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Virus traps dozens of Brazilian tourists in South Africa

Airlines around the world are being forced to cancel services as countries have clamped down on travel and closed borders in a bid to control the virus.

Coronavirus covid-19 hazmat suits 123rflocal 123rf

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Dozens of Brazilian tourists are unable to return home, stranded in Johannesburg hotels, their embassy said on Wednesday, after Latam Airlines group reduced direct flights from South Africa because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Airlines around the world are being forced to cancel services as countries have clamped down on travel and closed borders in a bid to control the virus.

Latam Airlines group South Africa and its subsidiaries reduced their international operations by 90%.

Brazil ambassador Nedilson Jorge told AFP that many Brazilians had managed to catch a flight home via Latam on Tuesday, but "not everyone was able to embark, so Latam put some people in the hotels, waiting for the next flight."

"We are trying to ascertain the number of people," he said.

According to the Brazilian consulate, the number of tourists that had registered with the embassy before yesterday's flight was just over 350.

Gustavo Carneiro, head of Brazilian consulate, said the embassy was not yet able to yet determine how many of those had departed and how many remained in South Africa, as not all passengers had registered with the consulate.

"For now it seems everyone has a ticket for the next flight or the following one," he said.

Upon announcing reduction of capacity on March 16 in a statement, Latam CEO Roberto Alvo said border closures had made operating to a large part of its network "impossible".

Latam said all passengers with affected national or international flights would be able to reschedule their flights until 31 December 2020, at no additional cost.

The next flight out of Johannesburg is scheduled for Monday 30 March, four days into a military-patrolled 21-day lockdown to combat the deadly coronavirus.

South Africa has the highest tally of confirmed cases in Africa, with more than 700.