The United Kingdom has banned direct passenger flights to and from the United Arab Emirates from Friday due to worries over the spread of a more contagious and potentially vaccine-resistant COVID-19 variant, first identified in South Africa. Britain has added the UAE, Burundi and Rwanda to its coronavirus travel ban list for the same reason.
"This means people who have been in or transited through these countries will be denied entry, except British, Irish and third country nationals with residence rights who must self-isolate for 10 days at home," UK Transport Minister Grant Shapps said on Twitter on Thursday. Shapps added that passengers allowed to enter the UK would need proof of a negative test and a completed passenger locator form before arrival, or could face two £500 fines.
The UK's move to ban direct passenger flights to and from the UAE has resulted in the shutting down of the world's busiest international airline route from Dubai to London. The UAE was the most popular long-haul destination in November 2020, with 84,500 passengers travelling to and from the country, according to the Civil Aviation Authority. Other popular destinations were were India (54,000), Qatar (38,000) and Vietnam (36,000).
Soon after the UK announcement, Emirates and Etihad Airways—the two major airlines from the Middle East—said on their websites they would suspend all UK passenger flights from 1300 GMT on Friday when the ban takes effect, as per a Reuters report. Emirates, on its website, said flights to Birmingham, Glasgow, London and Manchester will be suspended. Last flight to the UK will reach London Heathrow 3.12pm UAE time (11.12am UK time) on Friday, just less than two hours before the suspension comes into force.
Similarly, Etihad also announced suspension of direct flights between Abu Dhabi and UK airports. However, those who have already booked their tickets can travel when the flight service restarts, the Abu Dhabi-based airline said on its website.
Dubai airport, in a statement, advised passengers booked on flights due to arrive in the UK after the ban comes into effect to not go to the airport and instead contact their airline.
The new additions to the UK's "red list" means travel is now banned from 33 countries, reported BBC.