Coronavirus: UAE calls on citizens to return home amid increasing travel restrictions

The announcement comes amid increasing international travel restrictions

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The UAE has called on its citizens living or working abroad to return home to the country amid the increasing spread of coronavirus.

Government officials said that in light of mounting travel restrictions posed by the pandemic, Emiratis should attempt to head back home.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation also urged any Emirati who found themselves unwell while abroad to contact the relevant UAE embassy to arrange for their safe return.

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and many flight restrictions around the world, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation urges all UAE nationals currently outside the country to return home,” a statement said.

“The ministry also asks students and patients that they contact the UAE embassies in they countries they are in to coordinate a safe return.”

Over recent days, all non-essential foreign travel has been discouraged by authorities in the Emirates, and several routes, including all flights to Iran, have been suspended by UAE airlines.

Etihad Airways has also announced a temporary suspension of all flights to and from a string of destinations, including Milan and Rome in Italy, from Saturday, March 14 onwards.

Other routes suspended by the airline to and from the UAE include Shanghai, Chengdu and Hong Kong in China; Nagoya in Japan via Beijing; Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Medina in Saudi Arabia; Istanbul; Beirut; Casablanca and Rabat in Morocco; Madrid and Barcelona in Spain; and Amman in Jordan.

In addition, from Tuesday March 17, Emirates Airline will suspend flights to 30 global destinations, including Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Cyprus, Malta (via Larnaca) and Portugal.

All flights between Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey and the UAE have already been suspended, with only those with diplomatic passports and people eligible for visa-on-arrival being exempt from the move.

Coronavirus: What is a pandemic?

Coronavirus: What is a pandemic?

On Monday, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed reassured UAE residents that the country had enough supplies of food and medicine to address the challenges raised by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces said the Emirates was “faring well” and that early containment precautions were proving effective.

“In the UAE, we have adopted rational and early advanced precautionary measures before other countries around us to stand up to the challenge," he said.

"Therefore, the infection tally in the UAE is less thanks to our early response to contain the virus at its onset."

There have now been more than 182,000 cases of Covid-19 recorded worldwide.

Europe, the new epicentre of the outbreak, has announced it will close its borders at lunchtime on Tuesday for 30 days in an effort to contain the disease.

Italy has been particularly hard-hit, with almost 28,000 cases and more than 2,100 deaths. So far, 2,749 people have recovered in the country, which has imposed a nationwide lockdown.

France, which has more than 6,600 confirmed cases, has ordered people to stay at home for at least 15 days.

The UK stands alone in a more restrained approach to contain the outbreak.

After initially advising the public to stay at home if feeling unwell, the country changed its policy on Monday after attracting significant criticism, including from the World Health Organisation.

UK residents should now avoid going to pubs, clubs, restaurants and theatres, and work from home if they can.

People over the age of 70 should self-isolate, and if someone is sick within a family, every family member should remain at home, the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.