News Update: 17 March 2020

COVID-19: WHO escalates virus to global pandemic

On 11 March, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. “In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold and the number of affected countries has tripled. There are now more than 118 000 cases in 114 countries, & 4291 people have lost their lives,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. International travel opens new avenues for outbreaks and travellers should be doing everything in their power to protect themselves to prevent the spread of the virus – “Corona-proof” your travels with these practical tips.

Coronavirus impact on business travel

Even though business travel is a crucial part of the global economy, employers must ensure they fulfill their duty of care to employees by prioritising health, safety and security. So far, many events, conferences and expos have been either deferred or cancelled, including the world’s biggest mobile device and app show, Mobile World Congress. Travel industry reporter PhocusWire says companies should know their employees’ whereabouts when travelling for work and contact them in times of emergency to provide the necessary information to help ensure their safety. Larger companies can initiate specialist support teams to deal with problems and crisis situations, monitor where employees are travelling to and communicate relevant information. Travel policies should also be reviewed and adapted within the company’s corporate travel management platform.

ACSA gets proactive about COVID-19

As SA’s Coronavirus infections climbed to 17 confirmed cases (12 March), the Airports Company South Africa has intensified measures at the country’s airports to detect, manage and prevent the spread of the virus. Focus areas include international arrival terminals, immigration and transit areas as well as isolation facilities for those with virus symptoms. The intensified preventative measures are in addition to the continued screening of incoming passengers being undertaken by Port Health and are aligned to standards and protocols set by the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA). ACSA encourages passengers to follow general hygiene tips provided by the authorities and to avoid infection through direct contact with people working at airports (by wearing gloves). Hand sanitisers have also been placed at various points and the frequency of disinfection cleaning of high-contact surfaces has increased.

India suspends visas to limit Coronavirus spread

Effective 13 March 2020, India has suspended all existing travel visas until 15 April to minimise foreign travel into the country. OCI (dual citizenship status) cards are also subject to suspension. Foreign travellers in India are permitted to leave and those still intending to travel to India “for compelling reasons may contact the nearest Indian Mission,” according to a statement issued by the Bureau of Immigration.

SA Government responds to virus crisis

Following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation on 15 March 2020, South Africa is imposing a travel ban on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China effective 18 March 2020. From 15 March 2020, SA has cancelled visas to visitors from those countries and previously granted visas are revoked. South African citizens are advised to refrain from all forms of travel to or through the European Union, United States, United Kingdom and other identified high-risk countries such as China, Iran, and South Korea. South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-isolation or quarantine on return to South Africa. Travellers returning from medium-risk countries – such as Portugal, Hong Kong, and Singapore – will be required to undergo high-intensity screening. This is effective immediately. The Government will continue to issue travel alerts referring to specific cities, countries or regions as the situation evolves based on the risk level.

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