International air passengers exempted from night curfew


Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Passengers arriving on late-night international flights will be exempted from the nationwide 9 pm-4 am curfew which is aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

The Transport ministry said the exemption would enable airlines to operate smoothly at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) without the inconvenience of the lockdown rule.

“International passengers will be exempted from restrictions on movement past curfew hours when the international flights resume,” the ministry said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on July 6 announced a phased reopening of the country from a Covid-19 lockdown, lifting restrictions on travel in and out of the capital Nairobi and Mombasa and allowing air travel to resume.

The easing out saw domestic commercial and passenger flights restart on July 15, while international travel is scheduled to resume from August 1.

Airlines have nonetheless had to restrict their domestic flight schedules in adherence to the curfew hours—affecting the frequency of services.

This doesn’t augur well for most of the international flights which arrive into the country late-night, especially those from Europe and the Middle East.

Transport Cabinet secretary James Macharia last week also exempted passengers and tourists arriving in the country from mandatory quarantine if they do not show any symptoms of Covid-19.

“All passengers shall be exempted from quarantine on arrival at their destinations if their body temperatures are not above 37.5 degrees Celsius and they do not have a persistent cough, difficulty in breathing and other flu-like symptoms,” Mr Macharia said last week.

The decision is part of a strategy aimed at restoring Kenya’s economy, which has been hit hard by Covid-19, slowing to 2.5 percent growth this year from 5.4 percent previously. Tourism alone, which is one of the key pillars of the economy, incurred losses amounting to Sh85 billion.

The government protocols on commercial air transport released last month require the aviation players to adhere to the highest level of safety for customers and staff.

The rules cover all transport sectors, including the standard gauge railway (SGR) passenger service, which resumed last week. The passenger train currently makes a single return trip from Nairobi to Mombasa at half passenger capacity, with the afternoon train to Nairobi arriving at 6 p.m. in order to beat the curfew hours.

Africa Star Railway Operation Company (Afristar), which operates the SGR, said it had deployed 10 coaches, including eight economy and two first-class, to ferry passengers between Nairobi and Mombasa. One coach had been set aside to cater to suspected Covid-19 cases.

In normal times, Afristar deployed two trains from Nairobi to Mombasa and the same number for the return trip every day. The SGR passenger service, also known as Madaraka Express, was launched on May 31, 2017.

Freight services on the SGR were, however, not interrupted by the pandemic.