Swiss take aid to Africa as part of Covid repatriation flights

About 1,400 stranded Swiss tourists were also flown back with airlines from neighbouring countries. Keystone/Michael Gruber

Switzerland has delivered humanitarian supplies to the Democratic Republic of the Congo before repatriating tourists stranded in central Africa due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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On board the plane which flew to Kinshasa on Monday were 1.3 tonnes of medical goods as well as representatives of non-governmental organisations, according to Hans-Peter Lenz of the Swiss foreign ministry’s crisis unit.

Some 200 passengers were then flown back to Switzerland following a major effort by the Swiss embassy in Kinshasa to organise special permits, Lenz told a news conference on Tuesday.

So far, the government has repatriated more than 5,000 Swiss citizens as part of a historic operation to return stranded tourists from locations around the world over the past three weeks.

Additional flights are scheduled later this and next week from Ukraine and Montenegro as well as from destinations in Asia and Latin America.

Lenz reiterated that the foreign ministry is gradually phasing out its repatriation flights, but that Switzerland’s diplomatic representations will continue to deal with individual requests, including facilitating cooperation agreements with neighbouring countries.

“I assume there are still a few hundred tourists waiting to be brought back home,” Lenz said. He added that he was optimistic that commercial flights will resume soon in some regions.

Initially about 17,000 people registered with the Swiss foreign ministry. It believes that most of them have by now returned by their own means or have else decided to stay abroad.

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