Kenya flies in 500 stranded citizens

0
219
Travellers at JKIA wait to be transported to different hotels in Nairobi for quarantine on March 24,2020. Kenyans who arrived last week at JKIA are now in mandatory quarantine. PHOTO/COURTESY

In Summary

  • Officially, the government says it is neither evacuating nor repatriating its nationals, but is instead facilitating those whose travel plans were disrupted by pandemic.
  • The London flight was the first to land in Nairobi on May 5 with about 100 passengers in an aircraft with a 220-passenger capacity.
  • Flight (KQ 205) from India landed in Nairobi on Thursday evening, after it departed Mumbai at 6.30pm local time.

Nearly 500 Kenyan citizens, who had been stranded in different countries around the world due to travel restrictions imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus, have been flown back home over the past week.

Officially, the government says it is neither evacuating nor repatriating its nationals, but is instead facilitating those whose travel plans were disrupted by pandemic.

The travellers paid for their own airfare. The ministry of Foreign Affairs last week arranged Kenya Airways flights to Guangzhou in China, London in the UK and Mumbai in India to pick Kenyans who had travelled there for various reasons but got stranded when the respective countries imposed lockdowns and banned flights.

The London flight was the first to land in Nairobi on May 5 with about 100 passengers in an aircraft with a 220-passenger capacity.

KQ initially demanded a 90 per cent booking to make it profitable to fly to the UK.

Demand for flights home among Kenyan residents in the UK was low.

“Those stranded included university students whose learning has been transferred to online modules; business people, scholars and researchers whose trips were halted by Covid-19,” a diplomat in Nairobi involved in arranging the flight said.

In India, the flight from Mumbai on May 7 was overbooked, according to High Commissioner Willy Bett. Most of the travellers were there to seek medical services or were caring for relatives. The plane had a capacity of 234 passengers and required a special request to land in a country under lockdown.

Mr Bett said those who travelled for leisure were asked to give priority to the sick. The government negotiated for emergency extensions for all Kenyans with expired visas.

By May 7, some 160 Kenyans had booked the special flight from Guangzhou, China, which was scheduled to depart on May 9, at 3pm Nairobi time.

“All passengers must produce a Covid-19 Nucleic Acid amplification test from qualified hospitals before boarding the flight,” the Kenyan embassy in China said in a notice on May 4. Following an outcry from Kenyans, the country’s ambassador to China, Sarah Serem, said she had secured amnesty for those who had expired visas.