Fully vaccinated British expats living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will finally be able to visit home without having to endure 10-days of quarantine following a last-minute rule change by transport minister Grant Shapps.
On Wednesday, Shapps announced that the UK would accept vaccination certificates issued by the authorities in the UAE following an update to the country’s Al Hosn COVID-19 health app.
The sticking point, it would appear, was that the app didn’t display someone’s date of birth on their vaccination record which made it harder to cross-reference the certificate against another form of ID like a passport or driving licence.
The decision to allow fully vaccinated visitors from the UAE to come to England without needing to quarantine comes just days before a new, more simplified set of rules for international travel are introduced on October 4.
The updated guidance gets rid of a complicated traffic light system and instead allows quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated passengers from most countries without even the need to take a pre-departure test.
Although strict hotel quarantine rules remain in place for a small number of very high-risk countries, the majority of travellers should be able to skip self-isolation if they can prove they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The problem, however, is that a significant number of passengers won’t be able to prove their vaccination status and will still need to self-isolate and take a pre-departure test because their vaccination certificates don’t contain all the information demanded by the British government.
So far, only 18 other countries, as well as the United States and most of Europe have vaccination certificates that comply with all the rules stipulated by the UK officials.
The UAE was not on that list until Wednesday when a software upgrade added additional information to the vaccination certificate.
There is, however, another issue facing British nationals who chose to get vaccinated in the UAE. The Persian Gulf country relied heavily on the Chinese manufactured Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines for its initial vaccine rollout – both of which don’t count as an official vaccine under the UK’s current rules.
And although Dubai and Abu Dhabi have started to deliver Pfizer / BioNTech boosters to people who received the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines, recipients must have received both doses of Pfizer’s two-dose regimen to be considered fully vaccinated.
The issue could potentially affect thousands of British nationals, including the chief executive of the Etihad Aviation Group, Tony Douglas who went on record as having received the Sinopharm vaccine.
There are already stories of British expats who had already been vaccinated overseas choosing to get vaccinated all over again because the British government refuses to accept their vaccination records.
Shapps hailed the changes as a “simpler, more straightforward system” but for many travellers, the changes are anything but simple of straightforward. In fact, fully vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries and territories like Hong Kong will be worse off under the new system.
At present, an unvaccinated visitor from Hong Kong can visit the UK with very few restrictions. But from October 4, a fully vaccinated visitor from Hong Kong will have to self-isolate for 10-days because of an issue with the vaccination certificate issued by local authorities.
For detailed information about the new travel rules, please consult the official guidance which can be found here.
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.