UAE-UK travel ban: your questions answered

Direct flights between the UK and UAE, Rwanda and Burundi to cease from Friday

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Direct passenger flights between the UK and the UAE are suspended and the UK has barred non-citizens from entering the country from the Emirates.

The move, which also applies to those hoping to travel to the UK from Rwanda and Burundi, comes after the British government tightened travel restrictions for dozens of countries.

The latest decision was announced by the UK's Department of Transport on Thursday night to minimise travel across international borders and reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

What does this mean for British citizens in the UAE and how can they travel to their home country now? The National explains.

What just happened?

The UK added the UAE to its "red list", suspending passenger flights between the two countries and banning the entry of travellers unless they have British or Irish passports or residence rights.

Those allowed to enter will have to self-isolate at home for 10 days. They can do this at home and will not be forced to quarantine at hotels.

The announcement was made by the UK's Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Twitter.

"From 1pm on Friday 29 January, passengers who have been in or transited through the United Arab Emirates, Burundi and Rwanda in the last 10 days will no longer be granted access to the UK," a UK Department of Transport statement read.

"This does not include British and Irish nationals, or third-country nationals with residence rights in the UK, who will be able to enter the UK but are required to self-isolate for 10 days at home, along with their household."

Any exemptions usually in place will not apply, including for business travel.

When does the ban begin?

From Friday, January 29, at 1pm UK time - 5pm UAE time. At that time, non-eligible passengers will be barred from entering Britain.

Dubai Airports responded to the announcement and advised passengers to book alternative travel.

"Passengers booked for travel on flights due to arrive in the UK after this time should not go to Dubai International airport (DXB) and should contact their airline for more information," it said.

"British, Irish and third-country nationals with residence rights in the UK will still be allowed to enter the UK and options to travel via intermediate points may be available.

"Entry requirements apply. Please see the UK government website for the latest updates."

Why was the decision made?

The UK government said the decision was in response to "new evidence showing the likely spread of a coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa".

It is understood the British government was concerned about the UAE’s status as an international air travel transit centre with people flying from South Africa via the Emirates into Britain to escape a travel ban.

What does this mean for British citizens in the UAE?

British, Irish and third country citizens with residence rights in the Emirates can still travel back to the UK and are not banned from entering. But they can not fly direct from the UAE and will have to enter the UK via another destination.

All who arrive in the UK will have to isolate at home for 10 days on arrival. They will not be released from isolation through Test to Release.

If returning to the UK, passengers must have proof of a negative test and have completed a Passenger Locator Form before arrival. Failure to produce either of these documents could result in a £500 ($685) fine for each, Mr Shapp said.

The UK embassy in the UAE called on citizens traveling to the UK to call a 24-hour number +971 4 309 4444 or +971 2 610 1100 if they need assistance.

Rules for travellers from the UAE to Britain were tightened this week with passengers required to have a negative Covid test up to 72 hours before departure – down from the previous 96 hours.

Previously the UAE, with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Israel and Qatar, had been among more than 50 nations included in a travel corridor with the UK that exempted travellers from testing or having to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival in the UK. This agreement ceased this month.

How will this affect flights between the UAE and UK?

A UK Department of Transport statement on Thursday said: "British nationals currently in the UAE should make use of the commercial options available if they wish to return to the UK. Indirect commercial routes that will enable British and Irish nationals and residents to return to the UK continue to operate.”

The UK embassy in the UAE said British citizens seeking to return to their home country would not be able to fly directly to the UK from the UAE after 5pm on Friday because no flights will be allowed to land from the Emirates after that time.

Etihad is operating three flights daily between Heathrow and Abu Dhabi. Emirates runs at least four daily flights to the UK. And British Airways also has services between the UK and UAE.

Who else will this affect?

The move is expected to cause much disruption for travellers seeking to return to the UK from the UAE and via the Emirates as well as the hundreds of thousands of British citizens who live in the UAE.

Anyone hoping to travel to the UK must now book indirect flights and isolate on arrival.

People planning to travel to the UK from Asia and Australasia via Abu Dhabi or Dubai will have their onward flights cancelled.

The decision could also cause issues for British flight crew seeking to return home.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, May 6, 2020. the new Ambulatory Healthcare Services, a SEHA Health System Facility, National Screening Project in Mussafah Industrial Area in Abu Dhabi.  --  Jennifer Ebuen- 27, from the Philippines gets a swab test.
Victor Besa / The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Nick Webster
A woman undergoes a PCR test at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. As of January 28, the UAE carried out more than 25 million DPI and PCR tests. The National

How has the UAE responded?

The UAE announced it would extended visit visas for British travellers affected by the UK's decision, without charge.

State media Wam reported the UAE would "maintain its role as an important travel and logistics hub while adhering to the highest standards of health and safety".

Hend Al Otaiba, director of strategic communications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, said the cornerstone of the UAE's fight against the pandemic was PCR testing.

"In light of new variants in other parts of the world, the UAE intensified efforts to mitigate these risks. New measures include requiring PCR tests for incoming travellers, imposing restrictions on entertainment venues, further limiting gatherings, and implementing awareness campaigns for the general public in a transparent and open manner," she said.

"We are confident of our ambitious vaccination programme that is ranked second globally in doses administered per capita and have every confidence in our medical infrastructure and frontline workers."

What other countries are on the list?

Burundi and Rwanda were added to the UK's red list on Thursday. They join 30 other countries already subject to a travel ban from the UK.

How have airlines affected by the travel ban reacted to the news?

According to the latest update on its website, Emirates will suspend passenger services between Dubai and its four operating UK points, Birmingham, Glasgow, London and Manchester.

The airline’s last flights to the UK on January 29 are EK 07 and EK 01 to London Heathrow, EK 39 to Birmingham and EK 27 to Glasgow.

The last flights departing from the UK are EK 08 and EK 02 from London Heathrow, EK 40 from Birmingham and EK 28 from Glasgow.

“We regret the inconvenience caused, and affected customers should contact their booking agent or Emirates call centre for rebooking,” Emirates said.

On Etihad’s website, it advised customers to continue checking for updates because it is an evolving situation.

"Following the latest UK government directives, from 1pm (GMT) on 29 January 2021 all Etihad passenger flights to the UK have been suspended until further notice," it said.

"Flights departing the UK remain unaffected and will operate as scheduled.

"Etihad is working closely with impacted guests to notify them of the changes to their itineraries and rearrange travel plans."

Guests who bought their tickets through a travel agent were advised to contact the agency from which they purchased their ticket for assistance.