International flights curfew South Africa
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  • International flights can land in and depart from South Africa during the adjusted curfew times between 23:00 and 04:00.
  • Similarly, passengers are permitted to travel to and from airports, provided they can produce a valid boarding pass or a copy of the airline ticket as “proof of flight”.
  • The new re-adjusted Alert Level 3 regulations address earlier points of contention and contradiction by clarifying curfew exemptions.
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South Africa’s curfew restrictions have been eased by three hours, with the latest regulations allowing “long-haul” flights to land and depart between 23:00 and 04:00. Travellers stopped during these hours will need to produce a valid boarding pass or a copy of the airline ticket as “proof of flight”.

With South Africa’s active Covid-19 caseload dropping by more than 40% in the past two weeks, coinciding with the long-awaited arrival of AstraZeneca vaccines, government has revised Alert Level 3 regulations. The unbanning of alcohol sales, shortening curfew hours and reopening the country’s beaches have been gazetted as a means to stimulate economic activity, particularly in the beleaguered hospitality industry.

The amendments, announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa just hours after the country’s first consignment of Covid-19 vaccines arrived at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, were implemented with immediate effect on Monday 1 February 2021.

Under the previous regulations, which persisted throughout January, the issue of curfew and airline travellers divided opinion within the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC). The collection of cabinet ministers, charged with developing South Africa’s risk-adjusted response to the pandemic, sent mixed messages about reprieves afforded to airlines and passengers.

Initially, the NCCC announced that flights would be allowed to operate during the hours of curfew and passengers, making their way to or from the airport, would not be in violation of the lockdown laws, provided they could prove their flight plans.

This allowance was, however, swiftly debunked by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, who noted that both local and international airlines would need to cancel all flights which were scheduled to operate during curfew.

Critically, the official regulations made no mention of the exemption.

In addition to the confusion created by government’s doubletalk, dozens of flights were forced to ground, triggering a series of cancellations which frustrated ticket holders and airlines alike.

The new re-adjusted Alert Level 3 regulations have sought to clarify earlier uncertainties by making specific reference to the movement of airlines and passengers during curfew.

Travellers departing or entering South Africa will be allowed to move to or from the airport between 23:00 and 04:00.

“Provided that the person traveling is in possession of a valid boarding pass as proof of flight or a copy of the airline ticket,” notes the newly introduced regulation 33(c) of the latest amendment to the Disaster Management Act.

Similarly, the regulations now allow for “long-haul” flights to land in and depart from Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban between 23:00 and 04:00. International route category lengths define long-haul flights as between 4,100km and 4,800km.

The regulations do not make specific mention of local flights, although, most domestic arrivals are completed by 23:00.

The latest exemption afforded to airlines and passengers adds to the two previous exclusions included in all curfew-related regulations. Those allowed to leave their homes during the hours of curfew include:

  • Persons who are permitted to work between 23:00 and 04:00.
  • Persons attending to a security or medical emergency.

Any other persons not officially exempt from moving beyond their homes or places of accommodation during curfew may be liable to a fine or term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or both.

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