Tanzania's Zanzibar shuts down tourist hotels over COVID-19 pandemic

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DAR ES SALAAM, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Tanzania's Zanzibar authorities on Friday announced the shutting down of all 478 tourist hotels as among protective measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mahmoud Thabit Kombo, Zanzibar's Minister of Information, Tourism and Heritage, said 95 percent of the 478 tourist hotels from one star to five stars have already been closed in Zanzibar's twin Islands of Pemba and Unguja.

"The remaining five percent of the tourist hotels will be closed by this weekend after the departure of about 506 tourists from Russia who are accommodated in the hotels," Kombo told Xinhua in a telephone interview.

He said the Russian tourists will be airlifted out of the Zanzibar archipelago over the weekend, adding that after their departure the hotels will be closed down.

"All tourist hotels will remain closed until the virus is contained. We are protecting the lives of residents on the Islands," he told Xinhua.

At the same time, Kombo told a news conference that authorities have banned all tourist flights in the wake of the outbreak of the viral disease.

He said only tourist charter flights will be allowed to fly in Zanzibar with condition that tourists onboard should be quarantined for 14 days on their expenses.

Kombo said the Zanzibar authorities have taken such bold decisions to prevent the spread of the deadly the virus.

Tourism is Zanzibar's largest economic sector and essential for the Islands' socioeconomic stability.

Tourism accounts for 27 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), 80 percent of foreign revenue and provides the highest private sector employment.

On Wednesday, Zanzibar reported the first case of the COVID-19. Enditem

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