Earlier this week, the director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom had a simple message to beat the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic for governments around the world: “Test, test, test,” he urged. “You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected,” he said of the urgent need to ramp up testing efforts.
It’s certainly the case that the quality and extent of COVID-19 testing has varied wildly from country to country. Experts suspect the United States is on the backfoot in battling the outbreak because of delays to getting functioning test kits, in the right numbers, to where they were needed.
In contrast, South Korea has been lauded for bringing its COVID-19 outbreak under control within weeks. The country’s aggressive approach to testing and contact tracing have been cited as the main reasons for controlling the epidemic with over 287,000 tests completed as of March 17 – second only to mainland China.
And when it comes to the number of COVID-19 tests completed, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is also one of the top countries, having completed more than 125,000 tests within the last few weeks. That’s just 23,000 fewer tests than Italy – the worst affected country in Europe where sadly the number of Coronavirus-related deaths have now exceeded mainland China.
In its efforts to ramp up testing even further and to address concerns about international travel, health authorities in the UAE have now extended COVID-19 testing to all Emirates cabin crew when they arrive in the country from working a flight.
This is not just a health screening, such as a temperature check, but a proper COVID-19 test involving a nasal swab. Results are currently being processed in around 12-hours but crew are being ordered to self-quarantine for 14-days from the day they land from a flight, including turnarounds where they don’t get off the aircraft.
During this isolation period, crew can be called out for a flight and once they’ve returned to Dubai the 14-day self-quarantine period restarts.
Emirates has set to assuage fears about flying by rolling out thermal screening on all departures from Dubai International Airport (DXB). Any passenger with an abnormal temperature will be subjected to further screening and possibly a COVID-19 test – these passengers would not be allowed to board an aircraft until their results were confirmed negative.
The airline also claims it will carry out an 8-hour long disinfection of any aircraft where a confirmed or suspected case of Coronavirus is identified. Like many airlines, the COVID-19 crisis has had a huge impact on Emirates’ business – the airline has been forced to slash its schedules and is now asking staff to take unpaid leave to reduce costs.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.