Coronavirus: British tourists urged to leave country now if it is 'essential' they return home
British Embassy calls on tourists and residents who must to return home to act now before borders close
British tourists currently visiting the UAE have been advised to leave the country immediately if it is 'essential' they return home.
The British Embassy issued a series of messages on social media and via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website encouraging those wishing to return home to do so as soon as possible before the UAE borders are closed as part of efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Passenger flights in and out of the UAE will be suspended for two weeks from Wednesday, March 25, the General Civil Aviation Authority said.
Patrick Moody, British Ambassador to the UAE, urged British tourists to plan their departure as soon as possible.
“If you are in the UAE, and it is essential that you return to the UK, you should urgently contact your tour operator and arrange to leave now,” he said.
Flights back to UK airports are running out fast, with few direct flights due to leave the UAE before Wednesday remaining on airline comparison websites.
Emirates is running a direct service back to London Gatwick, departing at 7.40am on Tuesday but only two seats were available, while only business class seats were available on the Birmingham service on Tuesday morning.
On Monday afternoon, flights from the UAE to UK airports travelling on Tuesday were still available from 29 airline combinations.
Those included Etihad Airways, British Airways, Flydubai, Turkish Airlines, Ukraine International, Bankok Airways, Air France Ethiopian Airlines, Oman Air and Aeroflot with changes in Bucharest, Paris, Amsterdam, Moscow and Istanbul among other European cities.
One way tickets were available from Dh1,410 with Aeroflot to Dh13,880 with Thai Airways, while travel times ranged from direct eight-hour flights to almost 43 hours, including stopovers.
Although it is not known exactly how many British tourists are currently in the UAE, some 1.5 million nationals visit the UAE every year.
“We know that some airlines have already cancelled all flights to and from the UAE and Emirates Airlines have confirmed that they have cut back on their global routes,” a statement issued by the FCO said.
Visitors are not allowed to enter the UAE until further notice, while those transiting through a UAE airport to another destination are advised to check with airlines before travelling.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation (MOFAIC) has provided a hotline for holders of valid UAE Residence visas who wish to return to the UAE: +971 (0)9 208 3344.
Updated: March 23, 2020 08:09 PM