Govt vows to turn back flights from high-risk coronavirus areas

The transport department said it had communicated with countries including the UK, USA and China about these measures and expected them to comply.

A general view of the OR Tambo International Airport. Picture: Facebook.com.

JOHANNESBURG - With the travel ban to high-risk coronavirus countries coming into effect on Wednesday morning, government said it would turn back flights from these areas if need be.

The transport department said it had communicated with countries including the UK, USA and China about these measures and expected them to comply.

These SA borders and ports to be closed

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that 35 of South Africa's land borders and two sea ports would be closed from 18 March 2020 in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Various ministers briefed the media about these plans at OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday night.

Government said it understood that some flights may already be airborne and en route to South Africa.

Transport director general Alec Moemi said if they were from high-risk countries they would not be allowed in.

“Relevant authorities will surround the aircraft and process them as such and we would send them back.”

Minister Fikile Mbalula said the days of people travelling anywhere were over for now.

Mbalula said domestically, people must avoid travelling unless necessary.

He said cruise ships would not be allowed to dock and disembark.

“There will be no cruising, MSC and whatever, it’s gone.”

FIREWALLS

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Tuesday said the travel ban for foreigners entering the country from high-risk coronavirus areas was simply a control measure.

Motsoaledi also said they were introducing visa applications to several countries.

Travellers from several countries will now have to apply for visas to travel to South Africa but there is a ban for those from high-risk areas.

The minister said this would assist to keep track of exactly who comes into the country.

“In order to track, we are putting a lot of firewalls in this war.”

Government says those who violate these rules will be sent back to their countries of origin.

At the same time, SA Express has announced its suspending operations from Wednesday until further notice.

It said customers would be accommodated on alternative flights and non-critical staff would be placed on compulsory leave.

To track the latest developments around the coronavirus both in South Africa and abroad, click on this live status report from Strategix.

(Edited by Refilwe Pitjeng)