UAE is in talks with UK about ‘red list’ travel ban, should be off list ‘soon,’ Emirates chairman says

The chairman of Dubai’s flagship airline is optimistic about a return to travel between the United Arab Emirates and the U.Ok. — considered one of its high tourism and funding companions — at the same time as a brand new Covid-19 variant threatens to complicate reopening plans.

The mostly-expatriate desert sheikhdom of roughly 10 million has been on the U.K.’s “red list” for travel since mid-January, requiring a compulsory resort quarantine for anybody arriving from the UAE, which runs up a hefty price ticket of £1,750 ($2,428) per particular person. 

The UAE’s removal from the U.K.’s “safe travel” corridor early this 12 months was triggered by an explosion of Covid-19 cases in each international locations, set off by a extremely contagious variant of the illness first recognized in the U.Ok. Now because the summer time months method and vaccination charges improve, residents and executives alike are calling for a rethink of the ban. 

“Our officials are already speaking and taking that very seriously; talking to the government and to the officials there to make sure that we should be very soon off the red list,” Emirates Chairman and Chief Executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum instructed CNBC on the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai on Monday.

Spokespersons for the U.Ok.’s Foreign Office and Transport Ministry weren’t instantly accessible for remark when contacted by CNBC. The U.Ok. Foreign Office presently “advises against all but essential travel to the whole of the United Arab Emirates based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.”

Shoppers sporting protecting masks stroll close to the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021.

Christopher Pike | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Asked what it might take for the ban to be lifted, Al Maktoum instructed CNBC’s Hadley Gamble: “I think first of all, you have to prove to the world that we are in the top three vaccinated (countries). That’s nearly 12 million people have been vaccinated so far, and in the UAE you have only nine 9.5 million people who live here. So that really should make the U.K. government think that we should be off the red list.”

The UAE presently boasts the second-fastest vaccine marketing campaign globally, after Israel, in phrases of vaccine doses per capita. According to the nation’s well being ministry, roughly 11.5 million vaccine doses have been administered as of Monday. Emirates in the nation have licensed Sinopharm, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines to be used, although the jabs accessible fluctuate between emirates.

Still, nonetheless, new day by day Covid-19 instances per capita in the UAE are greater than these in the U.Ok. The causes for this are unsure, however have been attributed to all the pieces from the UAE’s totally opened-up financial system and extra frequent testing to suspicions about the Sinopharm vaccine’s efficacy. Those solutions haven’t been confirmed. 

‘The difficulty is considered one of transit’

But for the U.Ok., which underwent one of many longest cumulative durations of lockdown in the world, warning is paramount. In late April, U.Ok. Transport Minister Grant Shapps stated: “We’re not restricting the UAE due to the level of coronavirus in the UAE. The issue is one of transit.”

Critics of this assertion say that any main metropolis might act as an analogous transit hub, and that there are methods of making certain that individuals aren’t utilizing Dubai — residence to one of many world’s high airports for passenger site visitors — as a travel gateway from extra highly-infected international locations. 

The UAE banned flights from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal in current weeks amid a tidal wave of lethal instances sweeping South Asia. A harmful new coronavirus variant believed to be behind the surge might complicate the U.Ok.’s personal long-awaited reopening from lockdown, its leaders have warned.   

‘Living our regular life’

The UAE started reopening from a harsh spring 2020 lockdown roughly a 12 months in the past and reopened to tourism final July, imposing strict measures to later allow a completely reopened financial system. 

Just on Monday, the nation’s business and leisure capital Dubai additional relaxed guidelines for big occasions and gatherings, including to the sense of relative “normality” that its residents have now been having fun with for months, accompanied by continued mask-wearing and social-distancing necessities.

“I think if you look here, everybody is really keeping their distance, wearing their mask,” Al Maktoum stated. “The government really put very strict rules, you know, and that’s why we ended up living our normal life.”

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