On Friday, Denmark announced that it was suspending all flights from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for five days over suspicions that COVID-19 tests in the Gulf state may be unreliable. This latest development in the fight against the deadly global pandemic comes amid a sure of COVID-19 cases in the UAE. It poses a direct challenge to the countries response to the pandemic as it rushed to open itself back up to the world.
As the country with the closest warm winter sunshine to Europe, the UAE and Dubai, in particular, rushed to welcome back tourists, with the only requirement being that they could show a recent negative COVID-19 PCR test result.
Denmark is suspicious about UAE testing
When speaking about why Denmark had chosen to ban all flights from the UAE for five days starting January 22, Danish Transport Minister Benny Engelbrecht said the decision was made to allow time for an investigation to see if testing in the UAE is being done properly.
“We can’t ignore such a suspicion,” Engelbrecht said, adding that the ban would begin on January 22 and last for an initial period of five days.
In a statement from the Danish government regarding the irregularity of the UAE COVID-19 tests, it said that flights coming from the UAE would be suspended for five days “until it has been possible to investigate this issue to the bottom and ensure that the required negative tests are actual negative tests which have been taken properly,” transport minister Benny Engelbrecht said in the statement.
“We have previously seen mutations come in via Dubai, and we cannot ignore a suspicion like this.”
The South African strain is more contagious
The move follows from a passenger from South Africa arriving at Copenhagen Airport, Kastrup (CPH) via Dubai with the coronavirus’s more aggressive strain. Called B.1.351 by scientists, the South African strain has them particularly worried because of its unusually high number of mutations, especially in the spike protein.
South Africa has seen a powerful surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, with scientists believing that the new variant is 50% more contagious than the original virus and finds itself easier to attach to and infect human cells. Human behavior and the fact that thousands of South Africans visited bars, restaurants, and beaches over the holidays is to blame for the recent spike in infections.
A whistleblower is behind the ban
Under current Danish COVID-19 travel rules, arriving air passengers must provide airport authorities a current negative PCR test taken no sooner than 24 hours before boarding the flight. A report given to the Danish government regarding testing in the UAE is behind the decision to ban flights for five days to allow the matter to be investigated. The transport ministry said in the statement.
While being interviewed on Danish television English language Danish news website, The Local DK reports Engelbrecht with saying the following:
“There was a specific and serious report filed by a citizen in relation to how tests are conducted at entrances in Dubai, and we must therefore ensure there are no problems with this,” he said.
“It is no use us having Danes or others who fly from Dubai who might be positive or infected with COVID-19 or maybe a mutation like the South African one,” he continued.
Danish authorities needed to ensure tests were not carried out “sloppily or intentionally incorrectly,” Engelbrecht said.
Have you been tested for COVID-19 in Dubai before traveling to another country? Please tell us what you think about the testing and if you think it is being done correctly.