(Updates with suspension lifting)
LAGOS, Feb 5 (Reuters) – Nigeria has lifted its suspension of Emirates airlines flights imposed after the carrier sought additional COVID-19 tests for passengers from Nigeria, a spokesman for the country’s aviation regulator said on Friday.
“The suspension has just been lifted, because they have complied with what we want,” said the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) spokesman in a phone call. He said further details would soon be made public in a statement.
An Emirates spokesperson said the company “can confirm that we will continue to operate services to Abuja and Lagos.”
An aviation ministry spokesman on Monday told a news conference that the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in addition to requiring a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before flying from Nigeria, was adding an extra requirement of having a rapid test four hours before departure.
He said airlines that insisted on the additional test would be suspended until an appropriate structure was put in place to conduct the second test within four hours of departure.
In a letter to the airline’s country manager, dated Feb. 4 and titled “suspension of Emirates airlines operations to Nigeria”, the NCAA said the airline had carried passengers from Nigeria using rapid antigen tests “conducted by laboratories that are neither approved nor authorized by the appropriate regulatory bodies”.
The NCAA, in its letter, said the decision to suspend Emirates was taken because the airline failed to heed a request to either accept passengers without the rapid test until the appropriate infrastructure was in place or suspend flights to and from Nigeria until that time.
This month, UAE authorities said the airline’s passengers flying to Dubai from Nigeria would not be permitted entry if they transited via a third country and could only enter on direct flights, according to industry sources and a travel notice on the RwandAir website. (Reporting by Libby George and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos. Additional reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai. Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram. Editing by Giles Elgood and Mark Potter)