TEHRAN: Dubai-based Emirates airlines resumed flights to the Iranian capital on Friday after a five-month break due to shutdowns to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East, has been scrambling to contain the pandemic since it reported its first two COVID-19 deaths in February.
Neighbouring countries imposed travel curbs and strict quarantine measures after the first cases of their own days later, mostly in travelers with links to Iran.
The 16 passengers on the Emirates flight from Dubai passed through a disinfection tunnel and had their body temperature checked upon arrival at Tehran’s airport.
In the departures lounge, masked outgoing passengers lined up at the Emirates check-in counter while an airport worker disinfected dozens of luggage trolleys.
The United Arab Emirates was among a list of countries that suspended all air links with Iran in February, along with nearby Armenia, Iraq, Kuwait and Turkey.
The UAE is a key international transit route for Iranians and had daily flights to Iran.
“My colleagues and I screened the passengers for symptoms with interviews and we also have thermal sensors,” said Nadia Piri, one of the airport’s resident doctors.
Passengers had to fill in forms on arrival, Piri said, and would have to self-isolate for 14 days.
Airport deputy head Mohammadreza Karimian said a number of airlines have asked to resume flights to Iran.
“Different airlines have made requests, considering that we observe all health protocols throughly,” he said, without naming them.
Iran has been battling a resurgence of COVID-19 illness, with official figures showing a rise in both new infections and deaths since a two-month low in May.
The health ministry on Friday raised the overall virus toll to more than 13,790 deaths, with 183 new fatalities, and over 269,400 confirmed cases.
Iran has refrained from imposing full lockdowns but closed schools and canceled public gatherings.
It banned travel between provinces in March but lifting the order the next month.
The rising toll has prompted authorities to make masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces and allow worst-hit provinces to reimpose restrictions, with the capital Tehran among the latest.