One week after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) barred Nigerian travelers from UAE over rising cases of the Omicron COVID-19 virus, the country went some steps further as it added eight more African countries to its travel ban list. Consequently, Emirates will no longer accept travelers originating from Angola, Guinea, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ethiopia. Outbound passenger flights to the aforementioned destinations will not be affected. UAE suspends flights from eight African nations.
Passengers originating from or having transited through in the last fourteen days will not be allowed to travel to Dubai. The flight ban came into effect on December 28th, just as the carrier also clarified that customers originating from Conakry (CKY) to Dakar (DSS) will not be accepted for travel.
The move by Emirates adds to its list of banned African countries, which also includes Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe. Emirates previously offered exemptions for certain travelers from African countries. This included UAE nationals (and their 1st-degree relatives and domestic helpers) plus UAE Golden Visa holders, provided they self-quarantine and return a negative PCR test upon arrival.
The latest ban follows on previous ones during the past year, with the UAE and Nigeria alternately banning services into each other’s country. The last one was on December 12.
Keeping hold of bookings
Emirates has advised passengers booked on the above services that they do not need to contact the airline to reschedule their booking. Instead, customers can keep hold of their booking and get in touch with their booking office or travel agent as soon as flights are resumed. The airline also advises travelers to visit Emirates’ ‘Manage Your Booking’ portal and keep their details up to date to receive the latest updates on their booking.
Africa takes a back seat
Just five African countries, less than ten percent of Africa’s 54 nations, are projected to hit the year-end target of fully vaccinating forty percent of their people unless efforts to accelerate the pace take off. This comes as the region grapples to meet the rising demand for essential vaccination commodities, such as syringes.
Three African countries (Seychelles, Mauritius, and Morocco) have already met the goal that was set in May by the World Health Assembly, the world’s highest health policy-setting body. At the current pace, just two more countries, Tunisia and Cabo Verde will also hit the target.
In addition, limited access to crucial commodities such as syringes may slow the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa. UNICEF has reported an imminent shortfall of up to 2.2 billion auto-disable syringes for COVID-19 vaccination and routine immunization in 2022. This includes 0.3ml auto-disable syringes for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination.
There is no global stockpile of the 0.3ml specialized syringes, which differ from the 0.5ml syringes used for other types of COVID-19 vaccines and routine vaccination. The market for 0.3ml auto-disable syringes is tight and extremely competitive. As such, these are in short supply and will remain so through at least the first quarter of next year.
Already some African countries, such as Kenya, Rwanda, and South Africa, have experienced delays in receiving syringes.
“The looming threat of a vaccine commodities crisis hangs over the continent. Early next year, COVID-19 vaccines will start pouring into Africa, but a scarcity of syringes could paralyze progress. Drastic measures must be taken to boost syringe production, fast. Countless African lives depend on it,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.
Africa enters fourth COVID wave
Africa, the world’s least-vaccinated continent, is currently going through a new wave of COVID infections as case numbers soar across the continent. According to the African C.D.C, 21 African nations are experiencing the fourth wave of COVID cases as the highly-transmissible Omicron variant spreads.
For example, Kenya has seen a sharp jump from one percent positive cases to thirty percent in just three weeks. However, South Africa, which went through the world’s earliest Omicron outbreak, has seen a 35 percent drop in COVID cases.