The United Arab Emirates (UAE) issued a new decree on Wednesday night banning citizens and expat residents from leaving the country to go on holiday. The new order was issued by the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority and replaces a policy that allowed residents to leave the country if they first applied for permission to re-enter.
Update (July 3rd): On Friday evening, the NCEMA backtracked on its travel restriction proposals announcing that “all citizens and residents are now able to travel, in accordance with the health requirements currently enforced within airports and in accordance with the destinations’ regulations.”
The agency said the UAE’s airlines would now operate flights according to a classification system based on “several health and safety standards”. Travellers will have to register with government officials before leaving the UAE, obtain travel insurance and for certain destinations, obtain a COVID-19 test within 48-hours of departure.
Returning residents will also have to obtain a COVID-19 test before returning to the UAE in countries “where laboratories are available”.
Dr Saif Al Dhaheri, a spokesperson for NCEMA, announced the change of policy, saying travel for both leisure and tourism would not be permitted for the foreseeable future. Residents would, however, be allowed to leave the UAE if they were travelling for business, to study abroad or for medical treatment.
Diplomats and governments employees will also be allowed to leave if they are travelling on official business. Anyone wishing to travel abroad must first apply for a permit and submit supporting documentation.
Emirates, the largest airline in the UAE, has not yet updated its website to reflect the changes. Previously, Emirates advised residents to apply for re-entry permission before leaving the country. Permission could be refused if a resident had been travelling in a country with a high infection rate of COVID-19.
Returning residents would previously have been subjected to a COVID-19 test on arrival and told to self-isolate while their test was processed. Now, residents who are allowed to leave the UAE will need to obtain a COVID-19 test in the country they have visited within 48-hours of travelling home.
Some expat residents who had travelled abroad before lockdown measures were imposed found themselves stuck outside of the UAE after strict border restrictions were imposed in late March to stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus. As of last week, residents have been allowed to return once they have obtained permission from Emirati authorities.
From July 7, Dubai will open up to all foreign tourists so long as they arrive in the country with a negative COVID-19 test certificate dated within four days of travel. Tourists who don’t already have a certificate will have the option of being tested on arrival but if their test comes back positive they’ll be expected to cover the cost of a mandatory quarantine and any treatment they require.
Tourists will also need to download a mandatory contact tracing smartphone app before being allowed to enter Dubai.
Through July, Emirates will resume flights to Cairo, Tunis, Glasgow, and Malé bringing the total number of destinations in its route network to 52.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.