South Africa welcomes first commercial flights on Thursday

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South Africa welcomed its first commercial flights on Thursday at O.R. Tambo International Airport hours after the international travel ban was eased.

The country closed its borders in April in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus. As the country moves to Level 1 restrictions, the easing of travel regulations have also began.

After six months, international arrivals at OR Tambo International Airport was a buzz, receiving its first commercial flight from Germany, eight hours after the borders reopened to the world. It’s a relief for many who have been eagerly anticipating their return home.

One traveler who returned to South Africa says it’s been a long, strenuous wait.

“We were supposed to be back in March, there were delays so I’m very happy to be back when the borders are open.”

The airport, which is the largest in the country, also had two departing flights after six months of no international travel as a result of the lockdown.

General Manager at OR Tambo International Airport Bongiwe Pityi-Vokwana, says, “As early as 6am this morning, we handle three departing flights; one to Madagascar and one to Harare. The main one with more passengers was from Germany. For those that are arriving, they would need to be in possession of a negative COVID-19 test which has a validity period of 72 hours.”

It’s a sigh of relief for the tourism industry which found itself grounded for most of the year. With leisure travel now open from the 1st October under stringent measures, the industry has an opportunity to begin reigniting.

Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane says, “We have walked through the airport to see the measures being put in place. We have health monitors who are walking around with sticks to remind people to wear their masks. We have the health screen that is inside,that checks you. If it clicks green, if it’s red then you are taken off-site.”