Emirates launches first rapid virus test for passengers

Aviation giant Emirates has launched a 10-minute coronavirus blood test for passengers departing from its Dubai home base, in what it claimed Wednesday as a first for the industry.

The airline resumed limited passenger flights earlier this month after the United Arab Emirates grounded all commercial aircraft.

The flights are open to foreign citizens who wish to leave the country, but no incoming passengers are allowed.

“Passengers on today’s flight to Tunisia were all tested for COVID-19 (respiratory disease) before departing from Dubai,” the airline said in a statement.

“Emirates is the first airline to conduct on-site rapid COVID-19 tests for passengers.”

The blood tests were conducted by the Dubai Health Authority in the check-in area, with results coming out within 10 minutes.

“We are working on plans to scale up testing capabilities in the future and extend it to other flights,” said Chief Operating Officer Adel al-Redha.

“This will enable us to conduct on-site tests and provide immediate confirmation for Emirates passengers travelling to countries that require COVID-19 test certificates.”

Emirates, the largest carrier in the Middle East, has also said that cleaning and disinfection of planes will take place in Dubai after each flight.

The UAE, which groups seven emirates including Dubai, has declared almost 5,000 coronavirus cases and 28 deaths.

It has imposed a sweeping crackdown, including the flight ban and closure of borders, shopping malls, entertainment centres and markets.

A two-week curfew was imposed in Dubai on April 4 following a big jump in the number of cases in the UAE, where some 10 million people live, 90 percent of them expatriates. (AFP)