Noord Street taxi rank in Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ERIC MALEMA
Noord Street taxi rank in Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ERIC MALEMA

The minibus taxi industry, which transports 16.5-million passengers a day, will only be allowed to transport essential service workers during the 21-day lockdown period, while all rail services have been banned, transport minister Fikile Mbalula says.

The transport ministry said it will maintain a “skeleton staff” for purposes of safe road operations, clearing of accidents, maintenance of tunnels as well as road traffic enforcement.

These are some of the new regulations announced by Mbalula at a media briefing in Pretoria on Wednesday afternoon.

Mbalula said taxis that have been financed by National Taxi Finance and administered by the Small Enterprise Finance Agency will be granted a three-month “repayment holiday”, adding that commercial banks are considering similar measures.

According to the regulations, metered taxis and e-hailing providers such as Uber and Bolt will be allowed to transport essential service workers. Operators need to put measures in place to adhere to social distance norms to curb the coronavirus spread.

All minibus and metered taxis and e-hailing providers must be sanitised after each trip, while taxi ranks needed to be sanitised at regular intervals. Mbalula said these services will be permitted from 5am to 9am and from 4pm to 8pm every day during the lockdown period.

Vehicles licensed to carry up to four passengers would be permitted to carry one passenger, while those licensed to carry up to eight passengers will be allowed to carry a maximum of three passengers.

The transport minister said limited bus operations will be allowed only for rendering essential services, and all cross-border road passenger movements will be prohibited for the duration of the lockdown. “Cross-border freight movement for essential goods will continue to and from our neighbouring countries.”

All long-distance passenger rail services, both public and private, will stop operations for the duration of the lockdown. The services of Shosholoza Meyl, Premier Classe, and the Blue Train have already been suspended, while Metrorail and the Gautrain will cease operations when the lockdown begins.

All international and domestic flights are prohibited, irrespective of risk category of country of origin, and only essential cargo will be allowed. Cargo from high-risk countries will be sanitised.

Comair, the operator of low-cost carrier kulula.com, will suspend flights from March 26 to April 19.

National carrier SAA said it would suspend domestic flights. The service will resume on April 17. SAA last week suspended its international flights until May 31.

Mbalula said the ban on cruise ships announced last week will continue for the duration of the three-week lockdown, and only essential cargo will be allowed at SA’s eight seaports.

Vehicle testing centres and driver’s licence testing centres will be closed.

“Should your driver’s licence expire during the duration of the lockdown it shall be deemed to remain valid until the end of the lockdown, with the grace period of renewal within 14 working days thereafter unless otherwise determined,” said Mbalula.

SA will go into a 21-day national lockdown starting at midnight on Thursday to combat the spread of Covid-19. The lockdown will continue until April 16 and South Africans will only be allowed to leave their homes under strict conditions.

mkentanel@businesslie.co.za

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