South African Airways (SAA) reports that it will immediately suspend all international operations until May 31 in response to a government travel ban aimed at stopping the transmission of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
The airline said that the decision follows a new travel ban and regulations issued Thursday which, among other things, suspended the disembarkation of foreign nationals from high-risk countries. Disembarkation is only permitted for returning South African citizens and permanent residents, for a declared medical emergency, or for crew, who will be subject to medical screening and a 21-day quarantine when returning from high-risk countries. Embarkation will only be permitted for departing foreign nationals.
SAA operates in three markets that form part of the countries listed in the travel ban as high-risk areas: the United States (Washington, DC and New York – JFK), the UK (London Heathrow) and Germany (Frankfurt and Munich). Additionally, the airline operates flights to Perth, Australia, and Sâo Paulo, Brazil, which have not been declared high-risk. All of these flights are now cancelled.
Following the decision, SAA will now only operate its regional and domestic routes.
“It is all our responsibility, not just government, to curb further transmission of the virus,” said SAA Acting CEO Zuks Ramasia in a written 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.”
The airline said it will continue to provide “regular and timely updates” as the situation evolves.