COVID-19: AVIATION – REGULATIONS, NOTICES AND UPDATES

Wednesday, April 01, 2020
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This note might not reflect the latest position. If you require more information, please contact our Aviation Sector Group. For updates on developments in the ports and shipping sectors, see our separate page here.

In response to the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, sweeping regulatory controls have been introduced, almost overnight, by the principal governmental role players in the South African aviation sector. As the Covid-19 outbreak has evolved, the regulatory controls have changed over time. These include the listed regulations, directions, notices and statements below. However, it should be noted that this is not a comprehensive list and some of the entries may have been repealed or updated by subsequent changes. With that said, the list includes the following:

15 March 2020

A national state of disaster was declared in terms of Section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 (“the Act”) by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs designated under Section 3 of the Act and published under Government Notice 313 in Government Gazette 43096 on 15 March 2020. A copy is available from the South African Government website here.  

18 March 2020

Ministerial Regulations regarding International Air Services (Covid-19 Restrictions on the Movement of Air Travel) Regulations were published under Government Notice 175 in Government Gazette 43105 on 18 March 2020 (“Air Travel Regulations of 18 March”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Air Travel Regulations of 18 March were repealed on 26 March (see below). It is not clear whether similar measures will be imposed once the national lockdown measures have been eased.  For general reference purposes, we set out details of the regulations as they applied prior to their repeal:

  • A travel ban has been imposed on foreign nationals from high-risk countries and conditional visas are required for travelers from medium-risk countries. The Department of Transport (DoT) has promulgated regulations to implement the travel ban, which amongst other things, prohibit the disembarkation of foreign nationals from high-risk countries at all international airports in South Africa. 
  • The current high-risk countries are identified as Germany, Italy, South Korea, Spain, UK, USA, France, Iran and China.
  • The current medium-risk countries are identified as Hong Kong, Portugal and Singapore.
  • Both lists are subject to change in line with risk rating by the World Health Organisation.
  • The DoT has empowered Air Traffic Navigation Services (ATNS) to redirect any aircraft entering South African airspace from medium or high-risk countries to another airport (other than its intended primary destination), provided that the airport of redirect has Port Health capabilities.
  • Once an aircraft carrying passengers from high-risk countries lands at an international South African airport, ATNS must direct the aircraft to a remote designated parking apron.
  • The aircraft will thereafter be met by officials from Port Health and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to conduct health and past travel screenings.
  • Flight crew from high-risk countries will be subjected to medical screening and quarantined for up to 21 days if found to display symptoms.
  • South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-isolation or quarantine on return to South Africa.
  • In addition to the Covid-19 Travel Regulations, the DHA has withdrawn visa exemptions for nationals of high-risk countries which were previously exempt (Germany, Italy, South Korea, Spain, UK, USA and France). No visas will be issued to nationals from these countries until further notice.  The DHA has cancelled any visas already issued to Iranian or Chinese nationals (who were not previously afforded visa-free travel) and suspended future issue of visas for nationals of China and Iran. 

18 March 2020

Regulations issued in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act No 57 of 2002 were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 318 in Government Gazette 43107 on 18 March 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 18 March”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Disaster Regulations of 18 March have since been amended and repealed (see below).

23 March 2020

National Lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa. A copy of his speech is available here. 

25 March 2020

Amendments to the Disaster Regulations of 18 March were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 657 in Government Gazette 43148 on 25 March 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 25 March”). The amendments provide further clarification around the national lockdown announced on 23 March, including the closure of all borders for the period of the lockdown except for the transportation of fuel (including gas and coal). The amendments defined “essential goods” and “essential services”. Essential goods were defined to include food, fuel, medical supplies and other basic goods. Permitted essential services included “cargo shipping and dockyard services” and “transport and logistics in respect of essential goods to neighbouring countries”. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Disaster Regulations of 18 March have since been further amended and repealed (see below). 

25 March 2020

Minister Fikile Mbalula unpacked implications for transport during the Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown. A copy of the statement is available from the South African Government website here.

26 March 2020

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 18 March were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 657 in Government Gazette 43168 on 26 March 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 26 March”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Disaster Regulations of 18 March have since been further amended and repealed (see below). 

26 March 2020

Directions to address, prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19 in the Air Services were issued by the Minister of Transport and published under Government Notice 415 in Government Gazette 43160 on 26 March 2020 (“Air Services Directions of 26 March”). A copy of the directions is available from the South African Government website here. The effect of the Air Services Directions of 26 March is as follows:

  • All international and domestic passenger flights are prohibited irrespective of the risk category of the country of origin. This applies to all air service operators, foreign nationals and crew, irrespective of the risk category of the country of origin, as well as South African citizens and permanent residents.
  • The loading and off-loading of air cargo in and out of the international airports designated as Ports of Entry (airports with adequate Port Health capability) is permitted. However, air cargo from medium to high risk countries must be sanitised immediately after being off-loaded from the aircraft.
  • The international airports designated as Ports of Entry are (a) OR Tambo; (b) King Shaka; (c) Upington; (d) Polokwane; (e) Bram Fischer; (f) Kruger Mpumalanga; (g) Pilanesberg; and (h) Port Elizabeth.
  • Airports designated as Ports of Entry must be ready to handle air cargo and must provide adequate facilities for washing of hands and disinfection equipment.
  • Air service operators responsible for transporting cargo must provide procedures and facilities for disinfection.
  • The directions are valid for the duration of the declared national state of disaster.

The Air Services Directions of 26 March have since been amended (see below).

26 March 2020

The Air Travel Regulations of 18 March were repealed by the Minister of Transport in a notice published under Government Notice 218 in Government Gazette 43166 on 26 March 2020. A copy is available from the South African Government website here.

26 March 2020

Directions regarding temporary measures in respect of entry into or exit out of the Republic in order to prevent and combat the spread of the Covid-19 were issued by the Minister of Home Affairs and published under Government Notice 416 in Government Gazette 43162 on 26 March 2020 (“Home Affairs Directions of 26 March”) regarding temporary measures in respect of entry into or exit out of the Republic. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Home Affairs Directions of 26 March have since been amended (see below).

27 March 2020

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula gave a media statement on implementation of transport directions during Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown. A copy of the statement is available from the South African Government website here. 

27 March 2020

Amendments to the amended Air Services Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Transport and published under Government Notice 423 in Government Gazette 43176 on 27 March 2020 (“Air Services Directions of 27 March”). The amendments include Cape Town International Airport in the list of international airports designated as Ports of Entry. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Air Services Directions of 26 March have since been further amended (see below). 

28 March 2020

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula provided an update on implementation of transport regulations and directions during the Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown. A copy of his statement is available from the South African Government website here.

30 March 2020

Minister Fikile Mbalula provided day 3 update on the implementation of transport regulations and directions during the Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown, including reference to a call by IATA and AASA around relaxing the regulations and directives in relation to foreign crew, safety and security of flight operations and the repatriation of South African citizens and foreign nationals. A copy of his statement is available from the South African Government website here.

31 March 2020

Further amendments to the amended Air Services Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Transport and published under Government Notice 438 in Government Gazette 43189 on 31 March 2020 (“Air Services Directions of 31 March”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Air Services Directions of 31 March:

  • Permit international and domestic passenger flights that have been especially authorized by the Minister of Transport for the evacuation of South African Nationals from foreign countries.
  • Permit the repatriation of foreign nationals from South Africa back to their respective countries provided that the relevant country of nationality charters an aircraft to South Africa without any passengers for purpose of the repatriation and that the flight crew of the chartered flight does not disembark in South Africa.
  • Permit the evacuation of South African citizens from foreign countries. On arrival the South African citizen will be subjected to mandatory quarantine for a period of up to 21 days.  The relevant flight crew shall be allowed to disembark subject to the applicable quarantine laws. 
  • Also permit “technical flights” into South Africa for the purposes of (i) medical evacuation; (ii) aircraft in a state of emergency; (iii) overflights; (iv) technical landings for refueling; (iv) aircraft operations related to humanitarian aid, relief flights and other safety related operations.
  • Provides that the international airports that have standby operational staff to receive aircraft in distress are (i) Port Elizabeth; (ii) Bram Fischer; (iii) Upington; (iv) Polokwane; (v) Kruger Mpumalanga.
  • Disembarkation of the flight crew for air cargo operations ins permitted on condition that they will be subject to the quarantine laws applicable in South Africa.

The amended Air Services Directions of 26 March have since been further amended (see below). 

31 March 2020

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula provided an update on Aviation and Maritime during the Covid-19 lockdown summarizing the above. A copy of the Minister’s media statement is available from the South African Government website here.

2 April 2020

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 18 March were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 658 in Government Gazette 43199 on 2 April 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 2 April”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Disaster Regulations of 2 April include the following important changes:

  • Subject to permission being granted by the Department of Home Affairs, the following persons may enter or exit the country:
    • Persons seeking emergency medical attention for a life-threatening condition; or
    • South African or foreign nationals to be repatriated to their country of nationality or permanent residence.
  • Foreign tourists currently in South Africa are required to remain in their place of temporary residence, however may be evacuated during the lockdown provided that:
    • the relevant embassy arranges an air charter for evacuation; and
    • the tourist is escorted to the relevant point of exit.
  • Air charters are included as essential services (together with Air-traffic Navigation, Civil Aviation Authority, Cargo Shipping and dockyard services).
  • Borders at designated ports of entry are open for transporting fuel, cargo and goods
  • Movements within South Africa are allowed for transporting cargo from ports of entry (in the case of air cargo, from one of the 9 designated international airports) to their “intended destination” provided that necessary precautions have been taken to sanitise and disinfect the cargo

The amended Disaster Regulations of 18 March have since been further amended and repealed (see below). 

3 April 2020

Bowmans invited clients to attend a webinar titled “Moving cargo in times of COVID-19 – practicalities and risks”. A recording is available here. The webinar:

  • Examined the latest transport regulations
  • Unpacked what constitutes “essential” goods and services
  • Discussed on-the-ground challenges in sea ports, inland ports and in the airfreight industry
  • Talked about cross-border road logistics challenges
  • Explored cargo risks as well as mitigation strategies, including whether judicial relief is possible during the lockdown period. 

7 April 2020

Directions relating to sea cargo operations and air freight operations were issued by the Minister of Transport in terms of the amended Disaster Regulations of 18 March (“Agricultural Cargo Directions”). The Agricultural Cargo Directions provide for the export of wine, fresh produce products and agricultural cargo from sea ports and designated international airports. The Agricultural Cargo Directions include a provision for transporting cargo to the port of exit. A copy of these directions is available from the South African Government website here.

9 April 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an extension of the national lockdown to the end of April. A copy of his speech is available from the South African Government website here.

16 April 2020

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 18 March were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 465 in Government Gazette 43232 on 16 April 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 16 April”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Disaster Regulations of 16 April provide that movement within South Africa was permitted for the transportation of:

  • Essential goods;
  • Cargo from ports of entry to their “intended destination”; and
  • Cargo currently at ports of entry, for export of goods to decongest the ports of entry.

The amended Disaster Regulations of 18 March have since been repealed (see below). 

16 April 2020

In remarks by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on the amended regulations, she said that

  • Essential goods may be transported “from warehousing sites to essential service providers
  • “Cargo may be moved from ports of entry to warehousing sites where handling and clearing of cargo is conducted, with the exception of the transportation of liquor
  • Cargo may be transported to ports of entry for purposes of exporting. We specifically make provision for export of cargo to decongest the ports.” However, it is not immediately clear how this statement is to be reconciled with the wording of the amended Disaster Regulations of 18 March which refer to the transport of “cargo currently at ports of entry, for export of goods to decongest the ports of entry”.

A copy of the Minister’s remarks is available from the South African Government website here.

16 April 2020

In a statement by Minister Fikile Mbalula reviewing transport measures during COVID-19 Coronavirus lockdown, he stated that the provisions in the Agricultural Cargo Directions regarding the transport of wine would be reviewed and that “[i]n a nutshell, we are no longer allowing movement of wines”. A copy of the statement is available from the South African Government website here. 

23 April 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that, beyond Thursday 30 April 2020, there will begin gradual and phased recovery of economic activity based upon five risk levels. The current lockdown period is determined as risk level 5 and the intention is to reduce risk over time, eventually moving to risk level 1. The immediate first phase of relaxation of lockdown measures will be risk level 4, to commence at the end of the current lockdown period on 1 May. Each risk level will permit more relaxation of the lockdown rules but will be predicated on the implementation of certain risk mitigation measures before it can commence. Accordingly, other than the commencement of risk level 4, there is no fixed timeline for commencement of the remaining risk levels. A copy of the President’s speech is available from the South African Government website here

29 April 2020

Regulations issued in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act No 57 of 2002 were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 480 in Government Gazette 43258 on 29 April 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 29 April”). The amended Disaster Regulations of 18 March were repealed. Directions issued under the amended Disaster Regulations of 18 March continue to apply unless amended or withdrawn. A copy of the Disaster Regulations of 29 April is available from the South African Government website here. They include the following provisions:

  • Borders remain closed except for designated ports of entry and for the transportation of fuel, cargo and goods.
  • Rail, ocean, air and road transport is permitted for the movement of cargo to other countries and within South Africa, but only for transporting defined essential goods, certain imports for permitted manufacturing activities, cargo at ports of entry, certain goods in transit destined for neighbouring countries, defined permitted exports, “transport of goods within” South Africa and as otherwise determined in Ministerial Directions.
  • Work may be performed outside the home in certain industries, including those involved in ocean, rail, road and air transport of goods, but is subject to strict health and safety protocols.
  • The list of essential goods permitted for import includes food, hygiene and cleaning products, medical supplies, fuel (including coal and gas), components for aftersales vehicle services, chemicals to produce other essential goods, textiles for the production of protective equipment such as facemasks and ICT equipment.
  • The list of goods permitted for export includes agricultural, agro-processing, forestry and fishing products as well as certain manufacturing products and mining products permitted for production.
  • Essential services which are permitted include “air charters” listed with air-traffic navigation, Civil Aviation Authority and others, “transport and logistics in respect of cargo and goods as set out in Part A to neighbouring countries” (although this wording appears to have been taken from the amended Disaster Regulations of 18 March as there is no longer a “Part A” in the Disaster Regulations of 16 April) as well as cargo shipping and dockyard services.

The Disaster Regulations of 29 April have since been amended (see below).  

1 May 2020

In a statement by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on the Alert Level 4 transport directions the Minister said the following about aviation:

  • The ban on domestic and international passenger flights remains in place. However, as was already the case, repatriation flights into and out of South Africa for SA citizens or foreign national to return home are permitted. This remains subject to the existing approval procedures.
  • Limited movement of aircraft will be permitted in the mining and agricultural sectors, either to transport essential workers by air charter or for crop spraying purposes. Applications for approval will be considered on a case by case basis and subject to approval procedures.

The Minster also commented that limited movement of scheduled domestic flights will be allowed under level 3 and that movement of both domestic and international flights would be allowed under level 2. A copy of his statement is available from the South African Government website here

4 May 2020

Directions to address, prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19 in the Air Freight Operations were issued by the Minister of Transport and published under Government Notice 492 in Government Gazette 43271 of 4 May 2020 (“Air Freight Operations Directions of 4 May”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Air Freight Operations Directions of 4 May provide for:

  • Charter flights under the Disaster Regulations;
  • Disinfection measures;
  • Aircraft maintenance and testing;
  • Aviation training using virtual platforms; and
  • Exemptions and approvals. 

9 May 2020

Amendments to the amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Home Affairs and published under Government Notice 518 in Government Gazette 43301 on 9 May 2020 (“Home Affairs Directions of 9 May”) regarding temporary measures in respect of entry into or exit from of the Republic for emergency medical attention for life threatening condition, for the return of South African citizens and the repatriation of foreign nationals to their countries of nationality or residence. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March have since been further amended (see below). 

24 May 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would move from risk level 4 to risk level 3 from 1 June 2020. Most sectors of the economy will reopen under risk level 3, subject to health and safety requirements. Particular COVID-19 “hotspots” have been identified and these will be subject to heightened health and safety measures which we anticipate will be published in directives which follow the new regulations. National borders will remain closed except for the transport of goods and repatriation of nationals. A copy of the President’s speech is available from the South African Government website here.

28 May 2020

Amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 608 in Government Gazette 43364 on 28 May 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 28 May”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Disaster Regulations of 28 May include Alert Level 3 regulations, to apply from 1 June. The following provisions are included in the amendments:

  • Borders remain closed except for designated ports of entry for the transportation of fuel, cargo and goods.
  • Provision is made for humanitarian operations, repatriations, evacuations, medical emergencies, movement of diplomatic staff and other exceptions to be determined in Ministerial directions.
  • “Rail, ocean, air and road transport is permitted for the movement of cargo to and from other countries and within the Republic for the transportation of goods for export and for import”.

The amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April have since been further amended (see below). 

30 May 2020

Further amendments to the amended Air Services Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Transport and published under Government Notice 615 in Government Gazette 43375 on 30 May 2020 (“Air Services Directions of 30 May”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Air Services Directions of 30 May provide:

  • Commercial domestic passenger flights between four specified airports from 1 June 2020, other than for recreational, leisure or tourism purposes (for which purpose the passenger is to have written proof) are permitted;
  • The airport terminal building is limited to employees, consular and diplomatic agents, crew and passengers (without an elevated temperature of sign of infection);
  • Drop off and pick up is only permitted outside the terminal building;
  • Screening and other control measures, including face masks, are implemented at airports;
  • Airlines and airports must develop and implement Covid-19 related procedures;
  • Certain general aviation operations (including agricultural spraying, culling, construction, aerial patrol, search and rescue, aerial photography and fire control) are permitted;
  • Certain (virtual and in contact) training by aviation training organisations are permitted;
  • Various aircraft related organisations (including maintenance, airports, operators, security and training) are required to submit for approval Covid-19 procedures to minimize the risk of exposure and spreading; and
  • The South African Civil Aviation Authority (“SACAA”) monitors implementation of the directions.

The amended Air Services Directions of 26 March have since been further amended (see below). 

30 May 2020

In a statement by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula regarding risk level 3 lockdown measures, the Minister confirmed that moving cargo from sea-ports to final destination will be allowed. A copy of the Minister’s speech is available from the South African Government website here.

10 June 2020

Further amendments to the amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Home Affairs and published under Government Notice 664 in Government Gazette 43420 on 10 June 2020 (“Home Affairs Directions of 10 June”) regarding entry into or exit from South Africa for emergency medical attention, evacuation, repatriation, extension of asylum seeker permits, and refugee status. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March have since been further amended (see below). 

25 June 2020

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 660 in Government Gazette 43476 on 25 June 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 29 April as amended on 25 June”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Disaster Regulations of 29 April have since been further amended (see below). 

29 June 2020

In a statement by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula regarding the opening of further civil aviation activities, the Minister said:

  • International passenger flights are prohibited except those flights authorised by the Minister of Transport.
  • Domestic passenger flights are permitted subject to certain conditions.
  • In addition to the original four airports that are currently operating, the following domestic airports will reopen from 1 July 2020: Bram Fischer International Airport; Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport; Pietermaritzburg Airport; Port Elizabeth International Airport; Richards Bay Airport; Skukuza Airport; and Upington International Airport.
  • Aerial work for certain services will be permitted from 1 July 2020.
  • General Aviation is permitted under certain circumstances. These include approved regional re-positioning for return after and to perform maintenance or continue with contractual work; exchanging crew; transporting technicians, mechanics and engineers internationally for essential support; proficiency flights; and recreational aviation.
  • More work will be done on managing passengers to avoid congestion; on approving Standard Operating Procedures; and measures are being put in place to allow for the carrying of limited quantities of sanitisers even though they are classified as dangerous goods. The earlier decision of “no catering” on board aircrafts will also be amended to permit airlines to provide pre-packed meals that must be placed in front of the seat for each passenger before the passengers board the aircraft (minimising movement during the flight.

A copy of the Minister’s speech is available from the South African Government website here. 

2 July 2020

Further amendments to the amended Air Services Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Transport and published under Government Notice 726 in Government Gazette 43493 on 2 July 2020 (“Air Services Directions of 26 March as amended on 2 July”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Air Services Directions of 26 March as amended on 2 July provide:

  • Including in the directions those international and domestic flights, and general aviation activities commented on by the Minister on 29 June 2020;
  • Permitting domestic passenger air travel for purposes of carrying out work responsibilities, moving to a new place of residence, caring for an immediate family member, commuting by learners to schools or institutions of higher learning, attending a funeral, transportation of mortal remains, obtaining medical treatment and returning home from quarantine or an isolation facility, and by members of parliament; and
  • SACAA authorized recreational aviation proficiency flights are permitted.

The amended Air Services Directions of 26 March have since been further amended (see below).

3 July 2020

Further amendments to the amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Home Affairs and published under Government Notice 749 in Government Gazette 43504 on 3 July 2020 (“Home Affairs Directions of 3 July”) regarding services offered under Alert Level 3 and applications for entry into South Africa. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March have since been further amended (see below). 

16 July 2020

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced that the following airports would resume operations on 21 July 2020: East London, George and the Kimberley Airports. A copy of the Press Release is available from the Department of Transport website here

17 July 2020

Directions were issued by the Minister of Health and published under Government Notice 796 in Government Gazette 43533 on 17 July 2020 (“Health Directions of 17 July”). The directions set out the procedures for screening and quarantining persons entering/exiting the Republic; aircraft crew for international travel; persons disembarking/embarking cargo and passenger vessels; fishing vessels operating within and outside of territorial waters; maritime safety precautions and medical evacuations; local air travel; and cross border trucking operations. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Health Directions of 17 July have since been amended (see below). 

24 July 2020

Further amendments to the amended Air Services Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Transport and published under Government Notice 814 in Government Gazette 43550 on 24 July 2020 (“Air Services Directions of 24 July”). A copy of the amended directions is available from the South African Government website here. The Air Services Directions of 24 July provide that:

  • All international passenger flights are prohibited, except those flights authorized by the Minister of Transport.
  • Domestic passenger air travel is permitted subject to certain conditions.
  • All aerial work is permitted for certain purposes as listed in the directions, including: agricultural spraying, seeding and dusting; cloud spraying, seeding and dusting; construction; aerial harvesting; aerial advertisement, banner towing and other towing of objects; search and rescue; and aerial recoding by photographic or electronic means.
  • General aviation is permitted for certain purposes including the transportation of aviation technicians, mechanics and engineers internationally for essential support and assistance to aircraft/recreational aviation is permitted to conduct proficiency flights, provided that the flights are authorized by the South African Civil Aviation Authority and remain within the general flying areas, airfield or airport boundaries.

The amended Air Services Directions of 26 March have since been further amended (see below). 

31 July 2020

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 661 in Government Gazette 43577 on 31 July 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 31 July”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. In terms of the Disaster Regulations of 31 July, national borders may only be open for the transportation of fuel, cargo and goods; humanitarian operations, repatriations, evacuations, medical emergencies, movement of staff of diplomatic and international organisations and other exceptions as the Cabinet may determine by directions; or foreign sea crew for exchanging sea crew in South Africa. The amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April have since been further amended (see below). 

31 July 2020

Further amendments to the amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Home Affairs and published under Government Notice 843 in Government Gazette 43572 on 31 July 2020 (“Home Affairs Directions of 31 July”) regarding validity of visas and permits. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March have since been further amended (see below).

7 August 2020

Amendments to the Health Directions of 17 July were issued by the Minister of Health and published under Government Notice 662 in Government Gazette 43600 on 7 August 2020 (“Health Directions of 7 August”), in terms of which the following amendments have been implemented:

  • All persons entering the Republic through any point of entry must be subjected to screening and may be placed under mandatory quarantine for a minimum period of ten days.
  • A crew member who has been permitted to disembark, irrespective of circumstances, must be subjected to screening and quarantine for a minimum period of ten days if such a person has concluded his or her operation.
  • Where a crew member is in transit or is still required to undertake an operation or board or depart for international travel within the ten-day quarantine period, such a crew member must be quarantined at a facility identified and managed by their employer.

A copy of the amendments is available from the Government Printing Works here. The amended Health Directions of 17 July have since been amended further (see below).

15 August 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would move to Level 2 with effect from midnight on Monday 17 August 2020. A copy of his statement is available from the South African Government website here.

17 August 2020

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 891 in Government Gazette 43620 on 17 August 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 17 August”). The Disaster Regulations of 17 August 2020 provide for the Level 2 restrictions announced by the president. National borders remain closed with certain exceptions including for the transport of fuel, cargo and goods as well as crew changes, repatriations, evacuations and medical emergencies. Provision is also made for the Minister of Home Affairs to allow entry into or exit from the Republic in certain circumstances and to allow certain additional categories of international travel to resume once it is deemed safe to do so and subject to directions. The list of specific economic exclusions for work outside the home as detailed in Table 3,   includes “international passenger air travel for leisure purposes”. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April have since been further amended (see below). 

25 August 2020

Further amendments to the amended Air Services Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Transport and published under Government Notice 924 in Government Gazette 43651 on 25 August 2020 (“Air Services Directions of 25 August”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. According to the Air Services Directions of 25 August, all international passenger flights remain prohibited except for those authorised by the Minister of Transport. Domestic passenger flights are permitted at the following airports: Bram Fischer International Airport; Cape Town International Airport; East London Airport; George Airport; Hoedspruit Airport; Kimberly Airport; King Shaka International Airport; Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport; Lanseria International Airport; Margate Airport; Mthatha Airport; OR Tambo International Airport; Phalaborwa Airport; Pietermaritzburg Airport; Port Elizabeth International Airport; Richards Bay Airport; Skukuza Airport; and Upington International Airport. The amended Air Services Directions of 26 March have since been further amended (see below).

25 August 2020

Further amendments to the amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Home Affairs and published under Government Notice 923 in Government Gazette 43650 on 25 August 2020 (“Home Affairs Directions of 25 August”) regarding services offered under Alert Level 2. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March have since been further amended (see below).

9 September

Further amendments to the amended Air Services Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Transport and published under Government Notice 969 in Government Gazette 43695 on 9 September 2020 (“Air Services Directions of 9 September”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Air Services Directions of 9 September provide that:

  • "All international flights are prohibited, except those conducted for (i) the transportation of fuel, cargo and goods; (ii) humanitarian operations; (iii) the evacuation of a South African national or permanent resident to the Republic; (iv) the repatriation of a foreign national to their country of nationality or permanent residence; (v) medical emergencies in respect of a life -threatening condition; (vi) the movement of staff of diplomatic and international organisations; (vii) the return of a South African national or permanent resident to their place of employment, study or residence, outside the Republic; or (viii) other categories, as authorised by the Minister of Transport, but excluding international passenger air travel for leisure purposes."
  • Aerial work, general aviation and recreational aviation are all permitted. The previous restrictions on the purposes for which aerial work, general aviation and recreational aviation were permitted, have been removed from the directions.
  • The list of international airports designated as Ports of Entry that have port health capability and are permitted to handle air cargo now includes: Bram Fischer International Airport; Cape Town International Airport; King Shaka International Airport; Kruger Mpumaianga International Airport; Lanseria International Airport; OR Tambo International Airport; Pilanesberg Airport; Polokwane Airport; Port Elizabeth international Airport; and Upington International Airport.

The amended Air Services Directions of 26 March have since been further amended (see below).

16 September

Further amendments to the amended Air Services Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Transport and published under Government Notice 997 in Government Gazette 43717 on 16 September 2020 (“Air Services Directions of 16 September”) providing an updated list of the domestic airports at which domestic passenger flights are permitted. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Air Services Directions of 26 March have since been further amended (see below).

18 September 2020

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 999 in Government Gazette 43725 on 18 September 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 18 September”) to provide for the Level 1 restrictions to come into operation at 00h01 on 21 September 2020. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Disaster Regulations of 18 September allow for the partial re-opening of borders. International travel is permitted but subject to restrictions. These include restrictions around travel from countries with a high COVID-19 infection and transmission rate. International air travel is limited to OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town International Airports. Further directions from the ministers of transport, home affairs and health are expected to clarify procedures and requirements. The amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April have since been further amended (see below). 

30 September 2020

The Minister of International Relations issued a statement on the re-opening of borders and ports of entry for international travellers during Coronavirus Covid-19 epidemic lockdown level 1 on 30 September 2020. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The statement details the process that visitors will be expected to follow when coming to South Africa, including the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to be produced before departure and the screening process on arrival. Different permissions and processes may apply to travellers from designated high, low and medium risk countries, as well as to travellers from other African countries and for travel by air. For example, the statement mentions that only certain categories of travellers from designated high-risk countries (determined as having a high COVID-19 infection and transmission rate) may be permitted entry to South Africa, that leisure travellers from high-risk countries will not be permitted and that international visitors travelling by air may be required to possess mandatory travel insurance to cover testing and quarantine costs. We expect regulations or directions will be issued to cover these details in due course. The statement deals specifically with airline operations as follows:

  • “Airlines from high risk countries are not necessarily banned”.
  • Airline crew travelling from high risk countries may be required to isolate in designated facilities at their employer’s cost.

30 September 2020

Further amendments to the amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Home Affairs and published under Government Notice 1029 in Government Gazette 43749 on 30 September 2020 (“Home Affairs Directions of 30 September”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The directions deal with visas and permits, including the process for business travellers from designated high-risk countries (determined as having a high COVID-19 infection and transmission rate), and detail the services rendered by the Department of Home Affairs under lockdown level 1. The directions list the land ports of entry that remain closed. The directions also provide that the list of high-risk countries will be published, from time to time, on the website of the Department of Home Affairs here. The amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March have since been amended further (see below).

30 September 2020

Further amendments to the amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Home Affairs and published under Government Notice 1029 in Government Gazette 43749 on 30 September 2020 (“Home Affairs Directions of 30 September”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The directions deal with visas and permits, including the process for business travellers from designated high-risk countries (determined as having a high COVID-19 infection and transmission rate), and detail the services rendered by the Department of Home Affairs under lockdown level 1. The directions list the land ports of entry that remain closed. The directions also provide that the list of high-risk countries will be published, from time to time, on the website of the Department of Home Affairs here.

1 October 2020

Further amendments to the amended Air Services Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Transport and published under Government Notice 1032 in Government Gazette 43752 on October 2020 (“Air Services Directions of 1 October”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Air Services Directions of 26 March have since been further amended (see below). The Air Services Directions of 1 October detail the conditions under which inbound and outbound international flights as well as domestic flights within the Republic, will be permitted. These include:

  • A prohibition on international travel from designated “high-risk” countries except for business travel under certain circumstances.
  • Testing requirements and risk mitigation measures for passengers and crew on both inbound and outbound international passenger flights.
  • Obligations on operators to ensure compliance with testing requirements.
  • Particular arrangements for passengers in transit are detailed in the directions.
  • On-board catering is allowed, provided operators take all necessary risk mitigation, health and safety measures.
  • Foreign operators must submit procedures demonstrating their level of compliance with local Covid-19 legislation, for approval by the South African Civil Aviation Authority.
  • Foreign Air Ambulance Services may transport Covid-19 positive patients, provided they obtain the necessary approvals and permits and adhere to the applicable protocols and guidelines.

The Air Services Directions of 1 October also include an updated list of domestic airports at which domestic passenger flights are permitted. International scheduled and charter passenger flights are only permitted at OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town International Airports. Cargo operations and the loading/off-loading of air cargo are allowed at the International Airports listed in the directions.

15 October 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that “an expanded list of countries from where resumption of international travel will be permitted” will be published soon. A copy of his speech is available from the South African Government website here.

19 October 2020

The Department of Home Affairs has issued a revised list of high risk countries and provided further commentary on the procedure to be followed by visitors travelling to South Africa. A copy is available from the South African Government website here.

11 November 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would be “opening up international travel to all countries subject to the necessary health protocols and the presentation of a negative COVID-19 certificate”. A copy of his speech is available from the South African Government website here.

11 November 2020

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 1199 in Government Gazette 43897 on 11 November 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 11 November”) to allow all international travel to and from South Africa to resume, subject to the protocols and testing requirements detailed in amended regulations. International air travel is restricted to OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town International Airports. Further directions are expected from the Department of Home Affairs with regard to the resumption of services for visa applications and containment protocols for ports of entry. A copy of the Disaster Regulations of 11 November is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April have since been amended further (see below). 

3 December 2020

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April 2020 were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 1290 in Government Gazette 43964 on 3 December 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 3 December 2020”) to provide, among other things, for additional restrictions to apply in designated “hotspot” areas under Alert Level 1. Nelson Mandela Bay metro, around Port Elizabeth, was determined to be a hotspot. A copy of the Disaster Regulations of 3 December 2020 is available from the South African Government website here. The Department of Cooperative Governance has also issued an explanatory note available from the South African Government website here. The amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April 2020 have since been further amended (see below). 

3 December 2020

Further amendments to the amended Air Services Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Transport and published under Government Notice 1032 in Government Gazette 43752 on 3 December 2020 (“Air Services Directions of 3 December 2020”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Air Services Directions of 26 March 2020 have since been withdrawn (see below). The Air Services Directions of 3 December 2020 include provision for the following:

  • Inbound and outbound international flights and domestic flights are permitted in terms of the amended Disaster Regulations.
  • Inbound and outbound international passenger fights are permitted subject to the conditions detailed in the Air Services Directions of 3 December 2020, which include testing requirements and risk mitigation measures.
  • There is no longer a prohibition on international travel from designated “high-risk” countries, as it appeared in the Air Services Directions of 1 October 2020.
  • Both the provision limiting the categories of persons permitted to enter the terminal building and the provision requiring drop off and pick up to take place outside the terminal building only, have been deleted.
  • “International scheduled operations and charter flights carrying passengers are allowed at” OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town International Airports.
  • “Charter operators conducting cargo and passenger operations to and from the Republic are permitted to operate at the … airports with Port Health capacity” listed in the directions.
  • The list of domestic airports at which domestic passenger flights are permitted, has been updated to include Pilanesburg Airport.

3 December 2020

Further amendments to the amended Health Directions of 17 July were issued by the Minister of Health and published under Government Notice 1278 in Government Gazette 43954 on 3 December 2020 (“Health Directions of 3 December 2020”) to update the requirements and procedures for screening, testing, quarantine or isolation, as may be appropriate, for persons entering and exiting the Republic. These include:

  • The requirement that a “traveller health questionnaire” be completed when entering or exiting the Republic.
  • The requirement that persons entering the Republic provide “a valid negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction test result, not older than 72 hours from the date of departure from the country of origin”.
  • Particular provisions dealing with PCR tests and quarantine arrangements for airline crew, are detailed in the directions.
  • Further amendments have been made to the quarantine, self-quarantine and self-isolation provisions in the directions.

A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Health Directions of 17 July 2020 have since been amended further (see below).

3 December 2020

Further amendments to the amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March were issued by the Minister of Home Affairs and published under Government Notice 1277 in Government Gazette 43953 on 3 December 2020 (“Home Affairs Directions of 3 December 2020”) confirming that persons who are “allowed entry into the Republic will be subject to the prescribed screening procedures and isolation or quarantine rules, as the case may be”. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March 2020 have since been amended further (see below).

15 December 2020

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April 2020 were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 1346 in Government Gazette 43997 on 15 December 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 15 December 2020”) detailing the restrictions and protocols in place under Alert Level 1 and in hotspot areas. A copy of the Disaster Regulations of 15 December 2020 is available from the South African Government website here. In addition, this notice determines the Garden Route and Sarah Baartman districts to be hotspots. The amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April 2020 have since been further amended (see below). 

15 December 2020

Further amendments to the amended Health Directions of 17 July were issued by the Minister of Health and published under Government Notice 1360 in Government Gazette 44004 on 15 December 2020 (“Health Directions of 15 December 2020”) to further update the requirements and procedures for screening, testing, quarantine and/or isolation, as may be appropriate, for persons entering the Republic. A copy is available from the South African Government website here.  

28 December 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would move to an adjusted Level 3 with immediate effect until 15 January 2021. A copy of his speech is available from the South African Government website here. 

29 December 2020

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April 2020 were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published under Government Notice 1423 in Government Gazette 44044 on 29 December 2020 (“Disaster Regulations of 29 December 2020”) providing for adjusted Alert Level 3 restrictions and protocols, including the provision that “all international travel is permitted” subject to the testing and quarantine protocols detailed in the regulations. A copy of the Disaster Regulations of 29 December 2020 is available from the South African Government website here. In addition, this notice details the geographic areas determined to be hotspots.  The amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April 2020 have since been further amended (see below). 

11 January 2021

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April 2020 were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published in Government Gazette 44066 on 11 January 2021 (“Disaster Regulations of 11 January 2021”) providing for adjusted Alert Level 3 restrictions and protocols, including:

  • The closure of “all land ports of entry” until 15 February 2021, with exceptions for transporting “fuel, cargo and goods”. “Rail, ocean. air and road transport … for the movement of cargo to and from other countries and within the Republic” is also permitted, subject to applicable legislation, regulations, directions and protocols. The transport of liquor is prohibited except under the circumstances detailed in the regulations.
  • “International air travel” is permitted subject to the testing and quarantine protocols detailed in the regulations and is restricted to OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town International Airports.
  • “All commercial seaports … remain open” and small craft may enter seaports subject to applicable protocols.
  • “Businesses may operate except for those set out in Table 2”. The list in Table 2 includes “passenger ships for international leisure purposes”.

A copy of the Disaster Regulations of 11 January 2021 is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April 2020 have since been further amended (see below).

13 January 2021

Further amendments to the amended Home Affairs Directions of 26 March 2020 were issued by the Minister of Home Affairs and published under Government Notice 16 in Government Gazette 44072 on 13 January 2021 (“Home Affairs Directions of 13 January 2021”) dealing with extensions to visas and permits, travel across closed land ports of entry and the services rendered by the Department of Home Affairs under the adjusted Alert Level 3. A copy is available from the South African Government website here. 

29 January 2021

Directions on measures to address, prevent and combat the spread of Covid-19 in the Air Services for Adjusted Alert Level 3 were issued by the Minister of Transport and published under Government Notice 63 in Government Gazette 44124 on 29 January 2021 (“Air Services Directions of 29 January 2021”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Air Services Directions of 26 March 2020 are withdrawn. The Air Services Directions of 29 January 2021:

  • Permit international flights to and from South Africa and domestic flights within South Africa.
  • Detail the testing requirements and risk mitigation measures applicable to international outbound and inbound passenger flights.
  • Provide that “international scheduled operations and charter flights carrying passengers are allowed at” OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town International Airports.
  • Provide that “charter operators conducting cargo and passenger operations to and from the Republic are permitted to operate at the … airports with Port Health capacity” listed in the directions.
  • List the domestic airports at which domestic passenger flights are permitted.
  • Require adjustment of flight times in line with curfew times.
  • List the international airports ready to handle air cargo.
  • Permit general and recreational aviation as well as aerial work, subject to applicable regulations and directions.
  • Provide for improved hygiene control and disinfection facilities at airports and terminals.
  • Detailed the responsibilities for compliance, implementation and monitoring of the directions by the SA Civil Aviation Authority, Airports Company South Africa and Air Traffic and Navigation Services.

The Air Services Directions of 29 January 2021 have since been amended (see below).

1 February 2021

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April 2020 were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published in Government Gazette 44130 on 1 February 2021 (“Disaster Regulations of 1 February 2021”) with further amendments to the provisions around international air travel. A copy of the Disaster Regulations of 1 February 2021 is available from the South African Government website here. The amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April 2020 have since been further amended (see below). 

13 February 2021

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April 2020 were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published in Government Gazettes 44158 and 44159 on 13 February 2021 (“Disaster Regulations of 13 February 2021”) providing, among other things, for the partial re-opening of borders. Copies of the Disaster Regulations of 13 February 2021 are available from the South African Government website here and here. The amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April 2020 have since been further amended (see below). 

28 February 2021

Further amendments to the amended Disaster Regulations of 29 April 2020 were made by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and published in Government Gazette 44201 on 28 February 2021 (“Disaster Regulations of 28 February 2021”) providing for adjusted Alert Level 1 restrictions and protocols that include:

  • International air travel is restricted to OR Tambo, King Shaka, Cape Town, Lanseria and Kruger Mpumalanga International Airports.
  • Detail when flights are permitted during curfew and the testing requirements for international travellers.
  • “Rail, ocean, air and road transport” is permitted to move cargo to/from South Africa and within South Africa, subject to applicable legislation.

A copy of the Disaster Regulations of 28 February 2021 is available from the South African Government website here.

1 March 2021

Amendments to the Air Services Directions of 29 January 2021 were issued by the Minister of Transport and published under Government Notice 158 in Government Gazette 44208 on 1 March 2021 (“Air Services Directions of 1 March 2021”). A copy is available from the South African Government website here. The Air Services Directions of 1 March 2021 do not mention Lanseria and Kruger Mpumalanga International Airports as airports at which international scheduled operations and charter flights carrying passengers are allowed. The Air Services Directions of 1 March 2021 detail the protocols and procedures to be followed for flights during curfew and around catering on board aircraft.