Kenya issues tough regulations to govern resumption of international flights

Kenya Airways planes are seen parked at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport near Kenya's capital Nairobi, April 28, 2016. /Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
FILE PHOTO: Kenya Airways planes are seen parked at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport near Kenya’s capital Nairobi. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo

As Kenya gears up to resume international flights into and out of the country on August 1, the Ministry of Transport on Thursday released a set of protocols to govern the safe resumption in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

International flights into and out of Kenya were suspended in March with only emergency and cargo being allowed to operate. Domestic flights in the country resumed on July 15.

The protocols were formulated by a multi-agency team and approved by the Ministry of Health in mid-July, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said.

Macharia said the move was timely in terms of opening up the economy, particularly in reviving the ailing tourism sector and the fortunes of the national carrier, Kenya Airways, and bringing in investors.

“We expect to see a positive impact in terms of the economic development of our country,” Macharia said.

Only passengers with a PCR-based COVID-19 negative certificate and were tested 96 hours before arrival will be exempted from mandatory quarantine. The passengers should also have a body temperature of not more than 37.5 degrees and not exhibit any flu-like symptoms.

Macharia also said that Kenya will only allow passengers from selected countries to fly into the country. These countries, he added, are those with mild or limited community transmission or have declining incidences.

The countries are: China, South Korea, Japan, Canada, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Switzerland, Rwanda, Uganda, Namibia and Morocco.

“Let me not say this is a blanket approval. We do have, initially, a list of countries from which passengers will be allowed. This will be a list which will be reviewed on an ongoing basis because this issue about COVID-19 is not static; it gets better, it gets worse,” Macharia said.

Macharia, however, noted that the list of countries was not static and would be reviewed when necessary depending on developments in each nation’s situations.

“Whereas we have an initial list here, by tomorrow we shall review that list depending on circumstances on the ground when we do the global mapping on the trend and intensity of the coronavirus.”

Additionally, passengers arriving into the country after the curfew time (9pm-5am) with a valid air ticket and boarding pass will be allowed to proceed to their hotels or residences. Drivers who will be transporting those passengers will be required to provide proof that they went to the airport to drop or pick up passengers.

Similarly, passengers seeking to leave the country after the curfew time with a valid air ticket and boarding pass will be allowed to go to their points of departure.

The government also placed responsibility on airlines to ensure that passengers comply with the protocols in place at their destinations and observe the existing preventive measures while flying.

Macharia added that the government was also reviewing the frequency and timing of flights to facilitate physical distancing at the airport and avid overcrowding.

For Kenyans wishing to travel to other countries, Macharia said that they will need to comply with the travel, health and COVID-19-related requirements of the country they are travelling to.

Kenya has so far recorded 19,913 confirmed coronavirus cases and 235 fatalities and 8,125 recoveries from the deadly virus.