Archive from March, 2020

India Declares ‘Total’ Lockdown In Bid To Prioritize Coronavirus Fight

In a bid to stem the tide of the coronavirus, India has declared the world’s largest stay-at-home order yet in the fight against the global pandemic.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a 21-day lockdown during an address to the country Tuesday, instructing its more than 1.3 billion residents to stay right where they are, beginning at midnight Tuesday night.

“To save India and every Indian,” Modi said, according to an Associated Press translation, “there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes.

The prime minister outlined details of India’s response in a series of tweets published around the same time. He said the central government plans to put nearly $2 billion toward ramping up its health care infrastructure — including producing hospital beds, ventilators and other medical equipment. Medical workers will also be exempt from the stay-at-home order.

He also urged residents to “avoid any kind of rumor or superstition.”

The nationwide order comes after officials implemented similar measures in dozens of population hubs across the country, which boasts the world’s second-largest population. Cities that normally teem with crowds — such as the country’s capital, New Delhi — have gone eerily silent in recent days, as authorities tested curfew measures and domestic travel measures took effect.

Now, Modi and the central government are rolling out even more drastic rules — including the complete closure of commercial and private establishments, with few exceptions for services deemed essential.

So far, the country has dodged the worst of the global pandemic. It has reported hundreds of confirmed cases of the virus so far — far less than other countries, such as China, Italy and the U.S., which number their cases in the tens of thousands.

But these relatively low totals have not eased the concerns of global health officials, who said Monday that the progress of the pandemic in the coming weeks will be determined to a large degree by India’s preparations.

“The future of this pandemic, to a greater extent, will be determined by what happens in very large, highly populated, densely populated countries,” said Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s head of emergencies.

“So it’s really, really important that India continues to take aggressive action at the public health level and at the level of society to contain, control, suppress this disease — and to save lives.”

40 Hours and almost R80k later – the rip-off of flight prices to get home before lockdown

Before the lockdown in the country was even announced, South African married couple Jana and Martin were making arrangements to cut their three-month backpacking trip through Southeast Asia short.

On 18 March they had moved and changed their return flight booked with Etihad from Phuket to Jakarta and for 26 March, flying via Abu Dhabi to Johannesburg. Outside of the high-risk countries, there was no ban on these routes to South Africa. This cost around R8 000 per person.

With all the expected delays with health screenings, they figured they would wait to purchase their domestic flight home to Cape Town once they arrived at OR Tambo International. –

On 21 March, they decided to move up their flight from Bali to Jakarta with Air Asia two days earlier, as their original flight got cancelled. These tickets at least were still at normal prices, around R800 per person. As Jakarta has seen a high rise in coronavirus numbers, they planned to keep themselves isolated in an airport hotel room until their international trip. Luckily, Air Asia didn’t charge them for the change and notified them in advance with easy assistance from an artificial intelligence bot.

The next day, Emirates started the back-and-forth of cancelling of flights – but Jana and Martin were flying with Etihad so they felt confident it would still be fine – but with one free date change they tried to find out if they could move it even earlier. Waiting in Bali, they enjoyed some beach time – almost empty with no tourists in sight – and tried to enjoy the last few hours of their holiday.

The same day, the United Arab Emirates government announced that it was halting all passengers flights in and out of its borders – including transit flights – from 25 March. This included flights through Abu Dhabi.

Upon hearing the news, their supportive travel agent changed their flight to 24 March. At the same time back home, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would go into a 21-day lockdown from Thursday, 26 March at 00:00.

On the day of their journey back home, before they even got on their flight from Bali to Jakarta, Etihad cancelled their flight after they had already checked-in. Forking out even more money – a total of almost R53 000 – they quickly bought the last economy seats on a Qatar Airways flight for the same day, this time via Doha to Johannesburg.

If they wanted a flight to Cape Town, they would have had to fork out R123 000 a ticket – only Business Class seats were left.

At the Jakarta airport, it was pretty empty – except for the long line of tourists from around the world trying desperately to get back home. It looked like Qatar was one of the only ones still flying – and they were coining it.

They tried to find out what’s happening at Etihad – the airline wasn’t going to reimburse them. All they got was a measly flight credit that had to be used before September of this year.

Many passengers had similar issues with them.

Some travellers didn’t have the money to pay for these flights to get home.

“We were fortunate and privileged enough to be able to afford these really high prices – were very aware at the airports that many were unable to do so, and were stranded either in transit or the destination they were trying to fly from,” says Jana.

“It really angered us to see how these large airline companies didn’t practice any sense of corporate social responsibility in these times of need, vulnerability and panic – people just really needed to get back home.”

She adds that she, like many other passengers, hopes airlines reconsider their policies during such times and enact faster procedures for refunds during crises.

Doha’s airport was busy – with UAE’s flight bans, this was one of the few routes available to travellers to get home. They tried to see if they could change their ticket to Cape Town, but it would have been another R16 000 per person.

Domestic price gouging

During their wait at the airport, they started checking domestic flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town. Many local airlines by then had announced that they were also shutting down for the lockdown period.

With many flights already sold out, they had to buy what they could get. They managed a booking for Mango – over R6 700 for two one-way tickets, which in regular times would have been between R1 000 and R1 600 for both of them.

“After all the stress and added costs of arriving in Joburg, we were quite disappointed in South Africa’s domestic airlines’ ability to deal with the crisis as well, specifically Mango. On their website, the only flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town was the Economy Plus option, at a much higher cost, saying that all other economy tickets were sold out.”

“We were seated in the first row as part of our ‘plus’ benefits – lounge access, priority boarding, and a R70 meal voucher – but when we arrived at the gate they told us the flight was so empty they had to rebalance the plane and put us all the way in the back and there was no food or drink service or priority boarding.

“It was evident to us that Mango boosted their tickets last-minute to create the impression that there were limited spaces while there were only 20 people on the airplane.”

With a fast health screening process at OR Tambo International, they made it back to Cape Town, and started their self-quarantine process at home as the rest of the country headed into lockdown – about 40 hours and almost R80 000 later.

Lockdown, day 1: SA’s air traffic comes to a near-standstill as borders, airlines close

Flights in SA came to a near standstill on Friday, on day one of the three-week national lockdown.
Data from Flight Radar showed major routes, such as Johannesburg to Cape Town, were devoid of any planes.
SA banned non-essential international and domestic air travel as part of lockdown measures, and scheduled commercial passenger flights have been cancelled.

Flights across South Africa came to a near standstill on Friday as the country embarked on an unprecedented 21-day lockdown.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula prohibited all non-essential international and domestic travel starting on Friday as part of the government’s lockdown measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, or SARS-Cov-2.

During the lockdown, set to end on April 16, most South Africans will be forced to stay at home, aside from those in essential services such as safety and security, and food distribution.

All major South African airlines such as Comair, SAA, and FlySafair cancelled their domestic passenger flights in the lead-up to the lockdown.

On Friday morning FlightRadar24 visualisations showed that almost no flights were taking off in South Africa, even between the usually busy Johannesburg to Cape Town and Johannesburg to Durban routes.

For the entire Africa, only a handful of aircraft could be seen as most countries curtailed air travel due to the novel coronavirus.

Even Europe and the United States, which are awash with aircraft flying, also saw a drastic decline in air travel.

It is estimated that roughly 20% of the world’s 7.8 billion people are currently in some form of lockdown in a bid to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

The epidemic is expected to cost airlines billions, with troubled local state-owned airlines such as SAA and SA Express already reporting a deterioration in the financial situations due to the virus.

High risk foreigners not allowed to disembark in SA

Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) has – together with other aviation authorities – implemented air travel restrictions as detailed by the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, in the International Air Services (Covid19 Restrictions on The Movement Of Air Travel) Regulations, 2020.
The regulations, published today (March 20), ban passenger air travel from countries deemed high risk as per the President’s National Disaster declaration on Sunday (March 15).
Countries affected are: South Korea, Italy, Spain, Iran, Germany, and United State of America, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, France and China.
An Acsa spokesperson said the following measures were being implemented:
• Should an airline from a high-risk country land in South Africa Air Traffic Navigation Services (ATNS), together with Acsa, will redirect the affected aircraft to a remote parking apron and the relevant authorities will be notified.
• Foreign nationals from high risk countries will not be allowed to disembark the aircraft.
• Inbound crew will be screened and quarantined.
• South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be clinically assessed and immediately quarantined.
The following Acsa airports will manage scheduled flights from high risk countries – OR Tambo International Airport, Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka International Airport.
Charter operators will be re-routed to international airports:
• OR Tambo International Airport
• King Shaka International Airport
• Upington International Airport
• Bram Fischer International Airport
• Port Elizabeth International Airport
• Cape Town International Airport
Since the travel ban announcements, some airlines have already started cancelling their scheduled flights and have notified the affected passengers accordingly.
The travel trade is encouraged to contact the airlines for details related to specific flights.

SA permanent residents abroad are being told they can’t come home, ‘chaos’ as OR Tambo tests for Covid-19

• Measures aimed at curbing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, are causing chaos as they are patchily implemented.
• Some permanent residents – who must be allowed entry back into South Africa, no matter where they come from – are being denied boarding for flights back to SA.
• Meanwhile, restrictions on travellers from some countries were not fully applied on Thursday, then caused chaos at OR Tambo on Friday.
Some South African residents in various countries were unable to board flights home as of Friday, while chaos reportedly broke out at OR Tambo when travel bans were – finally – implemented.
Under regulations intended to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus behind Covid-19, travellers from high-risk countries are banned from entering South Africa, while those from medium-risk countries must subject themselves to enhanced health screening.
But South Africa citizens, and permanent residents, are still allowed to enter the country, no matter where they travel from or their state of health on arrival. In theory.
In reality, several South African permanent residents said, airlines refused to allow them to board planes on the basis that they would not be allowed entry into South Africa.
One airline told South African residents to apply for visas for re-entry into SA, although there is neither a need nor a process to do so.
It was not immediately clear how many residents were affected as they tried to make their way back home, but several airlines appeared to have taken the same approach.
“Permanent residents are allowed to return and will be subjected to the same regime as South Africans such as screening and/or testing and/or quarantining,” confirmed home affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza.
Meanwhile chaos reportedly broke out at OR Tambo as entry measures were implemented – on Friday morning.
Travellers from high-risk countries should have been banned from entering SA as of Thursday, but insiders said those measures had only been implemented during the course of Friday morning.
As not all airlines had started denying travellers with previously valid visas boarding yet, some visitors were apparently turned around at OR Tambo.
Some South African residents said they were subjected to detailed questioning about their medical condition, while some foreign visitors said they were not aware of having been thermally scanned to check for fevers.
The airport referred questions to the department of health, which did not respond.

The SA High Court handed down an interesting judgement! On Rejected Applications

The Department of Home Affairs is usually rejecting visa cases on a regular basis without giving any reason for it. The South African Court handed down an interesting judgement last week, which will help to better cooperation between home affairs and Immigration Consulting Agencies, as well as applicants in general.
Before the new judgement, there was no need for explanation regards to rejections of visa cases, but due to the new law if there is no reasonable cause for rejection, you are able to take them directly to court without going through the whole procedure in terms of the immigration act.
The Law change summarized below:
• Stated reasons for rejection must be intelligible and informative and provide an explanation for why the decision-maker arrived at the decision. The explanation must be given in a way that will allow the applicant to determine whether the decision was based on an incorrect factual premise or an error of law.
• Merely setting out the conclusion to which the decision-maker came is not sufficient. The decision-maker must set out his understanding of the relevant law, the findings of fact on which his conclusions are based and the reasoning process which led to them, in clear and unambiguous language.
• Where the decision-maker does not furnish any reasons at all, or the reasons furnished are not adequate within the meaning set out above, the decision is not one ‘contemplated’ in terms of the Act and is consequently not a decision in respect of which the affected person is obliged to exercise his/her internal remedies of review or appeal before proceeding to Court for review in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3.
• Essentially, if DHA does not give proper reasons in a rejection, you can take them to court directly without having to go through the appeal procedure in terms of sections and of the Immigration Act.

New Implementations in Namibia due to COVID-19

The CABINET has declared a State of Emergency in the country amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
President Hage Geingob announced at the State House that the country will go into almost complete lock-down for the next 30 days.
Some of the measures include the suspension of the issuance of visas on arrival at the Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA).
There is also the implementation of a travel ban on foreign nationals, by air and sea, from affected countries.
These travel banned countries are as follow:
1. The Schengen States
2. China
3. Iran
4. Korea
5. United Kingdom
6. USA
7. Japan
In addition, flights, including private chartered flights to and from countries where there is active local transmission of the Coronavirus, have also been suspended for 30 days.
All returning Namibians and permanent residents arriving from countries at high risk will be subject to supervised quarantine from 14 days (self-quarantine).
South African borders, including air travel, will remain open to serve as points of entry for Namibians returning home and exit points for visitors from Namibia, and to facilitate trade between the two countries.
It was stated that important events such as the swearing in of ministers and the presentation of the national budget will go on as they are essential events.
The minister of finance, Calle Schlettwein, also stated that a total N$124 million will be availed to fight the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.