UAE, UK cooperate to repatriate stranded citizens amid coronavirus outbreak

The British embassy had earlier said it was working with the UAE government to allow chartered flights for its citizens who wish to return to the UK. (WAM)
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Updated 06 April 2020

UAE, UK cooperate to repatriate stranded citizens amid coronavirus outbreak

  • At least 43 flights were being organized to bring back 1,783 Emiratis stuck overseas

DUBAI: The UAE has authorized special flights to repatriate hundreds of Emiratis back to the country, as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, state-run WAM has reported.

The first group – Emiratis either studying or receiving medical treatment in the UK – was flown back to the UAE on April 5, 2020. Another group will be repatriated on April 7.

The UAE Ambassador to the UK, Mansoor Abulhoul, said: “The welfare of our citizens is our highest priority. That is why our government took strict measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus within the UAE. Such a firm obligation also means getting our citizens home safe and sound at this difficult time.”

At least 43 flights were being organized to bring back 1,783 Emiratis stuck overseas after countries banned international travel to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, 345 British citizens flew to the UK on a special flight on April 5, 2020 as part of the repatriation efforts.

The British embassy had earlier said it was working with the UAE government to allow chartered flights for its citizens who wish to return to the UK. Carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways had announced they were to operate such flights.

“The Ministry continues to organize clearances for flights to repatriate foreign nationals. At all times we have sought to minimize disruption to travelers’ lives, while limiting the spread of the COVID-19 in the UAE,” Sheikh Maktoum bin Butti Al-Maktoum, Director of the Dubai office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said.

Lebanese expats earlier on Sunday began their return to the country after the government reopened Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport to receive flights carrying nationals stranded overseas.


Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 2 min 2 sec ago

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.