One of the most popular destinations for British travellers, Dubai, has been placed on the UK’s “red list” – meaning that direct flights have ended and tough self-isolation rules will apply to arrivals.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said the UAE had been added to the 30 existing countries which are currently subject to a travel ban – along with Rwanda and Burundi in central Africa.
From 1pm on Friday 29 January, passenger flights from Dubai or Abu Dhabi have been banned from the UK.
The move is causing chaos for many travellers hoping to return from or via the UAE, as well as many British expatriates who live in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the other Emirates.
British, Irish and third country nationals with residence rights in the UK will be allowed to return from the UAE but they will need to travel via a third country.
Thousands of people planning to travel back from Asia and Australasia will now see their onward flights from Dubai/Abu Dhabi cancelled.
Anyone who has been in the UAE in the prior 10 days must self-isolate immediately along with their households.
They will not be eligible to use "Test to Release,” the scheme that allows quarantinees in England to stop self-isolating with a negative test on or after day five.
People without the right to live in the UK and who have been in the UAE in the last 10 days will be refused access to the UK.
The government says the move is in response to new evidence showing the likely spread of a coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa.
By far the largest number of flights to and from the UAE are provided by Emirates.
A spokesperson for the airline said: “As directed by the UK government, Emirates will be suspending passenger services between Dubai and all our UK points – Birmingham, Glasgow, London, Manchester – effective 1300hrs GMT on 29 January 2021 until further notice.
“We regret the inconvenience caused, and affected customers should contact their booking agent or Emirates call centre for rebooking.
“Emirates remains committed to serving our customers in the UK. We look forward to resuming passenger services when conditions allow, and will continue to work closely with all relevant authorities in this regard.”
The move seems likely to erode confidence in committing to travel still further, after government ministers warned against booking 2021 holidays.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: "The government will need to be clear on why countries are being added to the high-risk list.
"If it grows each week, with new countries being added, then it will sap consumer confidence in future travel. No-one in the travel sector wants to see blanket hotel quarantine introduced via the backdoor.”
The government has yet to reveals its plans for hotel quarantine, including a starting date. But travellers from all countries on the “red list” – now amounting to 33 with the latest additions – will be obliged to pay for 10 days in what ministers call “managed self-isolation”.
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