Hotel quarantine 'imposed by February 8' for UAE-UK travellers

British authorities hope to have new quarantine system in place within days

Arrivals from the UAE tell of panic before travel ban

Arrivals from the UAE tell of panic before travel ban
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Travellers from the UAE will soon have to quarantine in hotels for 10 days after arriving in Britain, The National has learnt.

Direct flights between the two countries are suspended after the UAE was placed on a travel 'red list' on Friday, alongside Rwanda and Burundi.

Travellers with British or Irish passports, and official residents from other countries, are allowed to return via other routes but must isolate at home for 10 days.

Britain closed the route because of rising concerns over the virulent South African strain of Covid-19 being spread by visitors from the UAE.

Whitehall sources revealed the self-isolation rule could soon change, with new arrivals forced into hotel quarantine from next month.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28: An airplane flies over a Travelodge Hotel as it comes in to land at Heathrow Airport on January 28, 2021 in London, England. Arriving travellers from 22 "red list" countries including South Africa, South American countries and Portugal, will now need to quarantine in hotel rooms upon arrival to the UK. The measures have been introduced to prevent new strains of the covid-19 virus from taking hold here. Other countries have adopted this policy with travellers paying for their accommodation in designated hotels and are delivered meals during the quarantine period. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Travellers arriving in Britain from the UAE face hotel quarantine from February 8 after the Emirates was placed on a travel ‘red list’. Getty

“Once the system has been stood up, then those people arriving from the UAE will be going straight to the quarantine hotels,” a government source said. “At the moment, the hotel system has been announced and it is currently being implemented to get the system up and running.

“All countries on the ‘red list’ of designated ‘no travel’ will be subject to the hotel quarantine. Those who arrive from the UAE who do not have British or Irish passports or cannot prove residency will be sent back.”

Despite the ban on direct flights, it is understood that the government accepts some people in the UAE will try to fly into Britain via a third country, for example going through Istanbul from Dubai, within the next few days. If they make it before the hotel quarantine plan is introduced, these people will still have to self-isolate at home for 10 days.

This week, the UK government introduced a new rule for Britons returning from 30 high-risk countries, compelling them to pay to quarantine in a government-agreed hotel, and obliging them to remain in their rooms for 10 days.

People push their luggage as they leave the arrivals area at Heathrow Airport in London, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, during England's third national lockdown since the coronavirus outbreak began. The British government are on Tuesday expected to discuss whether to force some travellers arriving in the UK to quarantine in hotels to try to curb the spread of coronavirus. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
The last flights from the UAE arrived at London Heathrow Airport on Friday, as passengers scrambled to beat the travel ban deadline. AP

Government sources indicated the hotel system will come into effect on February 8. But it could be sooner if the department organising the quarantine can accelerate the process.

“We know this needs to be done as soon as possible and we are making every effort to do so,” a Whitehall source said.

The announcement on Thursday of the travel ban prompted a scramble to return to the UK.

Khalid Mugher, a businessman, was on the last Emirates flight to land at London’s Heathrow Airport before the ban came into effect. He said he had raced to get back to the UK after hearing the news.

He visited the hospital in the early hours of the morning to take a Covid-19 test, because a negative result is required for entry to Britain.

"The experience was very dramatic," he told The National. "I got a message from my son at 4am. I rushed to the hospital to get my Covid test and then rushed to get to the airport.

“I changed my flight, paid the extra money, all because of the government. There was a lot of stress.”

Nicola Bain, who was returning home to the UK after nine years in the UAE, said she learnt of the travel ban on arrival at Heathrow Airport. Her husband stayed behind in Abu Dhabi.

“He couldn’t make the flight as he had to stay behind and do a few things,” she said. “Now he’s stuck there. We don’t know what to do next.”

Meanwhile, British travellers stranded in the UAE have described how the short-notice flight ban has affected them as they scramble to find other routes home.

Jodie Frost, 38, a managing director from the UK, has been staying in an Airbnb in Dubai since travelling there on a business trip.

Tourists look at the skyline at sunset, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. Since becoming one of the world's first destinations to open up for tourism, Dubai has promoted itself as the ideal pandemic vacation spot. With peak tourism season in full swing, coronavirus infections are surging to unprecedented heights, with daily case counts nearly tripling in the past month, but in the face of a growing economic crisis, the city won't lock down and can't afford to stand still. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Britons have been left stranded in Dubai and Abu Dhabi after some travel plans were disrupted at the last minute. AP

"I heard the news last night and have been trying to figure out my next steps ever since," she told The National.

“I was due to fly to the UK on Saturday from Dubai. When I tried to bring my flight forward to Friday morning I was quoted nearly £2,000 ($2,741) for a ticket.

“I’m now in limbo and I’m staying in an Airbnb in Jumeirah Lakes Towers and I don’t know how long I need to extend for.”

Karen Lear, a long-term resident of Dubai, said her son was scheduled to fly to London Heathrow with Emirates on Sunday.

“Emirates have actually been really good this morning. They changed my son’s ticket to go to the UK via Munich in Germany on Sunday,” she said.

“He arrived in the UAE on December 10 but got Covid-19 just before Christmas, so extended his time here to recover and fulfil his quarantine.

“He was then furloughed from his job in the UK, so extended his trip to January 31, but then we heard the announcement last night.

“The UK government are changing things so quickly, with no notice, there is just no certainty for passengers and it’s very unsettling.”

Announcing the ban on Twitter, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Burundi and Rwanda were also added to the UK’s ‘red list’.

“[British] passengers must still have proof of a negative test and completed passenger locator form before arrival, or could face a £500 fine for each,” Mr Shapps said.

The Department of Transport said: “The decision to ban travel from these destinations follows the discovery of a new coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa, which may have spread to other countries, including the UAE, Burundi and Rwanda.

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

“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.”