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KCAA: Covid test centres barred in Dubai flights tiff

kibe

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) Director-General Gilbert Kibe. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • Early this week, Kenya also suspended all inbound and transit passenger flights from the United Arabs Emirates (UAE) to retaliate against a move by Dubai to ban all passenger flights from Kenya.
  • Business Daily spoke with the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) director-general Gilbert Kibe to establish why Dubai banned passenger flights from Kenya.

The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) announced a 48-hour suspension of all flights from Kenya to the Middle East nation on December 20, 2021. A week after the ban, Emirates Airline said that it has, in turn, extended its flight suspension from Kenya to comply with the directive that was to end on December 24 until further notice.

However, the Kenyan suspension did not affect cargo freights and passenger flights from Dubai to Nairobi.

Early this week, Kenya also suspended all inbound and transit passenger flights from the United Arabs Emirates (UAE) to retaliate against a move by Dubai to ban all passenger flights from Kenya over fake Covid-19 certificates.

Business Daily spoke with the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) director-general Gilbert Kibe to establish why Dubai banned passenger flights from Kenya, why the Middle East nation has taken too long to relax a ban on all inbound and transit passenger flights from Nairobi and what role the KCAA is playing in trying to end the flight suspension between these nations.

Excerpts:

Why did Dubai ban passenger flights from Kenya?

Dubai suspended flights from Kenya due to many false negative Covid-19 PCR results. Travellers from Nairobi were testing positive for Covid-19 after arrival in the Middle East nation, despite carrying negative test results.

The scheme involved a racket of private medical testing centres that colluded with travellers to issue fake Covid-19 PCR result certificates to aid their travel to Dubai.

The Ministry of Health has, however, launched a probe on the matter with a view to bringing to book private health practitioners who were abetting the crimes that have now cost Kenya millions of shillings in lost passenger revenues. It is worth noting that several other African countries were red-listed as well by Dubai.

Why has Dubai taken too long to relax a ban on all inbound and transit passenger flights from Nairobi?

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has asked Kenya to rein in medical testing centres issuing fake Covid-19 results as it considers relaxing a ban on all inbound and transit passenger flights from Nairobi.

They simply want an assurance that no inbound and transit passengers from Kenya will travel to Dubai with a fake travel document. As indicated above, investigations have been done and we are waiting for the results to be out before we can report back to them.

Who is to blame for the extension of a flight suspension for Kenyan travellers by Dubai?

There is no one to blame for the extended suspension of air services between UAE and Kenya that has been in the last couple of weeks. It is worth noting that before the ban is lifted, each State must be satisfied that all issues are resolved between them before the resumption of normal services.

Why did Kenya take too long to make a decision on the suspension of passenger flights from Dubai?

Kenya did not take long to decide on the suspension of air services. We had to make investigations on the root causes of the issues and make determinations on what to do and when it is in order to make decisions on way forward. This took a little bit of time to do because there is always a timeframe for any decision to be made.

What kind of disciplinary measures is the state going to take against private medical testing centers that colluded with travellers to issue fake covid-19 PCR result certificates to aid passenger travel to Dubai?

Suspension of at least two medical centres has already been effected and we expect further action to be taken against the individuals involved in issuing fake results and also those who received them. Further investigations are ongoing among the law enforcement agencies. At this moment, I may not reveal much.

What role is KCAA playing in trying to end the ongoing flight suspension with Dubai?

The KCAA is liaising with the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health and Transport in mitigating measures against false PCR test results. We are also dealing with the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority with the intention to get them lift the suspension.

From your investigation and without mentioning names, where are these private medical covid testing centres that were issuing covid-19 negative certificates located in Kenya? Will you arrest and charge their owners?

The centres are in Nairobi from what we have known so far. Action against the owners and individuals involved will be taken.

How much would you say we have lost in passenger revenues for the period we have not been flying to Dubai?

We don’t have that number yet but it is very significant for both countries. This kind of activity must never happen again as the result is loss of reputation and it is harmful to the economy.

In the event that truce on this matter is not reached in the next few weeks, do you think travellers, more so those coming from Kenya, will still have faith in air travel, especially on the Dubai route?

Yes. Travellers will not lose faith in air transport as it is still the safest and efficient means of moving from one part of the world to another. There are other airlines that can be used to reach the desired destinations.