Denmark has banned all flights from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) amidst reports that pre-departure COVID-19 tests taken in the country are “not reliable” according to a statement from the Danish Ministry of Transport. The flight ban was brought in with immediate effect on Friday night and will last for at least five days while the reports are investigated further.
“We have seen in the past, mutations come in via Dubai, and we can not ignore such a suspicion,” commented Minister of Transport Benny Engelbrecht. The ban will remain in place “until it has been possible to investigate the matter thoroughly and ensure that the negative test that is required is in fact a real test that has been carried out properly,” Engelbrecht continued.
Denmark introduced new pre-departure testing rules on January 9 in an attempt to prevent new highly-transmissable and possibly vaccine resistant variants of the COVID-19 virus getting into the country. Travellers are required to obtain a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) within just 24-hours of departure or prove they have recently recovered from infection.
The decision to impose the travel ban was made after a report was received by the Ministry of Transport that raised suspicion about the reliability of tests obtained in the UAE and “suspected irregularities”.
The UAE’s Assistant Undersecretary for Consular Affairs hit out at the travel ban, saying the authorities carried out regular compliance checks with testing providers. “Severe penalties are imposed for non-compliance with international standards to ensure the highest level of quality in testing,” he added.
In a statement posted to the UAE’s official news agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “communication is currently underway with the Danish authorities to clarify the details and cases behind the decision, in order to guarantee the safety and security of all travellers.”
On Saturday, Emirates flight EK151 from Dubai to Copenhagen departed on time but it was unclear whether any passengers were onboard.
Dubai has become an even more popular winter sun destination for Europeans seeking to escape lockdown restrictions back at home. The emirate has welcomed tourists from around the world even as infection levels started to surge. Officials have reluctantly imposed new restrictions on entertainment venues in a bid to control the wave of infections but have resisted pressure to go into lockdown again.
On Friday, the UAE reported 3,552 new coronavirus cases and hospitals have been told to cancel non-urgent elective surgeries in preparation for a surge of COVID-19 patients.
Emirates announced last week that it plans to trial a secure mobile app that will help verify the authenticity of COVID-19 test results. The trial is not expected to start until April.
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.