With the spread of coronavirus world-wide and its newly declared status as a pandemic, there are a lot of questions and misinformation being passed around social media with regards to traveling to different destinations. Below we list down all the things you need to know before traveling to Dubai.


Quick Summary

  1. Outbreak level: The UAE is at Level 2 status (similar to India), but healthcare infrastructure there is quite advanced. It is quite safe to travel to Dubai right now.
  2. Disruption to Tourism: Some attractions like Ferrari world in Dubai have been shut for March 15-31 as a precautionary measure and more could be coming soon.
  3. Travel restriction for Indians: The Indian government has imposed a compulsory quarantine for all passengers coming from or taking a transit flight from UAE for a maximum of 14 days

 

Current Status

First of all, it’s important to understand the extent of the outbreak in any country and how quickly it is spreading. The below numbers will give you a basic understanding of whether the disease is under control or not.

 

Indian Govt Advisory on Travel to UAE

  1. The Government has advised avoiding non-essential travel from India to all Covid-19 affected countries. Cases in the UAE have been spreading and a few Indian cases have happened after visiting Dubai so this is applicable.
  2. All Indian nationals entering India from any port will have to fill a self- declaration form to declare their travel history, phone number and address in India to health officials and immigration officials.
  3. While it hasn’t been imposed yet, those returning from the UAE could be asked to undergo self-imposed quarantine for 14 days from the date of their arrival if there are more cases there

Last updated on 14th March’20

 

What is the UAE Government doing about this?

Measures taken at the Port of Entry

  1. Thermal Scanning for all incoming passengers
  2. Thermal scanning and nasal swabs for –
    • Passengers showing symptoms of coronavirus
    • All passengers arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, Japan, France, Spain and Germany since 15th February 2020.

(Please note: Nasal swabs are transported to a Government-run/approved laboratory and may take between 24 to 36 hours to be diagnosed, during which time the patient will remain isolated in a well-equipped facility).

Health infrastructure to Contain and Treat Coronavirus

  1. All hospitals in the UAE are required to have isolation rooms to treat patients, so people can choose a hospital based on convenience.
  2. All treatment for the virus in the UAE is covered by the government or health provider.
  3. Anyone suspected of suffering from COVID-19 will be isolated immediately in a room with a negative pressure air-conditioning system, which is designed to prevent germs from escaping the room.
  4. If you are identified as a possible carrier, the hospital will likely send an ambulance staffed with paramedics in protective clothing to pick you up.

What Can You Do If You Experience Symptoms while in UAE?

The first thing you should do if you feel unwell and suspect you may have COVID-19 is pick up the phone and call the local emergency helplines. Public transport should be avoided at all costs to avoid spreading the virus further.

  • Emergency (general/police): 999
  • Emergency (ambulance): 997

Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre is answering questions and updating residents about the latest news on coronavirus in the country through messages on WhatsApp. The number is 056 231 2171.

For more information on the virus, people can also contact Estijaba Service on 8001717, Dubai Health Authority on 800342, or the Ministry of Health and Prevention on 80011111.

Last updated on 14th March’20

The Airport Experience

Arrival

  1. Many arriving in the UAE over recent days have reported progressing through arrivals as usual, while others have been delayed.
  2. Basic testing involves walking past thermal scanners, allowing officials to spot raised body temperatures that could be caused by fever.
  3. Some airports use handheld temperature scanners placed on a passenger’s forehead, which works in the same way and takes moments. Nasal swabs are used for more in-depth tests.
  4. Passengers who are swabbed may be held back until the results are ready. Any traveler who tests positive is likely to be taken to a medical facility and monitored.
  5. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is conducting a COVID-19 test on customers arriving from Beijing, Beirut, Rome, Milan, Venice, Bologna, Bangkok, and Phuket if Dubai is their final destination.
  6. Customers will be given DHA’s Health Declaration Forms, which they should complete and hand over to the DHA during the COVID-19 testing in Dubai.

Departure

Smart Gates (fast track gates for UAE residents) at Dubai International Airport and Dubai World Central will not be in operation for departing passengers from March 8 until further notice as a precautionary measure against coronavirus. Therefore, there may be long lines at passport control as these people would have to go through the normal process like non-residents. There have been no reported disruptions otherwise.

Last updated on 14th March’20

 

On The Ground Status

General Initiatives:

  1. Thermal scanners have been set up at malls and supermarkets across the country.
  2. Schools and Colleges have been suspended for 4 weeks, effective from March 8th. All schools, school buses and related facilities are being deep cleaned.
  3. Local municipalities are taking up mass sanitization of places of worship, Government offices, public parks, slaughterhouses and other public places.
  4. Abu Dhabi and Dubai have announced shisha bans, and both have introduced plans to allow some government staff to work from home.
  5. Authorities are calling on people visiting facilities such as salons, gyms, swimming pools, and others to be vigilant about preventive measures.

Tourism-specific Initiatives:

  1. Thermal scanners and nasal swabs at all ports of entry.
  2. Sites also increased deep-cleaning protocols to ensure public places can remain open and free of the virus.
  3. A number of live events, such as music concerts, art festivals and exhibitions, have been postponed as part of the ongoing safety measures.

There are no reported restrictions by the Government on travel & tourism within the country.

Last updated on 14th March’20

 

Ithaka’s Take

We strongly recommend all Indian travellers to avoid any international and domestic travel till April end. If you travel to UAE you will be put under compulsory quarantine for up to 14 days at a government facility.

While the total number of cases in the UAE seems to be on the rise, the overall number is still too small to panic over. Also, the healthcare system there is quite advanced (better than even Europe and the US) so even if you get infected, you will be taken good care of.

In light of the precautions taken by the Government, municipalities and health authorities, tourists can feel safe travelling to and within the UAE. We would, however, suggest that travellers keep an eye on the news and Ithaka’s blog – we will be posting regular updates and travel advisory as the situation evolves.

If you’re thinking of travelling from India to UAE, but want some flexibility, check out our recommended airlines.

Recommended Airlines to travel from India to UAE

  1. GoAir: Free cancellation and rescheduling on all bookings made between 8th March 2020 till 30th April 2020. The travel period will have to be between 8th March 2020 until 30th September 2020. The ZERO cancellation fees and ZERO rebooking fees will be applicable only if the customer opts for it 14 days before departure. When rescheduling a flight, fare differential, if any, will be applicable.
  2. Air Arabia: Free rescheduling and Free cancellation if Government restricts travel. However, if there are no such restrictions- on cancellation, customer can get refund of the amount paid minus AED 200 cancellation charges in the form of a non-transferable voucher valid for 1 year. Rescheduling penalty is AED 200 and customer will have to pay fare difference. Changes have to be made at least 24hrs prior to travel.
  3. Indigo: Cancellation fee is applicable. However, upto 3 days prior to the flight, change fee is waived. Therefore, only fare difference has to be paid for rescheduling.
  4. Emirates: Change fees and reissue fees are not applicable to tickets issued on/before Tuesday 31 March 2020. Cancellation and refund fees are not applicable to bookings made between Saturday 7 March 2020 and Tuesday 31 March 2020, regardless of travel date. Flights maybe re-routed and if there is a difference in the airfare or applicable taxes, due to the reissue/reroute of the ticket, the additional amount will need to be paid.

Other carriers making similar provisions include Spicejet, Etihad and Air India.

For further inquiry and details, kindly reach out to Ithaka. We’re happy to help 😊

Last updated on 14th March’20

Sources

  1. Khaleej Times
  2. Gulf News
  3. The National
  4. High Commission of India