Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Etihad Airways in United Arab Emirates extends suspension of flights through June 16 to combat COVID-19. Further restrictions possible.

This alert affects United Arab Emirates

This alert began 30 Apr 2020 01:35 GMT and is scheduled to expire 16 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Transport, travel, and business disruptions, increased security

Summary
On April 29, United Arab Emirates (UAE) flag carrier and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways (EY) extended the suspension of passenger flights through June 16 as part of the country's efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This is the second extension in the past week; Etihad announced April 25, the suspension of passenger flights through May 16. Etihad and Dubai-based Emirates Airlines (EK), however, have been operating outbound flights for foreigners who want to leave the UAE.

Authorities in UAE modified the existing nationwide nightly curfew to 2200-0600 for the month of Ramadan (April 23-May 24). The previous curfew was in effect from 2000-0600. Residents are only permitted to leave their homes for essential purposes, such as purchasing food, seeking medical assistance, and working in vital sectors. Supermarkets, grocery stores, and pharmacies will be permitted to operate 24 hours per day. However, produce markets, butcheries, bakeries, and mills will only be allowed to operate 0600-2200. Shops are required to adhere to health guidelines, such as ensuring the percentage of customers does not exceed 30 percent of the store's capacity at any given time and that there is a distance of at least 2 meters (6.5 feet) between customers.

The UAE Identity and Citizenship Authority announced April 13 that all visas, entry permits, and identification cards that may have already expired will remain valid through Dec. 31, 2020, to mitigate the impact of the nation's COVID-19 restrictions. Officials will also extend residency visas that expired in early March through December 2020. Moreover, visit visas that expired in early March that are held by persons currently inside the UAE will similarly be extended through the end of 2020.

On April 13, Emirates announced it would begin operating a limited number of outbound international passenger flights from Dubai International Airport's (DXB) Terminal 3 to select destinations. Only citizens of the destination country will be permitted to board the flights. The airline has advised travelers to contact the company directly for further information. All departing passengers will be subject to thermal screening. Emirates had previously suspended all inbound and outbound passenger and transit flights starting March 24 to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Previously enacted restrictions in the UAE include:

  • On April 9, authorities extended the closure of places of worship until further notice.
  • Officials in Dubai suspended metro and tram services from April 5 until further notice.
  • Officials imposed a ban on entry to valid visa holders who are currently overseas through April 16. Officials initially imposed a two-week entry ban on visa holders March 19.
  • All government employees are required to work from home. Private sector companies and commercial establishments are also required to allow at least 80 percent of their employees to work from home. The order exempts companies in critical service sectors, such as security, health, food, logistics, delivery services, industrial and manufacturing, and banking.
  • Officials are imposing an indefinite prohibition on entry by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nationals, which entered into effect March 20.
  • Officials are imposing an indefinite ban on Emirati citizens traveling abroad since March 18. Work permits were suspended effective March 19, except for internal transportation permits and employment permits for Expo 2020.
  • Officials are suspending the issuance of all visas to foreigners, except those with diplomatic passports as of March 17.
  • Commercial ships entering UAE's ports are required to provide a statement detailing the health status of their crew 72 hours before arrival.
  • Major tourist sites and cultural venues, beaches, public parks, swimming pools, movie theaters, and gyms remain closed.



Background and Analysis
The UAE's travel restrictions and preventive measures are similar to actions other governments are taking globally in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Individuals affected by the restrictions should consider postponing planned travel. Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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