LONDON: Thousands of people have been left stranded or had their travel plans disrupted after the British government introduced a total ban on flights arriving from the UAE.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added the UAE to its “red list” of 30 countries with a total ban on arrivals at 1pm on Friday.
The Department for Transport said that the aim was “to prevent the spread of the new variant originally identified in South Africa into the UK.”
The short notice given for the ban, however, has caused significant disruption to people who were holidaying in Dubai — a popular destination for British tourists — as well as those traveling from elsewhere connecting through the UAE.
Dubai attracts more than one million tourists from the UK a year, and Emirati airlines Etihad and Emirates are normally used by thousands of British travellers every day.
British residents abroad elsewhere have been told to find alternative routes home that do not use the UAE as a connecting destination — but this has proved difficult for some travelers.
READ MORE: Dubai sets stricter rules for inbound visitors as COVID-19 cases surge
Mike Sweet told The Independent: “My 17-year-old son Alexander has been in Australia since early December to see his mother and siblings who he had not seen for more than a year.”
Alexander Sweet traveled out in full accordance with prevailing rules, but now faces significant challenges in returning home to continue his studies.
“He has final exams in May and he needs to return to study in the same time zone as his teachers,” his father said. “Now he can’t get back to the UK on his Emirates ticket through Dubai, we’re in a very difficult situation.”
Dubai has seen a significant spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, in part due to the relatively lax measures taken to counter the spread of the virus.
Many social media influencers, in particular, have highlighted the party atmosphere still available in Dubai — but this drew the attention of both the public and British ministers.
Home Secretary Priti Patel this week criticized people who used “loopholes” to travel to the UAE without technically breaking Covid-19 travel rules.
“We see plenty of influencers showing off where they are — mainly sunny places,” she said. “Going on holiday is not a valid reason to travel.”