Economy

Fake Covid tests behind Dubai Kenya flight ban

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An Emirates Airlines plane. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The aviation regulator has revealed that Dubai banned all inbound and transit passenger flights from Kenya because travellers from Nairobi were testing positive for Covid-19 after arrival in the Middle East nation, despite carrying negative test results.
  • KCAA director-general Gilbert Kibe told the Business Daily Wednesday that the scheme involved a racket of corrupt officials from Ministry of Health who colluded with travellers to issue fake Covid-19 PCR results to aid travel to Dubai.
  • The Ministry of Health has however launched a probe on the matter with a view to bring to book health officials who were involved in the shoddy deal that has cost Kenya millions of shillings in lost passenger revenues.

The aviation regulator has revealed that Dubai banned all inbound and transit passenger flights from Kenya because travellers from Nairobi were testing positive for Covid-19 after arrival in the Middle East nation, despite carrying negative test results.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) director-general Gilbert Kibe told the Business Daily Wednesday that the scheme involved a racket of corrupt officials from Ministry of Health who colluded with travellers to issue fake Covid-19 PCR results to aid travel to Dubai.

The Ministry of Health has however launched a probe on the matter with a view to bring to book health officials who were involved in the shoddy deal that has cost Kenya millions of shillings in lost passenger revenues.

“They banned flights from Kenya due to many false negative Covid-19 PCR results,” said Mr Kibe Wednesday.

“Ministry of Health is investigating and will report findings soon. Several other African countries were red listed as well.”

Mr Kibe said that Dubai had no option but to ban passenger flights from Kenya because in a single day they could detect up to 20 “false negative Covid tests."

The situation, he said, went out of hand the moment health officials in the Middle East nation detected up to 73 cases of Covid-19 negative tests that were fake.

He said that a thorough probe on issuance of the fake Covid-19 clearance documents is underway by the Ministry of Health and that all culprits will be brought to book. "Yes, culprits shall be apprehended after investigations," said Mr Kibe.

The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) announced a 48-hour suspension on all flights from Kenya to the Middle East nation on December 20, 2021.

On December 29, 2021, Emirates Airline said it had, in turn, extended its suspension of flights 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.

The extension of suspension of all inbound and transit passenger flights from Kenya came barely a few days after Kenya Airways (KQ) suspended passenger flights to Dubai following the flights ban by the Middle East country amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in Kenya.

The national carrier said it would refund passengers who had booked for travel within the suspension period. The travellers will also be allowed to rebook when flights resume, said KQ.

The temporary suspension of operations came barely a few days after Dubai introduced new travel requirements for those coming on direct flights from Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Under the new measures, travellers from Africa to Dubai were required to provide a report on a rapid PCR test conducted at the departure airport six hours before leaving for Dubai. It is in addition to a negative Covid-19 test certificate issued within 48 hours of arrival in Dubai. Passengers, including those on transit, under the new measures, will undergo a PCR test upon arrival in Dubai and self-quarantine until a negative test result is out. Applying to both passengers terminating their journey and those transiting through Dubai, the rules are expected to affect Africans, most of whom prefer Dubai as a transit point due to its interconnectivity and the lower fares charged by Emirates Airlines.

The report comes at a time Kenya has recorded a sharp increase in cases of Covid-19 infections in recent months, while the number of admissions in health facilities is also increasing.

Positivity rate — the proportion of positive tests — climbed sharply by a double-digit from last month, raising concerns among health officials.

It increased from a low of 0.5 percent in October to 22.6 percent as at January 4 as the government stepped up testing and vaccination. By January 4, Kenya had vaccinated 10.13 million people, 4.22 million fully, up from 746,267 on August 14 while the number of those who have received the first jab has jumped to 5.87 million from two million over the same period.