Algeria partially reopens air travel after 14-month shutdown

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Algeria partially reopened its skies to flights on Tuesday after a 14-month suspension to contain the deadly Coronavirus. The national carrier Air Algerie took off on its first flight on Tuesday to Paris; another was expected to land later in the day in the capital of Algiers.

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 the 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 neighbours.

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