The joint meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Transport, and the Select Committee on Transport, Public Service and Administration and Public Works and Infrastructure heard that the Department of Transport will issue further directives on Friday, 1 May, on how it will observe and ensure hygiene standards during the adjusted lockdown regulations.

The Department of Transport led by its Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula, briefed the joint virtual meeting of the committees on transport on the implementation of Covid-19 regulations and plans for the phased introduction of transport that is not operational during the lockdown period, including the future of public transport and mitigation measures to be put in place.

The Director General of the Department, Mr Alec Moemi, told the committees that the department is ready to implement the changed regulations.

He said the Level 4 lockdown regulations accommodated a lot more, since trading of certain goods is now allowed than in Level 5. “The original regulations allowed for delivery of medicines and medical equipment, but that has now changed to allow trade and e-commerce, as well as food deliveries. The goods are to be bought and delivered using transport,” he said.

He said the department will put out the finer details on regulations related to all the changes tomorrow. He also told the committees that regarding scholar transport there had been communication with the Department of Basic Education in anticipation of the reopening of schools.

According to Mr Moemi the Department of Transport was persuaded to allow driving schools to operate, as this is an ideal opportunity to teach people driving skills. However, he said this is subject to the rule of two occupants in a light motor vehicle, each with a cloth mask.

Members sought clarity on various issues including permits and inter-provincial movements. Other matters that came under scrutiny included border-crossing in towns that are closer to provincial borders, South African truckers quarantined in neighbouring countries, evacuation of foreign nationals, return to work, sanitisation of public transport and the provision of masks and personal protective equipment.

Mr Moemi told the committees that borders were still closed and that 4622 South Africans quarantined in other countries had been repatriated. There is still uncertainty regarding the movement of hazardous materials, but transporters needed to be escorted by two vehicles.

The committees heard that communication had been sent to provincial departments to start thinking about plans for the reopening of schools next week. Mr Moemi told the committees that chartered aircrafts permit for essential staff among provinces are being issued, but there is a limited activity in the skies. He said no scheduled domestic and international flights in this phase of level 4 are allowed.

The committees heard that nothing changes from level 5 regulations regarding the number of passengers in the minibus taxis, and that the operating times are going to be between 7am and 6pm, with one grace hour after that. Mr Moemi told the committees that clarity will be made on courier services and on food deliveries.

Mr Mbalula told the committees that it was up to South Africans to curb the spread of this virus. “Working together as government, industry, organs of civil society and individual citizens will allow us to not only flatten the infection curve, but also reverse its trajectory,” he said.

By Sibongile Maputi