The UAE’s Health Minister issued a statement today urging “citizens and residents to avoid traveling abroad due to the spread of COVID-19 in multiple countries.”
The call falls short of a complete travel ban, but the warning that those returning from overseas will be dealt with “at the discretion of competent authorities” may be enough to keep people at home.
“Those who travel may face preventative measures upon their return to the UAE—at the discretion of competent authorities – including undergoing medical checks at the airport and a 14-day home quarantine,” the statement advised.
“Those who test positive will be transferred to a designated health facility for treatment and quarantine to ensure their safety and to avoid contact with others.”
AP News reports that a group of 215 foreigners, including Egyptian, Sudanese, and Yemeni nationals, evacuated from Hubei in China have already placed under quarantine in the Emirates Humanitarian City.
The UAE has confirmed 27 cases of COVID-19 to date. Health and airport authorities were quick to implement thermal screening of passengers on selected flights including those originating in Thailand, Lebanon, Syria, and Italy.
The UAE is a major global travel hub and home to Dubai Airport, the world’s busiest international passenger and freight airport. It’s also the home base of major international airlines Emirates and Etihad Airways.
At present, UAE civil aviation and health authorities have suspended all scheduled flights between Dubai and Bahrain, Iran, and China, with the exception of flights to Beijing.
Abu Dhabi’s flag carrier, Etihad, has also suspended flights to mainland China and Hong Kong, excluding Beijing routes. Both companies have reduced services on a number of routes and asked staff to take leave if possible.
Worldwide airline profits for 2020 are predicted to take a big hit as the COVID-19 outbreak affects travel. The global aviation industry body, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), revised its estimates up today and is now predicting revenue losses of between $63 billion and $113 billion for the passenger-carrying business alone.