Under the sweeping new measures, citizens currently overseas have been told they cannot return to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a renewable two week period, the state-run Emirates News Agency reports.
Those traveling for business, visiting their country of origin, or vacationing outside the UAE have been advised to contact their local Emirati diplomatic mission for support, advice, and the facilitation of their return to the Emirates.
The suspension imposed by the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation comes into force from Thursday, March 19 at 12pm.
The Emirates is a global transit, tourism, and business hub. Only around 10% of those residing in the UAE are Emirati citizens, the rests are expatriate workers and their families who will all be affected by the new “temporary” regulations.
As of March 19, there are 133 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UAE, no fatalities and 22 full recoveries recorded.
The UAE has also put a halt on issuing new work permits and has stopped issuing visas on arrival for holders of exempted passports. The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation issued an indefinite suspension on the issuance of all types of labor permits from March 19. Intra-corporate transfers, Dubai Expo 2020 permits, and diplomatic passport holders are, however, exempted.
UAE Attorney General Hamad Al Shamsi declared that anyone returning to the UAE must home quarantine for 14 days. Violation of the isolation period is an offense and Al Shamsi promised the law would be strictly applied to anyone contravening the order.
Citizens and residents of the UAE are also, from Wednesday, March 18, banned from traveling abroad, until further notice.
“The decision stems from the eagerness to ensure the citizens’ safety and wellbeing in light of the rapid spread of the virus around the world, restrictions imposed on travel by countries, and the gradual suspension of flights,” the Ministry said.
Many international airlines are fighting for survival as the coronavirus pandemic rages on and state-owned UAE airlines Emirates and Etihad Airways have been hit hard.
On Thursday, March 19, Reuters reported Emirates has asked its approximately 21,000 cabin crew and 4,000 pilots to take unpaid leave as demand for international travel plummets under the cloud of COVID19.
According to an internal staff email seen by Reuters, Emirates told pilots, “you are strongly encouraged to make use of this opportunity to volunteer for additional paid and unpaid leave.”
Aviation industry body The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on MENA region governments to provide economic assistance to airlines in light of the disastrous effect COVID19 is having on the sector.
“Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is the top priority of governments. But they must be aware that the public health emergency has now become a catastrophe for economies and for aviation,” said IATA’s Director-General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac on March 19.
The demand for air travel to and from Dubai and Abu Dhabi is only set to decrease further as the UAE government’s new coronavirus measures come into force and worldwide travel restrictions further constrict global connectivity.