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Denmark Lifts Emirates Flight Ban Following “Suspicious” Pre-Departure COVID-19 Tests Controversy

Denmark Lifts Emirates Flight Ban Following “Suspicious” Pre-Departure COVID-19 Tests Controversy

Denmark has lifted a temporary ban on flights from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after concerns were raised about the reliability of COVID-19 pre-departure tests taken in the country. The Danish Ministry of Transport said it was lifting the ban because it was introducing its own arrival testing regime rather than because it was now satisfied with the quality of tests taken in Dubai and across the UAE.

Emirati officials reacted with alarm when the travel ban was suddenly imposed on January 22 and diplomats scrambled to assuage fears about the quality of pre-departure tests performed in the Persian Gulf country. Dubai has been in the spotlight in recent weeks over its decision to encourage tourism amidst the pandemic and a surge in new infections.

The initial ban was set to last only five days so that Danish officials could investigate reports of “suspected irregularities” with tests performed in the UAE but the restrictions were then extended twice to February 6. The UAE had requested “clarification” about the reasons for the ban but it remains unclear as to how much further information was forthcoming.

On Saturday, minister of transport Benny Engelbrecht said the travel ban could finally be lifted. In a statement, the ministry said it had taken the decision to ease restrictions because Denmark had introduced on arrival testing in addition to pre-departure testing.

While confirming that the ban was put in place because of “doubts about the quality of the tests done before departure”, the ministry did not say whether those doubts had been cleared up. The UAE has maintained that pre-departure tests performed in the country can be relied upon and have promised to investigate any concerns.

“There have been several inquiries about negligence or direct falsifications of the tests you must have to fly to Denmark,” Engelbrecht commented on Saturday. “Therefore, it is good that tests are now required on arrival at a Danish airport, so we get extra protection against people who may be infected with COVID-19 being able to wander untested into Danish society and start new infection chains.”

From Sunday, it will be mandatory for all passengers arriving in Denmark to take a COVID-19 test before leaving the airport and going into self-isolation for 10-days. The quarantine period can be reduced by taking a second day on day four of isolation. Some exemptions apply.

On January 29, the United Kingdom slapped its own travel ban on the UAE following fears that the South African B.1.351 variant of the novel Coronavirus was in circulation in the country. British officials have not indicated when travel restrictions might be eased.

In recent days, Dubai has gone on a media offensive to highlight the precautionary measures it is taking to combat COVID-19 while keeping its heavily tourism reliant economy as open as possible. In response to rising infection levels, Dubai has cut capacity in malls, entertainment venues and cinemas, and has temporarily closed bars and nightclubs.

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