Denmark suspends flights from Dubai amid doubts over virus tests

Denmark has temporarily suspended all flights from the United Arab Emirates for five days after suspicion arose the coronavirus tests that can be obtained before leaving Dubai are not reliable, authorities announced Friday.

The development, which comes amid a surge of infections in the UAE, poses a direct challenge to the mass testing regime that had been the pillar of the country’s coronavirus response and economic reopening. Dubai was one of the world’s first destinations to open up to tourists, welcoming visitors from anywhere with only a coronavirus test.

Danish Transport Minister Benny Engelbrecht said the decision was made to allow the matter to be thoroughly investigated and ensure that the testing is being carried out properly.

“We can’t ignore such a suspicion,” Engelbrecht said, adding that the ban entered into force on Thursday night.

Danish authorities faced a “concrete and serious citizen inquiry into” how the tests are carried out at Dubai entry and exit points, he said, and “therefore we need to be absolutely sure that there are no problems.”

Engelbrecht said at least “one citizen” brought the South African variant of the virus “back from Dubai.” He did not identify the person. Dubai has seen an increase in the number of South African residents as the latter country’s economy deteriorated in recent years.

Since Jan. 9, Denmark has required that all passengers arriving in the Scandinavian country have a negative coronavirus test or proof that they have recently had COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, to limit spread.

The UAE’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment on the flight suspension and the suspicions surrounding the virus testing.

On Jan. 8, Denmark’s Foreign Ministry advised against all travel abroad, including business travel. On Tuesday, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told local media that “there is a reason why we really ask everyone not to travel. It’s really important that everyone listens.”

“There is a risk of bringing (virus) mutations to Denmark,” she said. “It can undermine our epidemic control and thus infect others.”

On Friday, as the UAE shattered its 11th consecutive daily infection record with 3,552 new cases, Dubai’s state-run media office announced strict new limits on weddings, social events, and private parties beginning next Wednesday, restricting all gatherings to 10 immediate family members. Wedding parties at hotels and other venues previously had been capped at 200.

Dubai also announced an immediate halt to all “entertainment activities” on boats and floating restaurants — a popular pastime in the city.

A day earlier, it suspended all live bands and performances at nightclubs and bars in the city after hospitals were forced to pause non-urgent surgeries to deal with an influx of new COVID-19 patients.

Tourists have flocked to Dubai in recent weeks despite the raging pandemic, escaping lockdowns back home.

Skyrocketing daily infections, which nearly tripled since November, failed to dent the normalcy even as more contagious variants of the coronavirus raced around the globe.

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