Algeria partially reopens air travel after 14-month shutdown

International

Travelers queue at the Houari Boumediene airport for a flight bound to Paris, Tuesday, June 1, 2021 in Algiers. Algeria has partially reopened its air borders Tuesday for the first time in over 15 months of the COVID-19 crisis. (AP Photo/Fateh Guidoum)

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria partially reopened its skies to flights on Tuesday after a 14-month shutdown to try to keep out the coronavirus, with a first flight of the national carrier Air Algerie taking off for Paris on Tuesday and another expected to land later in Algiers, the capital.

Great caution governed the partial reopening, with limited flights, tests for COVID-19 and a required quarantine.

Those heading to Algiers must have a negative PCR test less than 36 hours before boarding, and all passengers must undergo a five-day quarantine in a hotel requisitioned by the state. A negative test result is required to leave the hotel.

The number of weekly flights and destinations is limited to five cities: Paris and Marseille in France, the Spanish city of Barcelona, Tunisian capital Tunis and Istanbul.

Air Algerie personnel lined up to applaud arriving passengers for the first flight.

One of the passengers, Amina Nasri, said she understands the measures put in place because “it’s in our interest.”

“The most important thing for me is to see my son and my grandchildren whom I haven’t seen since February 2020,” she told Radio Algerie.

Algerians in Paris, Algiers and elsewhere groused about the restrictions, and the price. Expenses and meals at the hotel are at the passengers’ expense. And not everyone can board the infrequent flights. In pre-virus times, many Algerians in France, for instance, often returned to their homeland for visits.

“It’s a first operation. We want great vigilance from our passengers since the success of this operation will be determining for what follows,” Air Algerie spokesman Amine Andaloussi said in an interview with the site visa-algerie.com.

Other airlines, like Tunisair and Air France, were expected to add flights of their own.

Algeria has registered 3,472 deaths from COVID-19 as of Monday evening, and more than 128,900 confirmed cases, far less than European countries and less than its North African neighbors.

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