Rwanda’s national carrier has suspended its flights to South Africa and Zimbabwe in order to contain the spread of a new coronavirus variant.
This comes almost two months after authorities in South Africa announced the detection of a new variant of Covid-19 that was rapidly spreading in its provinces.
“In view of the global concerns on Covid variants prevalent throughout southern Africa, RwandAir announces the suspension of its flights to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lusaka and Harare, effective 8 February 2021,” a RwandAir statement released on Monday reads.
“Scheduled flights will resume as soon as there is more clarity on the situation. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused. Affected customers can rebook and fly at a later date at no additional cost – or request a refund.”
The UK on January 29 added Rwanda, Burundi, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to its coronavirus travel ban list fearing that the coronavirus variant had spread to these countries from southern Africa.
UK officials said that the decision to expand its travel ban to Rwanda was recommended by UK scientists, due to Rwanda’s limited gene sequencing testing capacity.
The decision drew ire from Rwanda which summoned the UK Ambassador Jo Lomas for an explanation.
Rwanda has not yet started testing for the coronavirus variants, which makes it difficult to know whether cases have spread to the country or not.
South Africa last week suspended the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine – one of the vaccines on Rwanda’s radar – after studies showed “disappointing” results against the new Covid variant.
Rwanda targets to acquire vaccines for at least 20 percent of its population – mainly for the most vulnerable clusters – and then gradually vaccinate at least 60 percent of the population.