Celebrations in South African airports as borders reopen

Cape Town International Airport. Getty Images
Cape Town International Airport. Getty Images

International flights landed in South Africa on Thursday for the first time in over six months, touching down amid a flurry of celebrations in some airports as coronavirus-linked travel restrictions lifted.

Jets of water were sprayed in an arc to welcome an Emirates flight from Dubai as it touched down in the coastal city of Cape Town.

In the arrivals areas, performers danced and played jolly music as the Emirates crew walked out in a welter of South African flags.

An Ethiopian Airlines flight landed shortly after jetting in from Addis Ababa.

“I am so happy to be back, my life is here,” said Nigerian postgraduate student Destiny Ugo.

The 38-year-old had been stuck abroad since a family visit in April and unable to resume his research at the University of Cape Town.

“I thought I was going to stay (home) for two weeks but I ended up staying for eight months.”

Africa’s most industrialized economy sealed its borders at the start of a strict lockdown in late March to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Restrictions on movement and business have been gradually eased since May, but international borders stayed shut until October 1 to avoid admitting infections from abroad.

German carrier Lufthansa was the first European airline to resume operations into South Africa, with a flight from Frankfurt landing at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo international airport at 8.30 a.m. (0630 GMT).

Planes also flew in from Kenya, Zambia and neighboring Zimbabwe.

“Lufthansa is delighted to be at the forefront of the resumption of commercial travel into South Africa,” the airline’s southern and East Africa manager, Andre Schulz, said in a statement.

“We look forward to bringing visitors back to South Africa and helping to boost the very important tourism sector.”

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