The Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA), through its three major international airports, has facilitated the evacuation and repatriation of 13 783 passengers between 1-18 April.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said the evacuation and repatriation of people were facilitated through OR Tambo International Airport, Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka International Airport.
Mbalula said OR Tambo had facilitated the repatriation of 5 768 foreign nationals and the evacuation of 2 465, Cape Town International had facilitated the repatriation of 5 086 foreign nationals and the evacuation of 365 South Africans, and King Shaka had facilitated the repatriation of 50 foreign nationals and the evacuation of 49 South Africans.
"The evacuation and repatriation flights were permitted in terms of the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs regulations, allowing foreign nationals stranded in South Africa to return to their respective countries and South Africans stranded abroad to come back home.
"Adherence to coronavirus safety regulations and hygiene measures remained a priority in the evacuation and repatriation processes. Relevant stakeholders implemented the screening, testing, isolation and quarantine guidelines, to ensure the safety of all involved," said Mbalula.
He called on aviators, particularly pilots and drone owners, to comply with the Disaster Management Act’s regulations and directions aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus. The plea follows reports of a surge in the number of applications for permission to fly remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), commonly referred to as drones.
"The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has also received a handful of requests from small private aircraft owners requesting permission to fly their aircraft for various business-related activities, including farm owners wanting to fly into various provinces to check on operations," said Mbalula.
He appealed to aircraft owners for cooperation.
"While these applications are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis, it is important to remember that the country is under lockdown for a reason. Restrictions are there to stop coronavirus spreading. It is a matter of life and death.
"We cannot put lives at risk in an effort to rescue unessential business operations. If it is not deemed urgent, it must wait. We simply cannot put a price tag on human lives."
Mbalula also commended cargo operators, the national Department of Health's Port Health Services, the Department of Transport’s aviation agencies for, not only ensuring smooth operations, but also adherence to regulations and directions.
He also noted daily reports which indicated that procedures set in place by various organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), on disinfection and other coronavirus combating measures were being followed precisely.