The United Arab Emirates-UAE has today suspended flights from Uganda to Dubai until further notice.
The UAE also suspended Uganda in June due to the surge of COVID-19 cases and many passengers who had tested positive for the virus on arrival in Dubai.
According to a tweet from Uganda Civil Authority- UCAA, “passengers planning to travel to Dubai are now advised to contact their respective airlines for guidance on any changes in the restrictions.” However, “incoming Emirates flights from Dubai are still operational,” UCAA states.
The move has thereby thrown business people and Uganda’s over 200 labour ‘externalization’ companies in crisis as most of their clients (employers) who take in Ugandan workers are in the Middle East to which Dubai airport in the UAE is the key gateway.
Dubai is one of the top four routes from Entebbe International Airport, with an average of 17 flights a week. These flights are operated by Uganda Airlines, Emirates, Fly Dubai, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines.
Following the announcement, all the airlines have told their clients that they will not operate flights to Dubai. They will however carry passengers from Dubai and cargo to and from Entebbe during the suspension.
Shakira Rahim, the Corporate Affairs and public relations manager at Uganda Airlines, says the suspension of flights has come at a peak season where people are traveling back home for holidays or work with the festive season coming to an end. The airline operates four flights to Dubai weekly.
“Our flight to Dubai scheduled for Wednesday December 29 was fully booked in the A330-800 aircraft . We have cancelled it and the other flights. So our clients have to reschedule as soon as the suspension is lifted,” said Rahim.
Rwandair and Emirates have also suspended their flights following the UAE travel ban.
The travel ban is one of the containment measures to prevent the spread of the newly discovered Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Sources at Entebbe International Airport’s Port Health say they are not surprised that Uganda has been added to the red list. ” The number of COVID-19 cases are rising in Uganda and also passengers who have tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Dubai have been increasing,” said a source.
Another source said that while UAE required passengers from Uganda to have two COVID-19 tests done prior to their departure flight, some of them were forging the test results.
Uganda is the latest to be added to the UAE red list. The list now has 12 African countries.
The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) and the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) issued directives to suspend flights from Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania from Saturday, December 25, effective 7.30 a.m. Others on the list are South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini.
UAE says travelers from or who have transited through the above countries in the last 14 days are not allowed to enter the country.
The UAE nationals, their first degree relatives, diplomatic missions, official delegations between UAE and these countries and Golden residence holders are excluded from this decision. They should however present a negative COVID-19 test obtained within 48 hours of departure and a Rapid-PCR test at the airport within six hours of departure whenever possible and another PCR test at the airport upon arrival to UAE.
Also, UAE citizens are barred from traveling to the 12 African countries except for the country’s emergency treatment cases, official delegations, and scholarships.