Tanzania has banned Kenya’s national carrier from flying into the country, the latest move in a deepening row between the two neighbouring countries.
The Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) said Kenya Airways flights were being banned “on a reciprocal basis” after the Kenyan government decided against including Tanzania in a list of countries whose passengers would be allowed to enter Kenya when commercial flights resumed on Saturday following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.
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“Tanzania has noted … its exclusion in the list of countries whose people will be allowed to travel into Kenya,” TCCA Director General Hamza Johari said in a letter sent to Kenya Airways on Friday.
“The Tanzanian government has decided to nullify its approval for Kenya Airways (KQ) flights between Nairobi and Dar/Kilimanjaro/Zanzibar effective August 1, 2020 until further notice,” Johari wrote.
“This letter also rescinds all previous arrangements that permit KQ flights into the United Republic of Tanzania.”
Kenya Airways chief executive Allan Kilavuka said on Saturday he was “saddened” by the letter and hoped the situation would soon be resolved.
The spat between Kenya and Tanzania erupted soon after the outbreak of the pandemic in East Africa, when Kenya blocked Tanzanian truck drivers from entering the country, fearing they would spread the disease.
Tanzania has taken a controversially relaxed approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic and began reopening the country two months ago.
President John Magufuli’s refusal to impose lockdowns or physical distancing measures, and to halt the release of figures on infections since late April, has made him a regional outlier and caused concern among Tanzania’s neighbours and the World Health Organization.
Magufuli declared Tanzania free of coronavirus in June, thanking God and the prayers of citizens for what he said was the defeat of COVID-19.
Separately on Saturday, Kenya Airways resumed international commercial travel after grounding flights for more than four months due to the pandemic.
A ceremony took place at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in the capital, Nairobi, with inaugural flights to the United Kingdom and Ethiopia.
Kenya has so far registered 20,636 confirmed coronavirus cases and 341 related deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.