Brits stranded in Tunisia as national carrier staff fear flying amid coronavirus

Britons stranded in Tunisia are facing further delay to their return home after aircrew with TunisAir refused to fly to Europe due to concerns over coronavirus. (AFP)
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Updated 25 March 2020

Brits stranded in Tunisia as national carrier staff fear flying amid coronavirus

  • TunisAir staff fear flying to Europe due to coronavirus

LONDON: Britons stranded in Tunisia are facing further delay to their return home after aircrew with TunisAir refused to fly to Europe due to concerns over coronavirus.

Many Brits are still stuck in the North African country after the Tunisian government suspended all international flights and shut its land and sea borders on March 18. 

Tunisia has under 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus, but swiftly took stringent measures to prevent its spread.

The tough measures caught many holidaymakers by surprise, with European governments scrambling flights to recover their nationals. 

But many Britons remain as the UK Embassy in Tunisia has struggled to organize repatriations.

The embassy said workers from TunisAir were unwilling to fly to Europe “on grounds of their individual safety and potential exposure” to coronavirus.

“Over the past few days, (we have) been working with the Tunisian government and Tunis Air to try to secure a flight to the UK,” the embassy said in a statement.

“However this option is now looking extremely difficult as Tunis Air are unable to find air crew who are prepared to fly to Europe on grounds of their individual safety and potential exposure,” it added.

“We will continue to look for ways to enable (Britons) to return to the UK as soon as is practically possible.”

Some Britons stuck in Tunisia have turned to begging the public for funds to cover flights home. 

Crowdfunding page GoFundMe reported a 54 percent rise in the last week for campaigns related to people being stuck abroad. 

Elizabeth Hazlewood, from Shrewsbury, was due to fly back from Tunisia this week but has been stranded since the government canceled outbound flights.

The 52-year-old support worker created a crowdfunding page to solicit support for her return home.

“I am running out of money rapidly. I really am stressed because of the situation and feel totally lost and alone,” she said.

The crisis in Tunisia is by no means the only example of Britons stranded overseas. Thousands are still desperately trying to secure flights home from around the world. 

On Wednesday, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the government is trying to organize flights with a number of countries including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Peru.

“Where commercial options are limited or prevented by domestic restrictions, we are in close contact with the airlines and local authorities in those countries to overcome those barriers to enable people to return home,” he added.

Meanwhile, Tunisia is ramping up measures to keep citizens safe from coronavirus. The government introduced a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. from March 18. On Sunday, it launched restrictions to limit movements to those of “extreme necessity.”


Coronavirus crisis in Egypt has benefits

A man travels on a scooter past the closed El-Sayeda Zainab Mosque in Cairo. (Reuters)
Updated 31 March 2020

Coronavirus crisis in Egypt has benefits

  • The Central Bank of Egypt has directed all local banks to delay the collection of credit liabilities for six months without any rates or fines

CAIRO: People around the world are living in uncertain times as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to spread. Fatalities and infections are rising as cities and countries go into lockdown.
Egypt is under a partial lockdown, forcing people to stay, work and learn at home. Yet behind this massive change and a fear of the unknown, COVID-19 has brought advantages.
Ever since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi decided to close schools and universities for two weeks, starting on March 15, respect for the government has increased, especially on social media.
“Suddenly the government is laying down a series of preemptive actions to slow down the spread of the virus,” Mohamed Badr, 32, a Cairo resident, said. “They disregarded the economic impact and focused on the safety of the people which made us all proud.”
There have been diplomatic gains. China’s Ambassador to Cairo Liao Liqiang said that China and Egypt are partners and true friends, lauding Egypt’s support to Chinese efforts to combat the virus.
The Central Bank of Egypt has directed all local banks to delay the collection of credit liabilities for six months without any rates or fines.
The government’s order to shut down cafes and malls during curfew hours has led to a ban on the smoking of hookahs.
With fears over infections and with a dusk-to-dawn curfew in place, there is less consumption of unhealthy food.
There are fewer road accidents too. In 2018, there were 8,480 road accidents, according to the Bureau of Statistics. The number is expected to plunge this year due to the drop in vehicles on the road.

FASTFACT

Ever since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi decided to close schools and universities for two weeks, respect for the government has increased.

Working from home is the new normal. The culture of work from home is forcing its way in society as many learning technologies and cloud solutions are connecting homes and workplaces.
“When I used to invite people for a Zoom meeting they were surprised. Today, it’s a normal practice and many clients actually prefer this option,” a sales representative in Cairo said.
And with school and college students stuck at home, educational institutions have quickly taken up distance learning.
With millions of people now stuck in isolation, many are using the opportunity to get creative. Videos on social media show people developing hobbies, tricks, cooking skills and paintings.
Corporations are accelerating digital transformation. Several companies are racing to implement digital and cloud technologies to manage their businesses remotely. Several telco and financial institutions pushed their services online and through contact centers rather than branch visits.
Doctors are finally getting some credit. They have long called for better salaries and benefits but their requests have fallen on deaf ears. The virus has now brought some hope for a better package in the near future.
The environment is cleaner and less polluted. And now, everyone has more time to reflect.