Reports suggest that the Dubai-based Emirates is close to resuming its flights to Nigeria. The United Arab Emirates airline was banned from flying to the African nation by the Nigerian government in March.
Since last July, Emirates has required all passengers to provide proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within 72-hours of departure. Passengers arriving from counties that the United Arab Emirates deems high risk are then required to take a second PCR test in Dubai before being allowed to leave the airport.
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Rapid diagnostic tests
The UAE was worried about the number of people traveling from Nigeria testing positive for COVID-19. Also, while not saying it in so many words, health officials in Dubai were worried about passengers from Nigeria were using false PCR tests to travel.
To counter this, they proposed a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) be done at the airports in Lagos and Abuja before passengers were allowed to board the plane.
Usually done by a nasal swab, an RTD detects the presence of viral proteins (antigens). If a person has COVID-19, it will show up in the test. The Nigerian government opposed this, and Emirates suspended flights to Nigeria on March 18, 2021.
Emirates have met Nigerian requirements
According to the African news website AllAfrica, the Nigerian government is rethinking its decision and may soon allow the resumption of flights. On Monday, the Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Musa Nuhu, said Emirates would shortly resume flight operations between Nigeria and the Gulf state.
While speaking during a Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) about COVID-19, Mr. Nuhu said they were in negotiations with the airline. The outcome of the discussions, he said, would be revealed within 48 hours.
“As regards the issue of Emirates Airline resumption of flight to Nigeria, the PSC deliberated extensively on this matter, and the gap has been significantly closed between the position of Nigeria and the United Arab Emirate (UAE).
“They have met some of our requirements, and we are just waiting for one confirmation.”
PCH and ENU to resume international flights
Mr. Nuhu also said that Port Harcourt International Airport (PHC) and Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu (ENU) would soon be cleared to resume international flights.
“Three airports: Kano, Port Harcourt, and Enugu, were declared by the PTF to resume international flights. Kano has resumed, Port Harcourt is almost there, just a few things to go, and in the next couple of days, we expect Port Harcourt to be released for resumption of international flights.
“Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu will join the list making a total of five international airports that will resume international flights.”
So far, there has been no news from Emirates as to when they would resume flying to Nigeria and no talk regarding the need for passengers from Nigeria to take a rapid diagnostic test four hours before boarding. Dubai Airport is an important world hub for people traveling from Africa and Emirates is the biggest player when it comes to world connectivity.
Other major carriers have continued operations in Nigeria which poses the question of whether or not Emirates has backed down from its RDT requirement or whether it is the Nigerian government that has now agreed to it.