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Emirates airline begins testing passengers for coronavirus

In a bid to resume regular air travel and increase the number of passengers willing to fly, Emirates airlines has begun conducting rapid coronavirus tests on passengers before they board a flight. The company said it is the first airline to do so.

The Dubai-based airline on Wednesday announced that passengers on flights to Tunisia were tested for the coronavirus before departing from Dubai International Airport. The results from the blood test, conducted by the Dubai Health Authority, were available within 10 minutes. The company said it is

"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 traveling to countries that require COVID-19 test certificates."

In addition to the rapid testing, Emirates also rolled out a new set of rules for passengers, including the mandatory use of face masks at the airport. The airline also said reading materials will not be available and food packaging has been modified to minimize the risk of contact. Passengers will also no longer be able to bring cabin baggage aboard flights.

Airline companies around the world are searching for ways to get back on their feet after the industry was hit by a steep decline in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic. The TSA on Tuesday screened a record-low of passengers, down 96% from a year ago. 

The gradual changes implemented by Emirates shine a light on the potential solutions and their process could become more widespread as the commercial aviation industry tries to recover from the blow. CBS News' Khaled Wassef reports UAE flagship carriers such as Emirates and Etihad, say they hope to see a significant resumption of travel as early as May. 

Etihad last week announced it will be trialing technology that can monitor the temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate of passengers at its hub airport in Abu Dhabi.

"We are testing this technology because we believe it will not only help in the current COVID-19 outbreak but also into the future, with assessing a passenger's suitability to travel and thus minimising disruptions," said Jorg Oppermann, vice president hub and midfield operations at Etihad. "We see this is another step towards ensuring that future viral outbreaks do not have the same devastating effect on the global aviation industry as is currently the case."

But while the tests may encourage more people to travel, as long as lockdowns are in place and landmarks, bars and restaurants remain closed, there may not be a significant uptick in travel in the near future.

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