Kenya to maintain South Africa flights despite Covid-19 variant scare


Kenya Airways Flight Lands in Mombasa from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

Kenya will not join dozens of countries that have either banned inbound flights or cut all passenger air travel from southern African nations due to a highly infectious new coronavirus strain.

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) director-general Gilbert Kibe said the country has instead issued stricter measures for allowing in travellers from the eight southern African nations.

The European Union, the United States, Israel, United Arab Emirates and the UK, among others, have suspended flights to southern Africa while Singapore, Italy and Israel have placed all of those nations, including Mozambique, on their red lists.

Kenya has on its part enhanced screening of travellers from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong.

Travellers from southern African, he said, must also present negative Covid -19 test results obtained 96 hours before arrival.

“All travellers from Southern African states must be fully vaccinated and possess a PCR negative test result to be allowed entry into Kenya without quarantine,” said Mr Kibe told the Business Daily on Tuesday.

President Uhuru Kenyatta while giving his eighth State of the Nation address on Tuesday said Kenya would not close its borders but would opt for strict rules for travellers arriving into the country.

Tumefanya kazi sana tafadhali hakuna haja ya kutufungia nchi tena (we have worked so hard and therefore there is no need for closing for us the country again),” he said.

Kenya’s reaction comes days after President Kenyatta made an official visit to South Africa to boost trade relations between the two countries, culminating in the signing of eight bilateral deals.

The new variant, known as B.1.1.529 (Omicron), has 32 mutations, which make it highly transmissible and with potential for resisting vaccines.

Health experts say it is “the worst one we’ve seen so far”, and there is concern it has the potential to evade immunity.

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