Little more than a week after British Airways (BA) flights to Cairo had resumed, a blast outside a Cairo hospital killed 20 people and injured 47 in what Egypt’s president has called, “A cowardly terrorist incident.”
We reported on the situation in Egypt just two weeks ago, but let’s take another look at safety and what you should do if you have already booked a trip.
What happened on 4 August?
A vehicle was driven into three other vehicles at high speed outside a central Cairo hospital, causing an explosion, reports the BBC. A fire broke out in the hospital, nearby buildings were evacuated, and many patients have been transferred to other hospitals. “police said they suspected it was carried out by Hasm, an armed affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Recap: July flight cancellations
BA announced on 20 July that it was suspending flights to and from Cairo. Affected passengers were given the options of a full refund on flights, postponing their trips, or being re-booked on Egyptair which continued with its usual flight schedule.
Flights to and from Hurghada airport, which The Independent notes is the main point of entry for most British visitors, were not affected.
Why were flights cancelled?
“Heightened security concerns” were the explanation given by BA, and many journalists believe there was a specific threat relating to Cairo flights.
Since terrorists brought down a Russian flight shortly after its departure from Sharm-el-Sheikh airport in 2015, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has warned of a heightened threat to aviation and has advised against flights to or from Sharm-el-Sheikh.
Other airlines continued with their scheduled flights throughout July and Egyptian authorities expressed their unhappiness with BA’s decision.
A Lufthansa spokesperson, quoted by The Independent, said that flights were reinstated on 21 July because, “We took the decision as a precaution but after assessing the situation will be operating as normal.”
How safe is Egypt?
Tourism in Egypt has picked up since the revolution of 2011 and the airline attack of 2015 – according to the FCO, around 415,000 British Nationals visited Egypt in 2018 and the majority of visits were “problem free.”
Attacks have not stopped though, and the bomb on 2 August adds to a rather long list. While attacks mostly take place in the Sinai and border areas which still carry FCO advice against all travel, or against all but essential travel (this advice remains unchanged since the 4 August attack) the FCO lists some notable exceptions around Cairo, Giza and other areas popular with visitors:
- On 19 May 2019, at least 16 people were injured after an IED attack on a tourist bus near the Giza pyramids.
- On 18 February 2019, 3 security personnel were killed by a suicide bomber in Central Cairo’s Darb al-ahmar district.
- On 28 December 2018, a roadside blast killed 3 Vietnamese tourists and a local tour guide on a bus near the Giza pyramids. Several others were wounded in the attack.
- On 2 November 2018, gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in Minya province, upper Egypt, killing 7 people. Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Looking at statistics, it is still far more likely to be affected indirectly than directly if there is an act of terrorism in Egypt (just like most other travel destinations) but ultimately, it’s up to each individual and family to decide if they want to go.
When making that decision, it’s important to check all the latest facts, plan accordingly, and know what to do in case of an emergency.
What are other countries saying?
Most travel advice is very similar to what the FCO has published.
The New Zealand government’s Safe Travel website advises against travel to those same areas of Sinai and borders, and tells travellers to exercise increased caution in Sharm-el-Sheikh, coastal resort areas, and “elsewhere in Egypt.”
Australia’s official advice is more serious telling people to, “Reconsider your need to travel” to Egypt in general. It also strictly advises against travel to the more dangerous border and Sinai areas.
If you have already booked a trip to Egypt
Safe Journey covers disinclination to travel if there’s an act of terrorism within 40 miles of your destination, up to 6 weeks before your departure (please see full details, Ts+Cs and exclusions in our Policy Wording) but please note that it can’t cover the 4 August attack unless the policy was purchased before 4 August.
It also can’t cover disinclination to travel for an attack that hasn’t taken place – e.g. when there were heightened concerns and flight cancellations in July.
If Safe Journey was purchased before you departed and there’s an attack within 40 miles of your accommodation while you’re there, we’ll cover curtailment and get you back home. We’ll also cover emergency temporary accommodation if the attack was within 1 mile of your hotel.
Have a look at details of cover for personal possessions, emergency medical care, delays and more in our Policy Wording – those are all included in every Safe Journey policy, from £5.17pp for a single trip of up to 8 days – and you can tag it onto any other travel insurance policy to fill any gaps.