Covid-19: KLM cuts SA flights as the Netherlands imposes one of the strictest travel requirements worldwide

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  • KLM has cut flights from South Africa as the Netherlands just announced new travel restrictions in response to new Covid-19 variants. 
  • The flight ban is effective from 23 January 2021 and passengers will be contacted and re-booked on alternative flights at no additional cost.
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has cancelled all of its long-haul flights. 
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Dutch airline KLM has cut flights from South Africa as the Netherlands government announced a new Covid-19-related lockdown on Wednesday that severely limits international travel. KLM has suspended all of its long-haul flights, according to Reuters

The flight ban is effective from 23 January 2021 and passengers will be contacted and re-booked on alternative flights at no additional cost.

New requirements mandated by the government require passengers to obtain a negative Covid-19 rapid test result no later than four hours prior to departure to the Netherlands. In addition, passengers must also have a negative result from a PCR test conducted within 72 hours from their flight's departure to be let into the country.

The restrictions are some of the most stringent mandated by any national government this late in the pandemic and the country expects travel to markedly decrease as a result. In January, KLM had plans to serve over 30 countries outside of Europe with around 270 weekly long-haul departures, according to Reuters and Cirium data.

Travellers still must quarantine even with the two negative tests for at least five days before they can test-out with a negative PCR test. If a negative test result isn't received after five days, the quarantine can end after 10 days. 

The Netherlands also announced a ban for passenger flights from the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela. KLM currently serves eight of those countries. 

A ban on passenger flights from the UK, which was initially issued in December, has also been extended. The new restrictions on travel from those countries are expected to last for at least one month or until legislation is passed that outlines quarantine requirements for those travelers. 

"The government is gravely concerned about the UK variant of coronavirus, which is even more infectious than the virus we are familiar with in the Netherlands," the government said in a statement

The Caribbean Netherlands is also impacted by the new order, according to the statement, meaning travel may be impacted to Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, as well as the constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands including Aruba, Sint Maarten, and Curaçao. 

Bonaire recently opened its air borders to North America with plans for non-stop flights to the US in February.  

International travel is being advised against for residents of the Netherlands until at least March 31, 2021. "Every journey a person makes increases the chance of causing more infections or of bringing new variants of coronavirus into the Netherlands."

On the home front, citizens in the Netherlands are advised not to have more than one daily visitor over the age of 13 and make no more than one daily visit to another household. A curfew is also being planned to keep residents inside between the hours of 8:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m.

The Netherlands is also restricting which types of travellers will be granted exemptions to enter the country during the pandemic. As a result, groups including business travelers and students will be barred from entry.

The government also made a point of noting that "people in long-distance romantic relationships wishing to travel to the Netherlands for a short period will no longer be granted entry."

"We don't want to look back a few weeks from now and realise that we did not do enough," the statement said. 

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