The United Arab Emirates, in its latest Coronavirus protocol released on Friday, dropped the Rapid Antigen Test (RDT) for COVID-19 as prerequisite for travelling to the Middle East country for Nigerians and some other countries.
The Nigerian government also responded swiftly by lifting the ban it previously placed on UAE’s Emirates Airline’s flights into Nigeria.
Emirates stopped flights to Nigeria in February this year, when its operation was put on-hold by the federal government following its demand for Nigerian travellers to take the RDT four hours before their flight, as stipulated in the COVID-19 protocols of the UAE.
When Emirates began its demand for the test, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, described the RDT requirement as “discriminatory profiling” of Nigerian travellers.
A statement seen by THISDAY and dated November 26, 2021, issued by the Aviation Business Management Team-Dubai Airports, indicated that RDT would no longer be required for all flights effective from Saturday November 27, 2021 at 00.0 hours, for passengers travelling to Dubai from the following countries: the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Republic of Uganda, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Republic of Zambia.
The statement said inbound passengers, who are eligible to travel to Dubai from the aforementioned countries, should comply with the following conditions: “The passenger(s) shall present a valid negative COVID-19 test certificate that is issued within the valid time frame, namely, (72) hours from the time of collecting the sample and from the approved health service that uses QR code system.
“Passenger(s) shall undergo a PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) upon arrival at Dubai Airports.
“No approval is required from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) or from General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) for the passengers from the aforesaid countries, to enter Dubai. No rapid PCR test report is required.
“The airlines shall ensure and/or verify the compliance of the above requirement(s) prior to passenger(s) boarding the aircraft and shall not accept any passenger(s) who does not fulfill the aforesaid condition(s) and/or requirements,” the statement said.
It also directed that if the airline carries any passenger(s) who fails to meet the aforesaid requirements, the airline would be held responsible to return such passenger to the point of embarkation and also any other matters that may arise therefrom.
It stated that air carriers that fail and or neglect to comply with the measures set out in this decision would be subjected to the fines and measures stipulated in Clause 37 of Schedule No (7) the Executive Council Resolution No. (4) of the 2017 Approving Fees and Fines of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA), considering that adherence to the provision of DCAA circular No. (1) of 2021, is strictly required for airlines to continue practicing air transport activity arriving to or transiting through Dubai.
The statement also said that these conditions are imposed in addition to the guidelines, protocols and conditions issued from time to time.
With this new protocol, UAE has dropped the RDT test, which stirred the diplomatic imbroglio between Nigeria and the country and which forced Emirates Airlines to stop operating to Nigeria when the federal government insisted that it must not conduct RDT on Nigerian passengers four hours before their flight, insisting that the 72 hours PCR test must be accepted by the airline.
So since February 2021, Emirates has stopped flights from Nigeria but with the new protocol, Nigerian passengers can now travel directly to Dubai.
In February, Emirates directed Nigerian travellers at the Lagos and Abuja airports to conduct rapid COVID-19 tests before departure, which led to a ban on Emirates flights in Nigeria. The ban was later lifted after the airline agreed to stop the rapid antigen tests.
The federal government reintroduced the ban in March, explaining that Emirates had continued to conduct rapid antigen tests for passengers before departure from Nigeria.
FG Lifts Suspension on Emirates Airline
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika said the ban on Emirates was lifted as a result of communications received from UAE removing travel conditions the Nigerian government had opposed.
Briefing journalists late Friday, Sirika said UAE had removed the restrictions without conditions, hence Nigeria reciprocated the gesture by lifting the ban on Emirates.
The Minister assured that the relationship between Nigeria and UAE remained strong.
Similarly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, noted that the Nigerian government recognised that the UAE “has a responsibility” to protect the lives of her citizens and “whatever measures that they had taken were in the interest of her citizens.”
Chinedu Eze in Lagos and Kasim Sumaina in Abuja