Today international air travel resumed in Kenya sixteen days after domestic flights commenced in the country. The resumption, guided by a strict travel protocol which ensures that air travel remains safe for domestic and international flights during the COVID-19 pandemic, will now exempt travellers from the following countries from quarantine:
- South Korea
- The United States of America (except California, Florida and Texas)
- United Kingdom
- United Arab Emirates
In a press release yesterday, James Macharia, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, Urban Development and Housing, indicated that the Ministry of Health would undertake a further review of countries for consideration of inclusion in the exemption list.
The exemption protocol will permit all passengers arriving on international flights whose body temperature does not exceed 37.5°C (99.5°F), do not have a persistent cough, do not have difficulty in breathing or other flu-like symptoms. The passengers will additionally need to have tested negative for COVID-19 within 96 hours before travel. For now, this exemption applies to travellers from countries considered low to medium-risk COVID-19 transmission areas. Passengers travelling out of Kenya will also be subject to the travel, health and COVID-19 requirements of their destination.
Since the curfew in Kenya is still in place, only passengers with a valid air ticket and boarding pass shall be allowed to proceed to their hotels or residences after the lockout. The same documents will apply for departures. As a result, drivers dropping off or picking up travellers from or to the airport will need to show some evidence that they have come from there.
Currently, only British Airways, KLM, Qatar Airways and Air France have the go-ahead to resume flights in and out of Kenya after President Uhuru Kenyatta lifted the ban on international travel on July 6.
British Airways kicks off its operations with four weekly flights on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Qatar Airways and KLM both plan to reopen on August 3, 2020. KLM also looks to offer four weekly flights on the same days as British Airways. Air France, on the other hand, will start with a single flight to Paris every Friday. The national carrier, Kenya Airways, plans to resume flights to 27 destinations with two daily flights to Addis Ababa, Kigali and Dar es Salaam. It will also run three weekly flights to Zanzibar, London and Mumbai and five weekly to Dubai. The airline has no immediate plans to reopen its US and China routes.
The resumption of international air travel now means Kenya’s airspace is open. This comes after months of rigorous arrangements to conform to the World Health Organisation and International Air Transport Association’s guidelines for operating passenger planes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On July 15, local passenger services got the first thumbs-up. Authorities considered it a test of the country’s preparedness before the resumption of international passenger flights.
At the moment, it is not clear what this good news means for Kenyans. There is already an ongoing travel ban in 31 European countries. According to the SchengenVisaInfo.com website, only 14 countries can enter these countries, and Kenya is not one of them.