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The World Health Organization urged African governments Thursday to take effective measures to mitigate the risk of a surge in coronavirus infections due to the resumption of commercial flights.

“Air travel is vital to the economic health of countries,” Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement. “But as we take to the skies again, we cannot let our guard down. Our new normal still requires stringent measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.”

The statement comes after several African countries started to reopen their borders and air spaces.

Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania and Zambia have already resumed commercial flights, according to the WHO. The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is expected to open airspace July 21.

Nigeria will begin reopening its airports from July 8 following a three-month lull due to the coronavirus outbreak, the country’s aviation minister said Wednesday. 

Flights will initially resume between the capital Abuja and Lagos. Airports in Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri and Maiduguri will resume operations on July 11, and domestic flights at other airports will resume on July 15, Hadi Sirika said on Twitter. “Date for international to be announced in due course,” he said.

“The resumption of commercial flights in Africa will facilitate the delivery of crucial supplies such as testing kits, personal protective equipment and other essential health commodities to areas which need them most,” according to Moeti, who said flights will help support experts who can go on the ground and work.

She said the WHO found that lockdowns, along with public health measures, reduced the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Seychelles did not have a locally transmitted case since April 6 ”but in the last week 66 new cases – all crew members of an international fishing vessel – have been recorded,” the statement said.

There are over 415,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases on the African continent – with more than 196,000 recoveries and 10,200 deaths, according to the WHO.

After originating in China last December, the virus has spread to at least 188 countries and regions. Europe and the US are currently the worst-hit regions.

The pandemic has killed more than 517,600 people worldwide, with and excess of 10.77 million confirmed cases, while recoveries have surpassed 5.52 million, according to figures compiled by US-based Johns Hopkins University.




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