Panafrican News Agency

Coronavirus: Egypt reopens airports after three-month closure over Covid-19

Cairo, Egypt (PANA) - Egypt on Wednesday reopened its airports for international flights for the first time in more than three months since suspension over the coronavirus.

Local news reports quoted the aviation ministry as saying that two flights carrying more than 350 Ukrainian tourists arrived in the Red Sea resort cities of Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh, to herald the reopening of the airports.

Hurghada International Airport received a 172-passenger Azur Air Ukraine flight from Kiev in the early morning, while Sharm El-Sheikh received a 182-passenger SkyUp Airlines flight from the same destination, the ministry added in a statement.

The arrival of the two Ukrainian flights marks the end of the suspension of regular international flights in place since 19 March to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Over that period, Egypt's air traffic had been limited to domestic and repatriation flights.

Airport staff received tourists with flowers, balloons and chocolates.

Separately, national carrier EgyptAir said it was due to operate 14 international flights carrying around 2,000 passengers from Cairo International Airport on Wednesday, with the first flight taking off at 8:30am local time, bound for Tunisia.

The company said previously it would resume flights to 29 destinations from the first week of July and would add more in the following weeks. These include flights to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North America and China.

Civil Aviation Minister, Mohamed Manar, inspected precautionary measures at Cairo International Airport earlier on Wednesday, including medical checkup points and sanitation procedures aimed to protect the travelers and workers against the coronavirus.

Also on Wednesday, Egyptian Tourism Minister Kahled El-Anany reopened the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The facility is one of over a dozen museums and tourist sites due to receive visitors in the first phase of the reopening, with precautionary measures in place against the coronavirus.

These include the Giza Pyramids and the Saladin Citadel in Cairo, the ancient temple of Karnak in Luxor, and the pharaonic temples of Abu Simbel and Philae in Aswan.

The government hopes to revive the country's vital tourism industry, a major source of foreign currency that has been hard hit by the pandemic shutdown.

Foreign tourists are now allowed to visit three coastal tourist hotspots: South Sinai, where the popular seaside resort of Sharm El-Sheikh is located, the Red Sea governorate, home to the city of Hurghada, and Marsa Matrouh on the Mediterranean.

In an attempt to lure foreign tourists, the country has exempted tourists visiting these areas from visa fees until the end of October.

The national carrier is also offering a 20 percent discount on flights to several European destinations, and on tickets to New York and Washington bought by15 July for flights until end-August.

Egypt has allowed around 400 hotels nationwide to reopen at a reduced occupancy rate of 50 percent after they met hygiene and safety protocols, according to the tourism ministry.

-0- PANA VAO 2July2020