Egypt suspends direct flights to and from South Africa over new Covid-19 variant concerns

Ahram Online , Saturday 27 Nov 2021

Egypt has suspended direct flights from and to South Africa over concerns of new Covid-19 variant “Omicron”.

A file photo of Egyptian Quarantine Authority employees prepare to scan body temperatures of incoming travellers at Cairo International Airport on February 1, 2020. AFP

The decision was taken by the Supreme Committee for the Management of the Coronavirus Crisis headed by Prime Minister Mostafa Mabdouly in a meeting late Friday, a statement by the cabinet said.

Following cabinet statement, EgyptAir, Egypt’s national carrier, announced also on Friday that it would suspend all flights to/from South Africa’s Johannesburg starting from Saturday, 27 November.

EgyptAir called on customers to check their bookings and call their hotline or visit its nearest branch or call their travel agent if they book a flight following that date.

During the cabinet meeting, the committee issued a list of measures regarding transit flights for a number of targeted countries: South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Eswatini, Mozambique and Lesotho.

According to Cabinet spokesman Nader Saad, passengers coming from those countries to Cairo as a final destination through transit flights or stopping at Cairo International Airport as a transit point before reaching their final destination will take a rapid test.

In case of a positive case on a transit flight through Cairo, the passenger won’t continue his trip and will return on the same flight he or she came on.

In case of a positive case on transit flight that ends in Cairo, the passenger will return on the same plane back, whereas if there is no case of Covid-19 on the flight, the passengers will stay in home isolation for seven days and then will have a PCR test.

Earlier Friday the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the new Covid-19 variant discovered in South Africa on 24 November to be “of concern” dubbing it “Omicron”.

Since the announcement by WHO, several countries including the US, UK, EU countries, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain began to impose flight restrictions on direct flights from Southern Africa countries.

Egypt has recorded 354,836 coronavirus cases since the outbreak of the virus in the country in February 2020, including 20,237 fatalities and 294,903 recoveries.

Egypt has so far administrated 44.2 million shots, according to Higher Education Minister and acting Health Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar last week.

Abdel-Ghaffar said that Egypt has secured a total of 80.5 million doses of all WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines.

On Wednesday, the government approved administering a third booster shot for the most vulnerable groups in the country.

*This story was corrected to reflect that the Egyptian decision of suspending direct flights over COVID-19 variant applies only to South Africa.

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