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Stranded European passengers finally arrive in Rwanda

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The saying, where there is a will there is a way, was evidenced on Saturday evening as the first batch of passengers from Europe who were on Tuesday barred from boarding a flight out of Belgium arrived in Kigali.

The passengers, some of them tourists were on Tuesday barred from boarding an SN Brussels flight by Belgium authorities.

They arrived aboard Dutch airline KLM, KL541 which landed in Kigali on Saturday evening and proceeded to hotels awaiting their Covid-19 test results.

According to a number of passengers who spoke, following the incident last week, they sought alternative options with the most convenient being flying to Amsterdam to board KLM.

They explained that other countries did not have restrictions set by the Belgian government.

The Rwandan Embassy in The Netherlands said that the frequency of KLM flights to Kigali will increase to twice a week from September

The decision to bar travelers from boarding the Kigali bound SN Brussels flight last week was explained as part of the implementation of travel restrictions to reduce movement of persons at external borders of the European Union as well as discouraging outbound travel of EU citizens and residents to reduce vulnerability against Covid-19.

Last week’s incident affected not only Belgian citizens and residents seeking to travel to Rwanda but also citizens and residents (who hold EU resident permits) of other European Union countries.

Passengers were informed that only those considered traveling for essential purposes such as work, funeral and medical reasons with attestations to prove it would be allowed to board.

The European Union Embassy in Kigali distanced itself from the move saying that it was not an EU directive but rather a Belgian one.

The Belgian Embassy in Kigali confirmed learning of the incident but was yet to respond with details of the implementation of the directive.

Rwanda has been listed as one of the few countries globally that put ideal measures in curbing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic with measures such as lockdown, testing, tracing and isolation of confirmed cases.  

Kigali International Airport was opened on August 1 with measures set up to test arriving passengers to reduce vulnerability of the country. 

Tourism facilities across the country have also been re-opened with measures set up by the Ministry of Health to curb vulnerability. The measures include testing of both domestic and international tourists before visiting some facilities, social distancing and training of staff.

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