Half a million travellers expected to pass through OR Tambo airport as Covid-19 rages on

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OR Tambo International Airport during Covid-19.
OR Tambo International Airport during Covid-19.
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  • Traffic at OR Tambo International Airport has decreased by 25% due to the Covid-19 pandemic.    
  • On December 18, the international airport fielded 31 000 domestic passengers in one day.    
  • At Johannesburg's Park Station, many people were traveling to Durban and Cape Town two days before Christmas.

The Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) says it expects to facilitate about 500 000 passengers through OR Tambo International Airport this festive season as South Africans brave the Covid-19 pandemic to be closer to family or for a mini getaway.

ACSA spokesperson Samukelo Khambule said the airport saw a peak in traffic on 18 December.

"We facilitated approximately 31 000 domestic passengers and 6 500 international passengers, making up 256 domestic flights and 97 international flights. For the holiday season, we expect to facilitate up to 500 000 passengers through the airport," she said. 

Khambule said the figures were lower compared to previous years, given the Covid-19 pandemic. 

"Our passenger numbers are nothing like they were in previous years. We are operating at the moment at about 25% of the volumes we had before the pandemic," said Khambule. 

The airport indicated that it worked with different stakeholders to ensure they had enough staff. 

"Our forecasts show which are the busiest hours of the day when queues may be longer. We work with airlines and other partners, such as the Department of Home Affairs, to ensure that there are enough staff on duty to minimise waiting times," she said. 

"With the opening of the airport to all members of the public, we needed to automate the temperature screening as people come into the terminal buildings. The thermal imaging cameras and technology make this a much more efficient process than manually taking temperatures, thermal imaging also means that we are able to limit close contact between staff and visitors to the airport," she added. 

Meanwhile, at the country's busiest train and bus station, Johannesburg's Park Station, a number of last-minute travellers queued at bus ticket counters on Wednesday - just two days before Christmas.

READ | Forty plus countries ban travel from UK, some include South Africa

Sicelo Mafuleka, who was headed back home to Durban, told News24 that he had no choice but to travel, despite the pandemic. 

"It's a bit risky but we have no choice because we have to be with our families at the end of the day because Christmas is about family," said Mafuleka. He said he was taking all the necessary precautions. 

In the queue, Priscilla Naidoo was headed for Cape Town and was on her way to the Mother City to help her daughter who had recently relocated. She said she was traveling at the last minute because she had car issues. 

When she was asked about her fears of traveling during the pandemic ,she said: "We just believe in God. We cover ourselves and we go. It's all by the grace of God."

In the same queue as Naidoo was Marex Nkhata who was taking her baby to see the beach for the first time. 

"I just want to change my environment I am tired of Joburg so I want to go to Cape Town for a while and enjoy myself. I want to take my son to the beach," said Nkhata. 

Nkhata waited until the last minute to travel because she had to wait until she could take a break from working.

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