Airport abuzz at first international arrival

Businesspeople, family visits

15 September 2020 | Sakenuus
Ndapewoshali Shapwanale - Flowers in hand, Namibian fashion designer Ennio Hamutenya on Friday waited impatiently for his girlfriend to disembark the first international flight to land since borders shut in March to tackle coronavirus.

"As soon as I heard the good news I decided to get her onto the first flight," said Hamutenya, 23, clutching a bouquet of roses and dandelions.

"I cannot wait to see her," he added, two hours ahead of the scheduled arrival time.

The terminal filled with cheers when 26-year-old Katrina Shtern finally stepped out into the hallway and the young couple embraced for the first time in months.

"I have not been here for a long time," said Shtern, who flew from Germany on the Ethiopian Airlines flight. "I am happy to be here."

Tourists drought

Namibia officially reopened to foreign visitors on September 1 in a bid to salvage the tourism industry, hard hit by coronavirus restrictions.

The first flight landed at Hosea Kutako International Airport on Friday afternoon, carrying just over 40 passengers coming mainly from Austria, Germany and Kenya via Addis Ababa.

But most had come to the sparsely populated southern African country to join their families or for work reasons.

Namibian national Michael Schubert, 43, had been struggling to return home from Austria after his work contract ended.

"I went through flights being cancelled, borders closing and opening and closing," said Schubert.

Businessman John Mureithi, 51, explained that he had been stuck in his home country Kenya since December, leaving him unable to supervise his construction operations in Namibia.

"My businesses had to come to a complete standstill," he complained, eager to return to work.

Namibia reopened to foreign visitors despite a steady increase in coronavirus cases.

Infections have more than tripled since the start of August, rising to over 9 100 this month.

Recorded deaths exceed 100.

To avoid importing more cases, anyone coming into the country is required to test negative no more than 72 hours before travelling.

At the airport, announcements constantly reminded passengers in face masks to sanitise, wash their hands and keep a safe distance.

Back at work

Staff at duty free stores dusted and re-stocked shelves.

Souvenir shop employee Salome Ndinoshisho was excited to be back at work.

"We were just at home all this time so when we received the call [to come back] I was overjoyed," she told AFP.

At the check-in counters, Congolese national Fatima Manuel muttered angrily as she was charged for excess luggage.

The 26-year-old student was finally able to return home after finishing an English course in June.

"I thanked God when this flight was announced," Manuel exclaimed. "It was becoming very expensive for me staying in Namibia." – Nampa/AFP



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