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 will gradually resume regular international flights at all its airports starting from July 1, but foreign tourists will only be allowed into three coastal governorates, the civil aviation minister said on Sunday.
Flights will be resumed with countries that have reopened their airports, minister Mohamed Manar told a televised briefing, adding that the ministry has upgraded airports nationwide during the period of flight suspension.
Egypt halted all international flights on 19 March in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. It has since only allowed its airports to open to domestic, freight and special repatriation flights.
The areas that will open for foreign tourists in the first stage are South Sinai, where the popular seaside resort of Sharm El-Sheikh is located, the Red Sea govenorate, home to the city of Hurghada, and Marsa Matrouh on the Mediterranean.
The government said last week it would reopen the country's major coastal resorts for international flights and foreign tourists starting the beginning of July.
Manar said that authorities have adopted a series of preventative measures to stem the spread of the virus during the reopening stages.
He said that travellers must sign an acknowledgement at departure airports that they are free of the virus prior to boarding their planes and before receiving the boarding pass.
Travellers coming to Egypt from countries with high rates of coronavirus infections, based on evaluation by the World Health Organization (WHO), will be required to submit PCR test results before travelling to prove they are coronavirus-free.
Speaking about Egyptian airlines, the minister said passengers would be required to keep a safe distance from one another in queues and during boarding and embarking from the plane.
Passengers and aircrew will also be obligated to wear masks on board planes.
Planes will be sanitised after each trip, he noted, adding that only dry meals and canned drinks are to be provided, while paper publications like magazines and newspapers will not be allowed onboard.
Disinfectants, gloves and masks will be available on board in a special bag for each traveller, the minister also said.
Special seats will be designated for people with chronic diseases who cannot wear masks for a long time.
Two rows at the end of each plane would be allocated for isolating any passengers who may show symptoms, in addition to allocating a private restroom, and one of the flight personnel to serve them.
Speaking about airports, the minister said authorities have put in place measures to ensure physical distancing. Travellers' temperatures will be measured at the sterilisation gates and all baggage will be sanitised before being placed on the luggage belt.
Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany, who also spoke during the joint news conference, said tourist sites across the country will be allowed to gradually reopen starting July 1, with a 20% discount on tickets offered to travellers of Egyptian airlines.
Officials said Egypt’s seaside resorts have been least affected by the coronavirus, unlike Greater Cairo which has racked up the lion’s share of the infections.
Other areas across the country will gradually open up for foreign tourists later based on the development of the pandemic, the tourism minister said.
The government has so far allowed dozens of hotels to operate at a reduced occupancy rate after adhering to safety protocols. The move is meant to revive its key tourism sector, which has been hit hard by the virus restrictions.
The permitted occupancy was initially set at 25 percent of the usual capacity, but was increased to 50 percent earlier this month.
Al-Anani announced a set of precautions to be adopted before resuming tourist trips, including obligating tourism firms to provide their clients with protective face masks.
He said that parties and shisha smokers will not be allowed inside hotels, adding that spaces between dining tables at hotels' restaurants will be wider.
Each room at operational hotels will not be allowed to house more than two guests.
Each tourist group should consist of no more than 25 people until further notice.
The number of visitors of major museums, such as Cairo's Egyptian Museum, will not exceed 200 visitors per hour, while other museums will not receive more than 100 per hour.