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South Africa, which is currently the continent’s most afflicted nation by the COVID-19 virus, has taken stringent measures to ensure that its infection rate nose dives in the coming days.

The Ministry of Transport has imposed a ban on any form of catering or food consumption on flights within its borders to guarantee that passengers inexcusably put on their masks all times during aerial journeys. Removal of masks is only permitted in brief sessions to drink water from a bottle.

Being the 9th largest country in Africa by area, the restrictions appear extreme, but more than a third of Covid-19 cases in Africa have been from the southernmost coastal nation.

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The country joins Thailand who banned any form of ingestion, except water which can only be administered by the flight crew in perceived exceptional circumstances. The South African government on the other had, allow airlines to freely sell water on board.

This comes amid reports of negligence on part of passengers who have persistently violated masking rules. Some airlines across the world have resorted to asking clients who consider themselves “slow eaters” to put their masks on between bites.

Previously, airlines in South Africa where allowed to offer pre-packed meals as long as they were certified to have complied with established covid-19 protocols, but following this development, every catering service is prohibited, and passengers are not allowed to bring any edibles with them aboard their flights.

Research conducted my Medical MIT to access the rate of infections in flights showed that the risk was miniscule, as the air system in a modern aircraft was filtered at regular intervals. To buttress their findings, they cited “a 2018 study that examined the transmission of droplet-mediated respiratory illnesses during transcontinental flights found that an infectious passenger with influenza or another droplet-transmitted respiratory infection was highly unlikely to infect passengers seated farther away than two seats on either side or one row in front or in back,” yet the African nation are taking no chances as mask protection will make infections almost non-existent.

“Air travel and the spread of the coronavirus have been totally conflated in our minds. People weren’t necessarily getting ill on aircraft, rather it’s the act of infected folks traveling from one community to another that perpetuated the spread of the disease,” says Kirby Gordon, Chief Marketing Officer at Flysafair, the country’s most popular airline, told local media outlet, Talk Of the Town.

“We’ve been operating with strict protocols in place since 15 June last year and of all departments in our business, the rate of COVID-19 cases among our cabin crew is very low.

“Not having catering onboard does steal from the experience for our passengers and it is a revenue stream that we would love during this tough time. However, not offering catering is just the right thing to do at this time, and we stand by the government’s decision for strict regulation,” commented Gordon.

South Africa have in recent weeks eased lockdown rules, corona virus measures and reopened 20 borders as the number of reported cases “dramatically declined”. This has seen the country announce that they would be moving from lockdown level three to level one.

The country are also locally producing vaccines in bulk to combat the virus mutated variant present within their borders, as the internationally recognised AstraZeneca was only 22 percent efficient compared to the 57-85% efficacy of those produced by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.

 

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