Passport holders who qualify for a visa-on-arrival when entering the UAE will not be affected by new travel restrictions announced by the government on Saturday.
The Federal Authority for Identity issued a temporary suspension of entry visas into the Emirates, effective Tuesday, to curb the spread of Covid-19.
In response to a number of queries about suspension, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs have since clarified the rules surrounding the decision.
In an updated message on its customer support line, it said some travellers will be exempt from the move.
“Please be informed that all types of entry visa issuance has been temporarily suspended until further notice, except diplomatic passport holders and visa-on-arrival,” it said.
An updated alert on the Dubai Airports website confirmed the same.
It said it did not apply to passengers holding diplomatic passports, those who have had visas issued prior to March 17 or passengers who hold passports from a list of 45 countries including the UK, Canada, Australia and the US.
"These passengers can continue to travel to and from the UAE although may be subject to additional screening," it said.
All flights to and from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Turkey will be halted from March 17, until further notice.
Several UAE residents said the new visa restrictions has scuppered plans to meet friends and loved ones in the coming weeks. But all agreed that it was a necessary measure given the escalation of the virus, globally.
After a four month courtship over the phone, Fawaz Chehab Eddin was about to meet his future fiance on Sunday. He was due to travel to Damascus from Ajman to get to know his prospective in-laws and propose.
She had planned out every hour of his two-week visit, but their engagement plans were put on hold on Saturday, the eve of his departure, when news broke that flights between the Emirates and Syria were to be suspended from March 17.
“In my situation, there is no plan B,” said Mr Chehab Eddin. “I just have to wait until I can fly. My plan B is waiting.”
Mr Chehab has put his suitcase of gifts aside for now.
“It’s just temporary. It’s absolutely disappointing but we can’t do anything in this situation, we have just to delay our plan for a month or two until everything is back to normal.”
Salma, 32, a Dubai resident, had planned to fly home to Lebanon when she heard her father could be ill, but had to postpone plans after flights between the UAE and Lebanon were suspended.
“His test results should come out this week but if it’s bad, I can’t go,” said Salma, who did not want to give her last name.
“Even if I wouldn’t travel, it’s different not being able to go if I want to.”
Now, she will have to wait.
“What else can I do? There is no other option.
“Many people are dealing with the same thing. I have friends all over the world, and everyone is dealing somehow with something similar.”
Laura Morgan, a mother-of-two, was concerned that limits to tourist visas could mean her family will not be able to help her with child care. Her mother, sister and aunt had planned to visit from the UK and Australia later this month. Currently, they will still be able to enter with visas-on-arrival as British citizens but this could change as travel measures are revised daily.
Many parents like Ms Morgan have asked relatives abroad to visit and help provide support because schools and nurseries to limit the spread of Covid-19.
“If people don’t have extra help they rely on their family being able to help them,” said Mrs Morgan.
“It is what it is. I think everyone is struggling. Obviously, when you’re an expat it just feels a little more uncertain. I know a lot of people had family coming out for the next couple of weeks.”
Many countries have imposed major travel restrictions in recent days due to Covid-19. In the United States, immigration issued a ban on non-Americans who had spent time in the Schengen border-free area within 14 days of travelling to the US.
In other news on Sunday, the Department of Economic Development in Dubai said massage parlours and spas in the city would be closed until the end of the month to contain the spread of the virus. The announcement did not apply to beauty salons, however.
In addition, cinemas, theme parks, gyms and public parks would also remain closed until further notice.