Aviation stakeholders are calling on President Ramaphosa and Government to immediately reopen South Africa’s international borders and let the sector play its role as a major catalyst for the country’s economic recovery and growth.
The Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa (BARSA), representing foreign carriers, and the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) representing local and regional airlines, warn that more than half of the 472 000 South African jobs in aviation, tourism and associated sectors, will be lost if international travel and tourism remains shut.
“We have successfully flattened the COVID-19 infection curve and we are ready to implement the agreed global measures to enable the safe resumption of international air travel. Having saved lives, now is the time to save livelihoods,” says Zuks Ramasia, CEO BARSA.
“With about US$9.4 billon or 3.2% of GDP supported by air travel and tourism, opening the borders is crucial to the economy’s recovery and future growth. We need to demonstrate that South Africa is open and safe for business and leisure travel. If we don’t get people flying again, the economy will be severely hampered,” she adds.
AASA CEO, Chris Zweigenthal, says “About 270 000 South African aviation and associated travel and tourism-related jobs are at risk due to the closure of international travel and tourism. The lack of international directly affects the viability and sustainability of our airports, air navigation and airspace management, meteorological and aviation safety oversight infrastructure services as well as businesses of all sizes across the entire value chain. Without flights and passengers, there is no revenue, which means no jobs, no spending in the local economy and an even deeper shortfall in tax revenues to enable Government to keep the actual and proverbial lights on”.
“Mr. President, open the borders and empower the officials so they can put the necessary resources in place so that we can get back to work and contribute to repairing the economy before the damage is permanent,” he adds.
Aviation biosecurity protocols render quarantines redundant
Under the guidance and scrutiny of the South African Civil Aviation Authority’s (SACAA) and Department of Health, biosecurity protocols and operating procedures have been applied to domestic flights. These are based on a set of global measures drawn up jointly by a global task group of experts from the UN World Health Organisation (WHO), it’s sister body, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International and various leading public health and infection control institutes. South Africa was represented on the international task group. The measures it defined are also designed to be applied globally to international air travel.
“These protocols obviate the need for quarantines, which, as we have seen in other markets, are self-defeating as they deter people from traveling. Besides which, there are no quarantine requirements for people moving between known infection hotspots within South Africa,” observes Zweigenthal.
“Unlike many other transport modes, aviation is highly regulated. Government, legislators and regulators should trust their own systems. The protocols in place and which are to be applied to international flights, are the ones they helped to craft and which they approved,” adds Ramasia.
“At the same time, this does not absolve passengers from acting responsibly. Face masks must be worn, hand regularly sanitised and social distancing observed. And if you don’t feel well, don’t even go to the airport! If you need to familiarise yourself with what to do and expect, check with the airlines and airports, or IATA’s Fly with Confidence site, which give you all of the information you might need,” she advises.