From the start of next month, commercial flights will once again be authorised at the airports of Algiers, Constantine and Oran, the north African nation’s three largest cities. While precise details of the conditions for the partial lifting of health restrictions have still to be made public, “strict control” will be imposed on all arrivals to prevent the further spread of Covid-19.
Regular commercial flights and passenger shipping links were suspended by the Algerian authorities more than a year ago, on 17 March 2020. This left the several million Algerians who live overseas, many of them in France, completely cut off from family and friends.
The Algiers government did organise the return of some nationals, but even those exceptional flights were suspended on 1 March this year, in the face of fears of the so-called British variant of the coronavirus.
The Algerian government on Sunday decided that it is now safe to begin the process of gradually reopening the borders.
Initially, there will be five flights per day to and from Algiers, Constantine and Oran. All passengers will be obliged to respect strict health regulations. The details of traveller obligations are to be published within a week.
The Health Minister, Abderrahmane Benbouzid, has already said that everyone wishing to enter Algeria, whether nationals or foreign visitors, will be obliged to present a negative Covid test less than 36 hours old, and accept a second test on arrival.
“Those who test negative will be allowed to enter,” said the minister. “Those who test positive will be isolated for ten days,” the health chief continued. The cost of the test on arrival, and eventual accommodation charges in the event of isolation, will be borne by the visitor.
Special additional requirements are to be imposed on those arriving from countries where coronavirus variants are particularly active, the minister added, without providing further details.
Speaking on Algerian public radio on Sunday, in the wake of the government decision, Doctor Mohamed Bekkat Berkani, a member of the national scientific council, said it was reasonable to begin a gradual reopening, “provided we remember that the virus is among us, it is still infecting people, and we need only to lower our guard to see this disease surge once again.”
Algeria is currently reporting fewer than 200 cases of Covid-19 per day, for a population of 44 million. There have been 3,375 virus-related deaths, and 125,000 cases of coronavirus since the start of the epidemic.