By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
UAE-based airline Emirates says that it will temporarily suspend all flights to and from South Africa.
The airline said in a statement on Thursday (14 January), that the suspension will run from Saturday (16 January) to 28 January 2021 due to operational reasons.
It did not provide further details on these operational reasons and the suspension.
The last flights to the three South African gateways will be on 15 January per the schedule below:
- Dubai ‑ Cape Town – EK772/15JAN
- Dubai – Johannesburg ‑ Durban – EK775/15JAN
- Dubai – Johannesburg – EK763/15JAN
"Customers holding tickets with final destinations in South Africa from 16 January to 28 January will not be accepted for travel at their point of origin.
"Emirates regrets any inconvenience caused. Affected customers should contact their travel agent or Emirates contact centre for rebooking options, "it said.
A number of countries have announced travel bans to and from South Africa, citing fears of the new Covid-19 variant discovered in the country.
A variant of the SARS-COV-2 Virus (Covid-19) – currently termed the ‘501.V2 Variant’ – was identified by genomics scientists in South Africa and formally announced by government in late December.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said a genomics team, led by the Kwazulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, or KRISP, has sequenced hundreds of samples from across the country since the beginning of the pandemic in March.
They noticed that a particular variant has increasingly dominated the findings of the samples collected in the past two months.
In a national address on Monday evening (11 January), president Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that South Africa’s second coronavirus wave was being driven by this new variant.
However, he said that early scientifc evidence showed that while the variant is more virulent, it is not more dangerous than the initial strain.