Expo 2020 Dubai chief says vaccines encouraged but not mandatory for visitors

Reem Al Hashimy optimistic global vaccine programmes will allow millions to travel to the World Fair

ABU DHABI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , November 14  – 2018 :- Reem Al Hashimy , UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation speaking during the session on ‘The Future of Diplomacy: The Rules Are Changing – How Do Governments Keep Pace? at the Diplocon , Abu Dhabi Diplomacy Conference 2018 held at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort in Abu Dhabi. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Gill Duncan / Daniel Sanderson
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Expo 2020 Dubai organisers said they are positive about welcoming millions, as vaccinations are administered out around the world.

Reem Al Hashimy, director general of Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau and UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation, said she was optimistic of the situation improving as more and more people are inoculated globally.

“We are hopeful that in the next five months we are going to see a better and stronger overall picture,” she told CNBC.

"With a strong vaccination rollout in different parts [of the world] we are actually beginning to see finally the strong impact of vaccination and reduced ... prevalence of disease in society.

Vaccination is something that we're encouraging everybody to do. But we're not enforcing it on the regular tourist, or the regular visitor

“We may still end up with vortexes here and there that still remain difficult. But, by and large, we are hoping for more of a recovery.”

Ms Al Hashimy later told Bloomberg Daybreak that she would encourage everyone to get vaccinated and that the entire Expo 2020 workforce would be.

"Currently, vaccination is something that we're encouraging everybody to do, [for] all of our workforce it's going to be mandatory vaccination," she said.

“But we’re not enforcing it on the regular tourist or the regular visitor," she said.

Ms Al Hashimy said testing would be in place for visitors at various stages.

She gave the example of more than 170 foreign delegates who met in Dubai to discuss final preparations who were PCR tested on arrival at the airport, then tested ahead of the summit, followed by a rapid test on the day.

"Testing is an important measure but it's not foolproof. And that's why we're being very conscious of social distancing and also very conscious of masks."

She was also asked whether the event could be cancelled in the event of a worsening Covid-19 situation.

"No. We're not cancelling October 1, 2021. We're going to host this event, it's going to be a spectacular and great event," she told Bloomberg.

"This has been a 10-year journey. Everybody is keen on having this Expo."

Last month, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, said all foreign country representatives and pavilion staff, many of whom will live in Dubai for nine months or more, will be offered a Covid-19 vaccine.

Engineers and workers from dozens of nations are completing work on pavilions across the Dubai South site and planning events to attract tourists and residents.

The six-month expo begins in October. Organisers expect 25 million visits, with more than 190 countries confirming participation.

"Across 182 days, we remain confident that we will be able to attract that number," Ms Al Hashimy said.

Expo 2020 was postponed by a year because of Covid-19.

Ms Al Hashimy said that while the coronavirus situation had worsened in several countries, there was improvement in many others.

A strong vaccination programme in the US and plans for summer travel within Europe reflected the positive effect of the inoculation drives.

“There are many pockets of the vaccination [drive] that will help ... populations recover and [will] be resilient to the disease,” she told CNBC.

The UAE is in regular conversation with governments, including the UK and the US, about travel bans that have restricted movement.

Strict rules, including social distancing, mask-wearing and managing visitor numbers, will be in place across the site and the city.

Ms Hashimy said she was optimistic and committed to delivering a successful event.

“We are realistic and we are practical. We are trying to find a balance between doing the right thing by our overall health and global health,” she said.

“It is important that livelihoods as well be taken into account and it is important that we learn to live responsibly with this virus.”