Coronavirus: the UAE families going ahead with summer holiday plans during pandemic

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - As schools finish for summer, families in the UAE are going ahead with holiday plans despite a number of safety stipulations placed on travellers.

As more commercial flights abroad opened up this month, UAE residents said they felt more “confident” to visit friends and loved ones overseas.

While guidelines and precautions remain in place when entering and exiting different countries - including a 14-day quarantine in some places - many said they were happy to change their itineraries for the sake of a break.

A number of holidaymakers who spoke to The National welcomed the ease in global travel restrictions but said the “ever-changing news updates” related to Covid-19 made planning a trip more difficult.

Laura Charlesworth, 37, did question whether her family should travel this summer but ultimately decided to book a trip home.

“We landed in the UK on Saturday morning,” the expectant mother-of-one said.

We weighed up the risks of leaving but felt it was important for our physical and mental health to try and get back to the UK

Laura Charlesworth

“We didn’t have to complete any laborious forms other than the UK government declaration with details of where we’re staying while here.

“My husband and I are both teachers and we’ll be in the UK until August 19, so fortunately for us the mandatory two week quarantine on arrival wasn’t an issue."

As per the latest Foreign and Commonwealth office advice, all travellers entering the UK from the UAE need to provide their journey and contact details “up to 48 hours before” travel.

All passengers have to self-isolate in their home or accommodation for the first 14 days too.

“We have followed the situation closely and weighed up the risks of leaving but felt it was important for our physical and mental health to try and get back to the UK,” Ms Charlesworth said.

“As things are changing so much, we really haven’t been too worried about getting stuck here.

“If that happens we’ll deal with it as and when but there’s no point worrying about what hasn’t happened yet."

She said they were "lucky" to be in a position where they could work remotely if it came to that.

Another teacher based in Abu Dhabi, who asked not to be named, said he was travelling to the UK on Monday for two weeks.

Usually, his family would stay in the UK for the full summer but his plans were cut short this year due to the pandemic.

“My family and I went and got tested on Saturday and it came back negative, which was a relief,” he said.

“To leave the UAE we haven’t had to change anything specific with our plans, we just did the test, but we have to self-isolate when we get to the UK as the UAE is not on UK-approved list for non-isolation, which is surprising.

“We have a family home in the UK and we’re happy to spend two weeks chilling out there!.

“The rules to return are still a bit of an unknown but we will seek whatever approval and also get tested regardless.”

Dr Sukhant Bagdia, a pulmonologist whose hospital handled 50 patients at the height of the outbreak, warned against all but essential travel this summer. Chris Whiteoak / The National

General practitioner Dr Sugandhna Malan processes travellers as they rush to get a test 48 hours before they fly. Chris Whiteoak / The National

NMC Royal Hospital in Investments Park had a dedicated ward for about 50 Covid-19 Dubai at the height of the outbreak. Today it has no virus patients. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Dr Nihas Salins, hospital administrator, said day to day operations are dominated by people looking to get tested before they fly. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Staff nurse Swetha Panayamthatta dressed in full PPE gear as a precaution. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Tests are collected and processed as fast as possible. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Dr Sugandhna Malan also sees a lot of commuters who need to be tested to enter Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Much of the hospital's work is testing prospective travellers looking to go on holiday this summer. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Like many, he said people choosing to go abroad just need to be “responsible” and make decisions based on the prevalence of coronavirus in each destination.

Though there has been an ease up in travel restrictions, all residents returning to the UAE, except those from Dubai, have to be tested in the country they were in before boarding a flight to the Emirates.

On their return, travellers must take another coronavirus test and isolate themselves for two weeks.

Rami Al Hashemi, a property consultant in Dubai, said he wanted to travel home to Lebanon but was still undecided.

“I was thinking to go to Lebanon but I'm not sure now because the situation there is not great,” he said.

“If not, I might go to Georgia or Kyrgyzstan for an Eid vacation, whatever works so I can just get away.

“I will just choose a country which has fewer restrictions and more freedom to get in and out, without too much hassle.”

While Emirates has resumed flights to Beirut from Dubai, passengers travelling from the UAE must obtain a negative Covid-19 test before flying.

Mr Al Hashemi said he doesn’t mind all the “new form-filling” when entering or exiting a country, but was concerned about getting “stuck overseas” if local governments change their rules last minute.

“I will just play it by ear and choose a destination that has low prevalence and is accepting visitors,” he said.

Updated: July 5, 2020 05:27 PM

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