Foreign embassies evacuate their nationals from Nairobi in coronavirus fears
By Cyrus Ombati
| March 28th 2020
Foreign embassies in Nairobi evacuated their citizens as the 30-day ban on international flights took effect.
Since last Sunday's announcement by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe on foreign travel, several embassies have been working with the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and other government agencies to facilitate the repatriation of their citizens.
There were fears among some of them that coronavirus situation could get out of control and in case of an outbreak, local hospitals would be unable to handle a huge number of infected people.
Officials at the airports in Nairobi and Mombasa said there has been an increased departure of foreigners in the last few days. This happened even after the deadline for commercial airlines passed.
Specific embassies in Nairobi asked their airlines to be allowed into the country to evacuate their nationals.
Those that pushed their citizens to leave ahead of the deadline include UK, Germany, US, Norway, Netherlands and Switzerland.
KCAA boss Gilbert Kibe had alerted airlines of plans to suspend international flights to Kenya over coronavirus spread, following a directive issued by the National Emergency Response Committee (NERC) on March 22.
On Wednesday, the US embassy in Nairobi called on its nationals who wanted to leave Nairobi to take advantage of the last direct flight by Kenya Airways that was scheduled to leave JKIA for John F Kennedy International Airport in New York at 9pm.
“Kenya Airways has indicated it will offer a flight for US citizens and US Lawful Permanent Residents departing JKIA on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, at 2100 hours, provided it can sell all the seats on this flight,” the embassy told its nationals.
German, Danish and Norwegian embassies had also been organising for the evacuation of their citizens.
Kenya Airways announced plans to suspend all international passenger flights starting Wednesday. However, cargo flights will remain operational to offer emergency services and supplies.
“We have temporarily suspended all international services effective midnight 25th March 2020, until further notice,” said KQ Managing Director Allan Kilavuka.
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