Why flights between Nigeria and the UAE may resume soon

WITH the Arabian Travel Market, which was cancelled last year owing to the covid-19 pandemic just around the corner, the impasse on travel between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates may be resolved soon. The UAE has also removed the controversial antigens rapid test requirement for passengers from Nigeria but gives new conditions to be met. Oghenekevwe Uchechukwu reports.

PASSENGER flights between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) may soon resume as both countries continue to work out measures for the safe resumption of travels after the UAE agreed to remove antigens’ rapid test requirements passengers from Nigeria.

In addition to the Covid-19 Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), the UAE had imposed antigens rapid test on travellers from Nigeria and 57 other countries. Passengers transiting through Dubai from Nigeria, Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea and Hungary, were required to present a negative COVID‑19 RT-PCR test certificate for a test taken no more than 72 hours before departure.

Other countries included on the list are India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Russia, Senegal, Slovakia, Somaliland, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

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The UAE later barred travellers from Nigeria and South Africa, excluding UAE nationals returning to the UAE and members of diplomatic missions, after more transmissible variants of the SARS CoV-2 virus B.1.525/501Y.V2 were reported. The ban was to be lifted on 20th March.

However, the move to subject passengers to additional tests was not well received by the Nigerian government, and it announced an indefinite suspension of Emirates airline with effect from 17th March. Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation, the imposed antigen rapid tests was “devoid of any scientific reasons because the virus itself will incubate at least within or after 72 hours”.

The RT-PCR, which is a molecular test, can detect more than one variant of the Covid-19 virus, and experts say that it remains the best and most accurate way of testing the emerging variants. Still, the more recently-developed rapid antigen tests offer the advantage of producing results much more quickly. They are also cheaper, simple to use, and can be used on a huge scale, but the results are less reliable.

The UAE had agreed it will stop conducting antigens rapid test for passengers from Nigeria but will only allow 200 passengers with direct flights from Nigeria who have a negative PCR test certificate conducted 48 hours before boarding.  It said that 200 passengers are the maximum it will allow from Nigeria over two weeks, as part of its new travel requirements.

Fernando Judel, Director, Nigerians in Diaspora Dubai-United Arab Emirates (NIDDUAE), told our reporter that flights could resume soon if the Nigerian government accepts these new requirements, adding that the selection will be based on priority – business, medical and vacation or leisure purposes.

    “Before now, there has been a structural plan to reduce the inflow of Nigerians here, especially the job seekers. The new regulations’ bottom line is the new strain of covid-19 found in Nigeria late last year. If it is no accepted by Nigeria, the only option is to reduce the inflow of passengers. When the passengers reduce, they can manage it better even if it (the new variant of the covid-19 virus) emerges,” Judel explained.

    Meanwhile, the UAE hopes to open for tourism from next month as the Arabian Trade Market (ATM), which was cancelled last year owing to the covid-19 pandemic, is expected to hold from 16th – 19th May. The ATM is an international travel and tourism event unlocking business potential within the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals.

    This year’s ATM, the 28th version, is themed “A New Dawn for Travel and Tourism”. Tourists worldwide will showcase their brand and exhibit at the show along with the biggest names in accommodation and hospitality, renowned tourism attractions, innovative travel technology companies, and key airline routes.

    UAE extends ban on Nigerian flights to March 10

    Later in the year, the country will host the World Expo 2020, an event originally scheduled for 20th October 2020 – 10th April 2021 but which will now hold between 1st October and 31st March 2022.

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