File Photo: Passengers, some of them wearing protective masks, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), arrive at an Egyptian airport (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt said it will operate 18 special flights starting next Saturday to repatriate 3,000 nationals stranded in Qatar through Muscat, informed sources at the civil aviation ministry said on Tuesday.
The sources told State TV’s official website that an ‘air bridge’ will be operated by national flagship airliner EgyptAir and Air Cairo from Oman’s Muscat for the return of stranded Egyptians in Qatar.
They added that the ministry has agreed with another airliner to transport stranded Egyptians in Qatar to Muscat, with Egyptian airliners flying the nationals later from Muscat to Cairo.
There have been no direct flights between Qatar and Egypt since June 2017 when Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut most political, trade and transport ties with the Gulf state over charges it supports terrorism, which Doha has denied.
This air bridge follows a decision last week to scrap the system of placing returnees in hotels repurposed for quarantine in the Red Sea resort town of Marsa Alam, replacing it with home quarantine.
Instead of being quarantined in repurposed hotels, university dorms, or student hostels, returnees will instead be required to self-quarantine at home for two weeks as a precaution against the virus.
Egypt suspended international flights at its airports in March, although cargo and domestic flights are continuing.
Specially organised repatriation flights have brought home at least 24,000 Egyptians so far.
Limited flights have also been operated to a few international destinations, with EgyptAir announcing special flights to a number off European destinations through June.
Egypt is considering a “gradual resumption” of international flights in the second half of June or first half of July, cabinet spokesman Nader Saad said at the end of May.
The cabinet’s coronavirus committee is set to hold a meeting this week in which they will discuss the resumption of flights.