Shipping & Logistics

Boost for tourism, aviation as Covid restrictions ease

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Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

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Summary

  • Last week, Kenya announced that the arriving passengers will no longer be required to undertake mandatory PCR tests at the airport, and abolished the need for quarantine.
  • Airlines have been calling on governments to relax the Covid-19 measures to allow full resumption of services as they seek to return to profitability after years of serious losses occasioned by the pandemic.

The easing of Covid-19 restrictions in East Africa and the world at large has come as a major relief to aviation and tourism industries that have been reeling under the effects of the virus.

Last week, Kenya announced that the arriving passengers will no longer be required to undertake mandatory PCR tests at the airport, and abolished the need for quarantine.

Airlines have been calling on governments to relax the Covid-19 measures to allow full resumption of services as they seek to return to profitability after years of serious losses occasioned by the pandemic.

“Travellers who are fully vaccinated shall be exempted from a requirement of PCR test,” said Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe in a news briefing last week.

Mr Kagwe said the unvaccinated travellers arriving in the country must have a PCR negative certificate taken 72 hours before departure.

Passengers had cut down on travels to many destinations as they were not willing to spend more money on testing. They were also required to undergo mandatory quarantine once they arrive at the ports of entry.

Passengers had to part with as high as $50 to conduct tests as well as pay thousands of shillings in hotel fees as they waited for results.

Rwanda has also opened up its economy and eased travel restrictions, just hours after Kenya made the announcement.

A Cabinet meeting on Friday night chaired by President Paul Kagame resolved to reopen all of Rwanda’s land borders starting this month. The borders had been closed for the last two years, with only returning citizens and cargo trucks allowed to cross.

Uganda last month announced that it removed the mandatory Covid-19 test for passengers arriving at the ports of entry.

The Ugandan government had imposed the restrictions in September last year following the detection of more variants of Omicron imported from neighbouring countries in travellers who arrived via the airport.

Travellers had to part with $30 for the tests even if they possessed negative PCR results from their departure points.

The measures had brought business to a standstill at Malaba and Busia along the Kenya border with Uganda as truck drivers protested the mandatory tests and costs.

International Air Travel Association (IATA) has over time been calling for the removing all travel barriers (including quarantine and testing) for those fully jabbed with a World Health Organisation approved vaccine, enabling quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated passengers with a negative pre-departure antigen test result and removal of travel bans.

The agency wanted governments to accelerate the easing of travel restrictions in recognition that travellers pose no greater risk for Covid-19 spread than already exists in the general population.

“Travel restrictions have had a severe impact on people and on economies. They have not, however, stopped the spread of the virus. And it is time for their removal as we learn to live and travel in a world that will have risks of Covid-19 for the foreseeable future,” said IATA.

After almost two years of restrictions, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said early this month that it was time to live with the coronavirus, announcing an end to England’s remaining Covid-19 restrictions.

In December last year, the UK moved to scrap the red list, which was reintroduced a while back as a precaution after the emergence of the Omicron variant.

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