The African continent’s busiest airport is blocking foreigners from disembarking once they’ve arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa. The South African government’s issuance of strict travel restrictions came only days ago, while it simultaneously declared a national disaster.
USA Today reported that representatives of Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport said, “The aircraft will be contained at an isolated bay with all officials ensuring the utmost care is taken. We are working with the airline to ensure that foreign nationals return to the country of origin.”
State-owned South African Airways (SAA) announced its suspension of all international flights until June, citing coronavirus-related restrictions, as well as steeply declining air-travel demand.
Africa’s largest carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, which operates a key continental hub, also canceled routes to 30 countries after coming under pressure to halt flights bound for high-risk countries.
“It is all our responsibility, not just government, to curb further transmission of the virus,” SAA’s acting CEO, Zuks Ramasia, said in a statement. “In addition, the increasing risks to our crew of contracting the virus, including the possibility of being trapped in foreign destinations as a consequence of increasing travel bans, cannot be ignored.”
SAA has decided to suspend all international flights until 31 May 2020. These include flights to and from United States, South America, United Kingdom, Germany and Perth. SAA regrets any inconvenience caused. Read more https://t.co/GHYqOQW79g #FlySAA pic.twitter.com/bsjzS284TC
— SAA – South Africa (@flysaa) March 20, 2020
SAA flies to New York and Washington D.C. in the United States; London in the United Kingdom; and Frankfurt and Munich in Germany, all of which are now considered high-risk countries under South Africa’s travel ban.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa has now risen to 202, the highest number found in the sub-Saharan region. No one in South Africa has reportedly died from the disease, and the nation’s health minister said that none of the patients are in intensive care.
Zimbabwe, which announced its first confirmed coronavirus case today, has also declared a national disaster. Although its government has said it is “well prepared” to deal with COVID-19 cases, conditions in Zimbabwe’s public hospitals already reportedly lack many healthcare essentials.
With two other African nations—Madagascar and Cape Verde—also having announced their first cases today, the Associated Press tallied thirty-nine countries on the continent that now have coronavirus cases, which total well over 900 patients.
Thus far, most of the COVID-19 cases found in Africa had been linked to international travel, but, just last night, a Nigerian citizen was identified as possibly the first case of regional spread within the continent.