SOUTH African Airways (SAA) aims to resume domestic flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town from mid-June, the airline said on Tuesday, as coronavirus lockdown restrictions ease.
SAA, which is under a form of bankruptcy protection, suspended all commercial passenger flights in late March, when the government imposed one of the strictest lockdowns on the African continent.
But President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation on Sunday that domestic air travel for business purposes would be phased in after June 1, when the country moves to level 3 of a five-level alert system.
SAA is committed to restart further operations on an incremental basis, and will regularly provide updates on progress.
South Africa is currently on alert level 4, a tougher level of anti-coronavirus restrictions.
Ramaphosa did not give an exact date when business travellers would be able to fly domestically, and SAA said it was preparing to resume flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town when permissible.
It added it had decided to extend cancellations of all regional and intercontinental flights until the end of June.
“SAA is committed to restart further operations on an incremental basis, and will regularly provide updates on progress,” the statement said.
Meanwhile President Ramaphosa said South Africa’s churches and other places of worship can reopen their doors from June, but will be limited to 50 people. Africa’s most industrialised economy has been largely shut since late March, when the government enforced restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has so far infected 23,615 people in South Africa and killed 481.
Some churches responded by moving to radio, television and online so that people could worship from home.
This pandemic has … taken a toll on us emotionally and spiritually. It has shaken our sense of well-being and security. Many of us are anxious and fearful of both the present and the future.
“This pandemic has … taken a toll on us emotionally and spiritually. It has shaken our sense of well-being and security. Many of us are anxious and fearful of both the present and the future,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address.
“We have a responsibility to…take care of the spiritual, psychological and emotional well-being of all South Africans.”
South Africa will move to “level three” of its five-level lockdown system from June, allowing the vast majority of the economy to return to full capacity.
Ramaphosa, who has been under pressure from rival political parties and industries to ease the restrictions, said social distancing will have to be observed and all worshippers and participants will have to wear face masks.