Transport minister Fikile Mbalula on Friday announced the new rules for public transport under level 4 of the national lockdown, including that masks were now “compulsory” and that people could travel between provinces between May 1 and 7.
Below are the minister’s speaking notes, as provided to journalists. They are published here unedited.
Speaking notes of transport minster Fikile Mbalula on the occasion of the media briefing on Covid-19 level 4 transport directions
We have always been mindful that transport is not only an enabler of economic activity and access to social amenities, but also a potent instrument, capable of spreading the virus far and wide. After all, it was the aviation sector that enabled the virus to reach our shores. Our job is to ensure the mobility of the virus through our transport system is stopped dead in its tracks.
Cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has published regulations that give effect to the Alert Level 4 of the Risk Adjusted Strategy to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, which comes into effect today. As mandated by these regulations, we have made adjustments to our directions to ensure alignment with level 4. These adjustments have been informed by consultations we have undertaken with industry bodies and authorities in the taxi, bus, rail, aviation and maritime sectors.
Our mandate as a sector is that of a catalyst which enables mobility in the economy and social setting. However, we are enjoined to execute this mandate responsibly and in a manner that ensures the preservation of human life remains sacrosanct.
The hard choices we have to make as a nation are premised on the centrality of the right to life and our singular commitment to uphold this right, above all else. Not everyone will be happy with these choices, some of which will be hard and will change our way of life. However, we must never forget the reason we make these difficult choices in the first place. To preserve human life.
We are equally duty bound to ensure that ours is not a sector that will enable the rampant spread of the virus. The measures we put in place, and continue to revise from time to time, are meant to mitigate against this spread through various transport modes.
Today, we announce the directions that will enable the shift to Level 4 insofar as transport operations are concerned.
In respect of maritime transport, there will be no changes to the directions regulating the movement of ships. The ban on passenger vessels and cruise liners remains in place, and only vessels bringing in cargo are allowed to call on our ports.
However, we will allow the movement of cargo from our sea ports to either warehouses or final destinations as provided for in the current rules.
The ban on both domestic and international passenger flights remains in place. However, as is already the case, we will continue to allow repatriation flights either bringing back South Africans stranded in foreign countries or transporting foreign nationals to their home countries. The current approval procedures to permit departure or landing of such flights remains unchanged.
The easing of the lockdown to level 4 means increased economic activity in sectors that are permitted to resume operations.
Due consideration will be given to the mining and agricultural sector to allow limited movement of aircrafts, either to transport essential workers by chartered aircraft or to spray pesticides on crops. All these movements will be subject to approval and permits will be issued on a case by case basis.
No scheduled domestic flights will be permitted in level 4. This is determined by the Risk Adjusted Strategy which guides the easing of restrictions. Once the alert level moves to level 3, limited movement of scheduled domestic flights will be allowed. It is only when the country’s alert level reaches level 2 that we will fully open our airspace and allow movement of both domestic and international flights.
With the gradual resumption of economic activity in certain sectors and permitted movement of freight, we will allow the full resumption of freight rail.
Commuter rail will resume operations gradually on an incremental basis, based on the detailed plans submitted by the passenger rail operators. Limited services with strict measures to ensure social distancing and other mitigation measures will be introduced.
Gautrain operations will be gradually reintroduced in all rail-based services, covering eight of their nine stations. There will be no airport service.
An appropriate load factor will be applied by all operators based on their seating and standing arrangements according to 50% standard coach occupancy.
Gautrain will mark out areas of the stations to demarcate where to stand and queue appropriately, based on one passenger per square metre.
The Gautrain seating arrangement will consist of alternate seats to allow regulated spacing and control based on an average one passenger per square metre.
To allow for travelling of operating staff and completion of service, the Gautrain will operate from 5am to 12pm and 3pm to 8pm with an appropriate peak hour service. The last trains will depart at 6pm to clear the system by 7pm.
Maintenance staff will be permitted to move in and around the system during curfew-hours (10pm to 4am). Maintenance vehicles will be permitted to move around the system in these hours only.
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) will similarly adopt a gradual reintroduction of its services based on its capacity to manage crowds, implement effective social distancing and implement other mitigation measures that include cleaning and disinfection of surfaces, trains and stations.
Prasa will undertake the compulsory testing of the rolling stock during the level 4 period and only resume with a limited service once the National Coronavirus Command Council declares the risk-adjustment to level 3, with the return of the Pienaarspoort line in Tshwane and the southern line in Cape Town.
There will be no immediate resumption of Metrorail commuter services until we have satisfied ourselves that the risk of transmission is manageable on a corridor by corridor basis.
Long distance trains are still prohibited in level 4.
Cross-border road passenger movement remains prohibited. Only essential cargo will be allowed to move across our land borders. The definition of essential cargo has been broadened in the Level 4 Regulations published on April 29 2020. The Southern African Development Community Protocol on Covid-19 is applicable. It also details the goods that should to be allowed by member states to move across land borders.
With the country moving to level 4 and more people returning to work, we have revised the operating hours for all road-based public transport modes.
All road-based public transport services are permitted to operate from 5am until 7pm, with a grace period of one hour in the afternoon to complete their trips and drop off passengers. This includes minibus taxis, buses, metered taxis, e-hailing services, charter and shuttle services.
No public transport is allowed on the road between 8pm and 5am. Sanitisation principles currently applicable to public transport vehicles and facilities remain.
No person is allowed to use public transport if not wearing a face mask. We call on the pubic to ensure strict adherence to this requirement by obtaining their own face masks in line with the guidance given by minister Dlamini-Zuma. While government may provide limited assistance in ensuring availability of masks, the onus rests on each individual to ensure they do not leave home without a mask.
Loading capacity for minibus-taxis remains at 70% of licensed passengers, with social distancing and other mitigating measures remaining in place.
e-hailing services and metered taxis
Loading capacity for metered taxis and e-hailing services remains at 50%. A five-seater vehicle is permitted to carry a maximum of two passengers and a driver.
Buses will be allowed to transport 70% passengers of their licensed loading capacity, with requisite social distancing, wearing of masks by all passengers and other mitigating measures.
Shuttle and chauffeur Services
Shuttle and chauffeur services will be subject to the same rules as other road-based public transport modes. Both shuttle and chauffeur services will only be permitted for transportation of people undertaking essential work and those economic sectors allowed to return back to work under level 4. Loading capacity of 50% is equally applicable to these services.
Charter services will be subject to the same rules as other road-based public transport modes. This service is only be permitted for transportation of people undertaking essential work. Loading capacity of 50% is equally applicable to these services.
A number of companies, particularly in the mining sector, work three shifts, resulting in employees finishing work outside the permitted public transport operating hours.
These companies may make use of charter services. Operators of vehicles undertaking this service must be identifiable as such for purposes of law enforcement.
Delivery Services such as Uber Eats, Mr Delivery and any other similar service are permitted to operate between 9am and 7pm only for delivery of food.
Courier Services are permitted to operate in the delivery of any goods permitted for sale in the Level 4 Regulations.
It should, however, be noted that the wholesale sector has been allowed to return back to service and among the sub-sectors allowed to trade is the e-commerce that includes online shopping for items such as personal information and communications technology equipment and other goods. This sector is reliant on courier services to deliver goods to customers at their homes.
Travel between provinces, metros and districts
Travel between provinces, metropolitan areas and districts is prohibited, with concessions made for workers who have to commute to and from work on a daily basis, for attendance of funerals and transportation of mortal remains.
The Cogta minister has published regulations allowing a once-off special dispensation for persons who were not at their places of residence before the lockdown period and who could not travel between provinces, metropolitan and district areas during the lockdown to return to their homes. Those people are now permitted to travel between May 1 and May 7 in line with the Cogta regulations.
Long distance bus and taxi operators are allowed to undertake long distance travel during this window period. Full compliance with the 70% passenger capacity, wearing of masks by all passengers and sanitisation of vehicles at the completion of each journey is a mandatory requirement.
Driving schools will be permitted to resume their activities subject to effective social distancing and sanitising measures. Both the instructor and the learner must wear face masks at all times.
Servicing of vehicles of personnel performing emergency services is permitted under level 4. This includes the importation of spares for service purposes and for manufacturing. Emergency spares are also allowed to be on sale.
Repairs and fitments to vehicles utilised for emergency and essential services is permitted.
Emergency services and roadside assistance
Emergency services and roadside services for all is allowed. This includes towing services and support for the breakdown of vehicles.
Drivers’ licence testing centres and vehicle testing centres
Drivers’ licence testing centres (DLTCs) and vehicle testing centres will gradually reopen for essential service workers to renew their drivers’ and vehicle licenses.
The opening of the DLTCs will be staggered once inspection and verification of the state of readiness is done on all of them. Metro-based DLTCs will be opened first from June 1.
We will issue directions to limit the daily numbers of people that can be attended to while restricting bookings to online platforms.
Going forward, we are committed to redesign business models and make greater use of artificial intelligence, digital channels, telecommuting, redesign transport and logistic norms and practices, sanitising, social distancing, introduce new social norms and practices on masks, gloves, personal protective equipment, transparent screens, as well as human contact (no handshakes, no hugging, no pecking/kissing and ensure minimal contact).
These practices and measures will define the new normal and a new way of doing things for generations to come.
All the directions we have announced come into effect immediately.