The United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities have lifted flight restrictions imposed on Nigeria with effect from tomorrow, paving the way for the resumption of scheduled flights by airlines.
It would be one month, four days after the ban was imposed on Nigeria and some African countries following rising fears over the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
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As part of efforts to contain the spread of the Omicron variant, the UAE had slammed restrictions in several African countries, including Ghana in December.
The ban on Nigeria took effect on December 25 while that of Ghana was effective December 27.
The UAE had two weeks ago lifted the ban on Ghana and four other countries while shunning Nigeria.
However, the UAE National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) and General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) yesterday announced that the embargo on passenger flights from Nigeria and 11 other African countries had been lifted.
Others are Namibia, Congo Republic, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
While the ban was being lifted, it was not clear when Emirates would resume flights to Nigeria.
The UAE carrier, according to an update on its website last night, announced the resumption of flights between Dubai and five African countries starting from January 29.
These include South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe without a mention of when it would resume Nigerian flights.
Emirates said all passengers traveling from Emirates’ African network with Dubai as their final destination require a 48 hour PCR test.
Passengers are expected to present a valid negative COVID‑19 PCR test certificate with a QR code for a test conducted at an approved facility, and validity must be calculated from the time the sample was collected.
Upon arrival in Dubai, passengers will undergo an additional Covid‑19 PCR test and remain in self‑quarantine until the test results are received.
Travel operators in Nigeria spoken to by our correspondent said there had not been any communication yet from Emirates on when it would resume flights.
Vice-President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Abuja Zone, Ambassador Adeshola Kayode, in a chat with Daily Trust said travel operators were being cautious not to issue Dubai tickets.
“What I always tell people is that don’t let us believe anything until they start. Let them (Emirates) start; then we would see. We have seen situations where they even started and people were returned back from Dubai.
“So don’t let us believe anything they tell us now. As far as we are concerned, I am not selling Dubai now until I heard that people have started going and they are coming back,” he said.
He said travel agents were exploring other alternatives for Nigerians going on vacations.
It would be recalled that the federal government had earlier in December suspended Emirates’ winter schedule in retaliation for the refusal of the Sharjah Airport authorities to grant Nigeria’s carrier, Air Peace, the three slots it requested for.
But the suspension was lifted after the Dubai Airport Authorities granted Air Peace seven slots only for the UAE, citing the Omicron COVID-19 variant, to impose another ban on Nigeria.
As of the time of filing this report, both Emirates and Air Peace have not announced the resumption of flights between Nigeria and Dubai.
FG speaks on UAE lifting ban on Nigerian flights
The federal government has reacted to the announcement by the UAE authorities to lift the restriction on flights from Nigeria and 11 other African countries.
Speaking to Daily Trust on the matter, the National Incident Manager of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Dr Mukhtar Muhammad, said that the committee had not formally met to discuss the development.
He, however, said that the suspension of restriction placed on Nigeria was not based on any scientific proof but the continuous discriminatory approach mostly targeted at countries in Africa and in Asia.
Muhammad also hinted that the country would impose COVID-19 protocols on flights coming from UAE as the two countries continue to engage in diplomatic talks.
“There is really no scientific basis to warrant that suspension, but we are glad all the same that they had reconsidered their decision to resume flight. We would engage them on this and also ensure that Nigeria Protocol on COVID-19 is not violated by anyone either coming from UAE or other countries. We would continue to engage them,” Muhammad said.
Abbas Jimoh (Abuja) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)