Western Cape airports placed on international coronavirus alert list

Cape Town International Airport (Supplied)
Cape Town International Airport (Supplied)

The European Aviation Safety Agency has placed all airports in the Western Cape on its global alert list to ensure an additional layer of protection for passengers and aircrew.

The agency is responsible for monitoring civil aviation safety and carries out certification, regulation and standardisation.

No other airports in South Africa have been placed on this list and the only other country in Africa on the list is Egypt, for which all airports are listed.

The Western Cape has had the most recorded Covid-19 deaths and infections in the country, most of which are concentrated in Cape Town. Lockdown Level 3 allows for some domestic business travel, and Cape Town International Airport is one of four SA airports allowed to operate on a commercial basis.

According to the agency, the list is not intended to suggest travel restrictions or other public health measures such as quarantine at state level. It has been developed in coordination with its member states and based on the information from the World Health Organisation and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

"We understand that we need to work to instil confidence in the traveling public. From an airport perspective we understand the importance of ensuring the highest level of safety precautions for passengers using the airport. This is why we have put a number of measures in place …you already know that we are limiting contact of people as it relates to only allowing passengers into the terminal building," says Deidre Davids, spokesperson of the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) in Cape Town.

At the entrance passengers will first pass through the Port Health screening. They are only allowed entry into the building with a mask.

"At the entrance passengers will first pass through the Port Health screening. They are only allowed entry into the building with a mask. Once passengers are inside there are a variety of other measures in place, most notable being our cleaning regime - areas are constantly sanitised and deep cleaned."

At the security check point - arguably one of the highest points of contact - a concerted effort is made to limit passenger contact – in the interest of our staff as well as the passenger.

Passengers are now required to scan their own boarding passes and to pack any and all loose items in their carry on luggage (to limit the use of trays). Only laptops are allowed on the tray. 

"We will also avoid pat-downs, this means that people will need to remove anything that might have triggered the alarm," says Davids.

Other measures include the social distancing markers; perspex screens at the check-in counters; using only every alternate check-in counter; and social distancing markers chairs as well.

"Also, we have what we call 'Covid-19 monitors' walking the floor. Their role is to provide support and assistance to passengers as well as making sure that passengers are adhering to the new rules," says Davids.

"Our aim is to provide assurance that the airport is safe for use and to support the industry overall in building passenger confidence."

R10 billion needed

ACSA, which manages and operates nine airports in SA, recently told Parliament that it expects it will need about R10 billion in government guarantees over the next five years in order to obtain bank loans to continue operating.

Current sentiment and flight bans brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as ACSA's and South Africa's sovereign debt downgrade to sub-investment grade by Moody's in March, was threatening its ability to raise funding, it said.

The airport management company expects foresees that passenger volumes could fall by over 50% and that even six years from now passenger volumes may still be about 20% lower than in 2019.

Since lockdown more than 7 000 international passengers have already been repatriated on flights from Cape Town International.

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