South Africa to allow domestic air travel for business from 1 June


South Africa will allow domestic air travel for business purposes only from 1 June as the country further eases coronavirus lockdown regulations, the transport minister said on Saturday.

The country has been largely shut since a nationwide lockdown began in late March. South Africa has reported 29 240 cases of the new coronavirus, with 611 deaths.

From next month, Africa’s most industrialised economy will allow most economic sectors including mining and manufacturing to fully resume operations and has also allowed the sale of alcohol but for home consumption.

“As the country moves to level three, with more industries resuming operations, learners returning to school, the transport sector must be responsive to enable mobility of both workers and learners,” Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula said in a televised briefing.

“In doing so, we must maintain a delicate balance between enabling mobility and arresting the spread of the virus.”

The resumption of domestic flights will be rolled out in three phases, with only four airports allowed to be opened under phase one, he added.

Separately, in an earlier briefing, the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa said professional teams and individual athletes who participate in contact and non-contact sport, including rugby and football can start training from Monday under strict social distancing rules.

He said it was important for all training to resume so that athletes could stay in shape for when contact sports resume matches.

The regulations will also allow professional non-contact sports to host sports events without spectators. The minister has yet to publish the regulations, which will name the permitted sporting codes.

The government has also decided to open some parts of the tourism sector such as restaurants, tour operators, public and private game farms and accommodation for business travel earlier than previously indicated to save jobs and sustain the industry.

The past two months of the lockdown have been difficult for the tourism sector, with almost 600 000 jobs at risk if the sector does not operate by September, Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said in a briefing late on Saturday.

The tourism department will provide additional financial relief of 30 million rand ($1.71 million) for tourist guides over a period of two to three months, Kubayi-Ngubane said.