight ban has since been extended several times, with the airline proposing the earliest return date of 1 June 2021.

“We have not been and are not currently operating passenger flights to or from South Africa due to current restrictions,” said British Airways’ press office, with reference to the ongoing ban on South African travellers into the United Kingdom (UK).

Virgin Atlantic – early June 2021

The British Virgin Atlantic resumed limited passenger services to and from South Africa in October but, like BA, suspended flights on 23 December. The suspension has since been extended several times.

“Plans to resume flights to South Africa are aiming for early June, dependant on travel restrictions allowing,” said Rosie Watts, the PR Executive of Virgin Atlantic.

United Airlines – 3 June 2021

United Airlines will begin operating direct flights between Newark, New York, and Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport on 3 June. Despite ongoing travel restrictions imposed on South Africans hoping to enter the United States (US), tickets for the new daily route have recently gone on sale.

“United is set to inaugurate its new daily service between New York-Newark and Johannesburg on 3 June [eastbound departing from the US] and 5 June 2021 [westbound departing from South Africa],” Gudrun Gorner, the airline’s PR Manager, confirmed to Business Insider South Africa.

Cathay Pacific – 30 June 2021

The Hong King airline suspended travel to South Africa in March 2020 and intended to restart its flights to Johannesburg a year later. This proposed resumption date was recently extended to 30 June 2021.

Qantas – between December and mid-2022

Qantas’ international flights have been suspended for more than a year, with the only exceptions extended to “travel bubbles” with New Zealand and surrounding island states. The Australian flag carrier was initially due to resume flights to South Africa in October, but recently issued a statement – in response to the latest federal budget – indicating that flights would only return to normal in 2022.

“The Federal Government has revised its anticipated timeline for the completion of Australia’s vaccine rollout to end-2021 and its timeline for significantly reopening our international borders to mid-2022,” the airline noted in a statement on 12 May.

“In light of these two dates, the Qantas Group will adjust its planned international flights from end-October 2021 to late December 2021. We remain optimistic that additional bubbles will open once Australia’s vaccine rollout is complete to countries who, by then, are in a similar position, but it’s difficult to predict which ones at this stage.”

Delta Airlines – “middle of 2021”

Prior to the pandemic, the American Delta Airlines offered non-stop flights between Atlanta in the United States and Johannesburg. The airline suspended this flight on 26 March 2020.

“Currently, we don’t have a firm date to restart our Johannesburg flight or launch our Cape Town service and continue to evaluate [the] market situation given the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the airline.

“We are certainly hoping to restart service by the middle of the year but [that’s] to be confirmed.”

Etihad Airways – no return date set

The second flag carrier of the UAE, Etihad Airways, last operated a commercial passenger flight from South Africa on 24 March 2020. The airline initially aimed to resume operations in March 2021 but, owing to ongoing international restrictions, has extended its suspension with no set return date.

“While we can’t commit to an exact date to resume flights to Johannesburg, we remain agile and carefully track market developments including travel advisories and restrictions, with the objective to have the right aircraft in the right place at the right time,” said a spokesperson for the airline.

International airlines already carrying passengers from South Africa

There are several international airlines currently flying to and from South Africa and accommodating passengers beyond only residents or citizens of their respective base countries.

Most of these airlines are based in Africa, and not all offer a lot of onward connections.

Ethiopian Airlines has held a firm position in South Africa’s airspace, offering consistent flights since borders opened in October. Air Botswana, Air Mozambique, EgyptAir, Zimbabwe’s Fastjet, Kenya Airways, Proflight Zambia are operating flights to and from South Africa with varying degrees of consistency. Angola’s TAAG recently reinstated its South African service. Local airline, Airlink, has intensified its flight frequency to several destinations in Africa.

With Emirates and Etihad largely out of the picture, Qatar Airways has managed to remain as the strongest – and only – contender for passage between South Africa and the Middle East.

Turkish Airways restarted flights to and from South Africa in October, and while Turkey still maintains fierce restrictions on South African travellers, Istanbul Airport serves as a key transit hub connecting to more than 200 international destinations.

Lufthansa – which includes Swiss, Austrian Airlines and Brussels Airlines – recently restarted commercial passenger flights between Frankfurt, Johannesburg and Cape Town after an extended suspension at the beginning of the year.

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