BEIRUT: Lebanon is preparing to reopen the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut on July 1 for the first time in more than three months.
It is reducing the number of flights from countries where the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for the virus is not available to passengers to 20 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Flights from countries that do have the test will be at 80 percent of previous levels.
A source at Lebanese Middle East Airlines (MEA) said that “not many reservations have been made by Lebanese to leave Lebanon when the airport opens. Europe is still closed to the Lebanese, as are the Gulf states. The only countries that are accepting flights from Lebanon are Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. Spain may soon do so. Lebanese who hold Schengen visas are not allowed to enter European countries.”
The source said: “Beirut airport will not accept more than 2,000 passengers per day.”
Face masks will be mandatory for passengers and aircrews inside the terminal and on the plane. All travelers are required to bring with them a sufficient number of masks to use and to change them every four hours. They must also bring their own hand sanitizer.
The Minister of Health, Hamad Hassan, said that “the criterion is no longer the number of COVID-19 infections. Rather, it is the gradual societal immunity. The country was opened because the economic situation is deteriorating and we will gain societal immunity.”
The MEA announced the conditions set by the Lebanese authorities for travelers entering Lebanon. One is that travelers coming from countries that have PCR tests should take the test in laboratories licensed by the local authorities at most four days before the departure date, and must show the result of the test at check-in counters. Travelers will have to take another PCR test, at the expense of the airline, on their arrival at Beirut airport.
Travelers who come from countries where PCR tests are not available will take a PCR test on arrival at Beirut airport at the expense of the airline. They must take a second PCR test after 72 hours at their own expense.
Travelers coming to Lebanon must possess a health insurance policy that is valid for the duration of their stay, covering all costs of treatment for COVID-19 on Lebanese soil. Lebanese nationals must also have insurance but enjoy the right to medical treatment in their country.
Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Lebanon, Shani Calyaneratne, has announced that 167 Sri Lankan nationals are being evacuated by plane from Lebanon today, leaving “about 25,000 workers who came in the 1980s, 1990s and the beginning of this century and wish to stay will remain in Lebanon as long as the employers approve this.”