Emirates flights to SA are definitely on again, as air crew get a semi official pass on tests
- Emirates has confirmed its flights into South Africa – including to Durban – Moneyweb reported, after days of uncertainty, and a lot of behind-the-scenes politics.
- The airline never confirmed plans to cancel all planes to SA, and flights into Johannesburg continued. But authorities were apparently led to believe SA faced blacklisting.
- In a related development, airlines have been told their crew can enter South Africa without presenting a negative Covid-19 test on arrival, as long as they stay locked in their hotels.
- That change doesn't reflect in official regulations yet, though.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Emirates will be continuing its flights into South Africa on schedule, business news website Moneyweb reported on Wednesday, brining to an apparent end days of confusion about an important air route for tourists and businesspeople alike.
That includes direct flights to Durban, Emirates regional manager for Southern Africa Fouad Caunhye told journalist Suren Naidoom, as well as direct flights to Cape Town.
On the weekend Emirates was reported to be close to cancelling all flights to South Africa, though the airline itself never directly said as much, and did not respond to questions on the issue.
In the meanwhile, Emirates flight EK763 continued to land at Johannesburg's OR Tambo daily – while the provincial government of KwaZulu-Natal lobbied for changes to rules it believed threatened flights to Durban, with the possibility of a blacklisting for the full duration of Alert Level 1.
Airlines had expressed concern about coronavirus regulations that apply to their crew members as well as to passengers, with the threat that an entire crew could be forced into quarantine in South Africa if any member tested positive after showing Covid-19 symptoms.
In a related development – though the issues have not been officially linked – airlines have now been told that South Africa's strict coronavirus testing regime will not apply to air crew.
In terms of current border regulations, every person who arrives in South Africa must show that they tested negative for the coronavirus no more than 72 hours earlier.
That rule will be bent for businesspeople from elsewhere in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) who need multiple entry, the department of home affairs said on the weekend; their tests will be deemed valid for 14 days after they first enter SA.
Though it is not yet reflected in official regulations, a similar exception is now apparently in place for airline crew.
"Crew with valid negative PCR test will be allowed access to South Africa," reads a 6 October notice to airmen (Notam), a formal communication sent to pilots. "Crew without negative PCR test required to remain at their contracted hotel for duration of layover until they leave South Africa."
The notice adds that aircraft operators are to "ensure contracted hotels are compliant with the requirements of South African health protocols".
Airlines had argued that they could set up effective "bubbles" within which crew could enter and leave SA, without risk to its citizens should any of them be carriers of Sars-CoV-2.
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