Egypt has reopened its major tourist attractions and resumed international flights for the first time since they were suspended in March.
Two flights carrying more than 350 Ukrainian tourists arrived from Kiev in the cities of Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh Wednesday, the Civil Aviation Ministry said. Just three coastal governorates — Red Sea, South Sinai and Marsa Matruh — are reopening for foreign tourism this month.
On March 19, Egypt paused all international air traffic, with the exception of repatriation flights, in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus. As flights resumed Wednesday, Civil Aviation Minister Mohamed Manar said sanitation measures and medical screenings were in place to keep travellers safe.
The national carrier EgyptAir operated 14 international flights carrying a total of 2,000 passengers from Cairo, with more planned in the coming weeks.
Some two dozen major tourist sites also opened Wednesday, including the iconic Giza Pyramids, the Citadel of Saladin and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Tourism is a key sector of the Egyptian economy, accounting for 5% of the country’s gross domestic product. Egyptian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled el-Anani has said tourism losses from the lockdown could reach into the billions of dollars.
Mosques across the country reopened under strict precautions Saturday for the first time in three months. The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, however, has postponed the reopening of churches in Cairo and Alexandria amid a spike in infections in those cities.
The Arab world’s most populated country has recorded nearly 70,000 coronavirus cases and 3,034 deaths.