The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has lifted the ban on flights from Uganda to Dubai. UAE imposed travel restrictions on some countries including Uganda about a week ago so as to contain the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant.
However, UAE has still maintained travel restrictions on Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, and Ethiopia. Dubai is one of the top four routes from Entebbe international airport, with an average of 20 flights a week. These flights are operated by Uganda Airlines, Emirates, Flydubai, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, and RwandAir.
Uganda Airlines and Flydubai have since announced the resumption of flights. Uganda Airlines, which operates four flights to Dubai a week, resumed the flights on January 8 while Flydubai resumed yesterday Monday, January 10. On Twitter, the national carrier noted that it has resumed flights to Dubai and that it will take "all measures necessary to make sure you are protected when you travel with us."
The airline says that UAE requires all Dubai-bound passengers to undertake two PCR Covid-19 tests, the first 48 hours to departure and the second one six hours to departure time. Unlike in the previous months where passengers could undertake the second test from either Test and Fly laboratory and Safari Lab, Uganda Airlines and Flydubai say their passengers will test from only Test and Fly laboratory.
The test results must have quick response (QR) codes for verification. On arrival, passengers will undertake another test and self-isolate until they get a negative Covid-19 test result. Some sources told our reporter last week that the UAE suspended flights from Uganda after dozens of passengers started testing positive for Covid-19 on arrival in Dubai.
Port health workers and some officials from the airlines including Uganda Airlines noticed that most of the passengers who tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival in Dubai had forged test results.
A source said, "On December 18, 28 passengers aboard Uganda Airlines tested positive for Covid-19 in Dubai and the number rose from the daily average of five to over 10 in the past three weeks. So, airlines want the ministry of Health to become stricter and supervise the accredited laboratories".
The UAE has been strict on airlines over carrying passengers whose test results meet the validity period. In October, the UAE suspended Ethiopian Airlines from carrying passengers from Uganda after some travelers arrived with expired test results. For airlines like Kenya Airways, it would ensure passengers from Uganda destined for Dubai would undertake their second tests in Nairobi so as to meet the validity period of six hours.
George Wangaya, the managing director of Awel Tours and Travel Agency, says that the ministry of Health should tighten its grip on laboratories or test UAE-bound at the airport. The agency offers services namely air ticketing, tours & safaris, consultancy services, car hire, hotel booking, and visa arrangements for UAE.
During the week when flights were suspended, the Uganda Airlines acting CEO, Jenifer Bamuturaki Musiime, says that the national carrier was transporting mainly cargo between Entebbe and Dubai.
Bamuturaki was quoted last week, saying that the airline initially fetched an average of $13,000 weekly from carrying cargo to between $30,000 and $45,000 in the week passenger flights were suspended.
The airline wants to fetch between $70,000 to $100,000 weekly from cargo by boosting its cargo-carrying capacity by acquiring cargo planes in the future.