Coronavirus: UAE residents plan overseas Eid getaways as restrictions ease

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Some residents in the UAE have planned an overseas getaway for the upcoming Eid break as more global destinations open up for visitors.

Holidaymakers said they felt confident opting to go abroad despite mandatory Covid-19 testing for all passengers coming into the country from August 1.

After closely monitoring the government travel updates, resident Allard de Monchy booked a trip home to Holland for three weeks. He will depart for Amsterdam on Thursday.

“I decided to go ahead with my plans after some friends flew to Amsterdam a few weeks ago said the whole process was manageable,” the 35-year-old told The National.

Unlike some places, I do not have to self-isolate when I land so that made the decision to go away a lot easier

Allard de Monchy

“I purchased my ticket last minute because I had to apply for the [GDRFA] permit to get back into the UAE on my return.

“The approval is only valid for 30 days so I had to apply for it as close to my departure date as possible. I couldn’t book my ticket on Emirates without it."

Mr de Monchy, a real estate agent, paid Dh3,900 for his ticket, about 20 per cent less than he usually would at this time of year.

He said he will not have to quarantine when he lands in Amsterdam.

“Unlike some places, I do not have to self-isolate when I land so that made the decision to go away a lot easier,” he said.

“I just have to sign a waiver at the airport when I land stating I don’t have symptoms.

“On the way back to Dubai I will have to get a Covid-19 test within 96 hours of my flight leaving but I’ll just check that out online or go to the same place as my friends.

“The planning process has been a bit different this time, quite rushed, but I wanted to play it by ear and wait for any updates."

From Saturday, August 1, all passengers - including residents - must secure a Covid-19 negative certificate from an approved testing centre before they board flights to the UAE.

Emirates resumes flights today to nine destinations. The Dubai airline has announced a range of upgraded health and safety procedures for flights to protect travellers during the pandemic. Courtesy Dirk Grothe

Protective barriers have been installed at Dubai International Airport at each check-in desk and immigration counter to provide additional safety reassurance to passengers and employees during interaction over the counter. Courtesy Emirates 

Emirates has introduced complimentary hygiene kits to be given to every passenger upon check in at Dubai International Airport and on flights to Dubai. These kits comprise of masks, gloves, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser. Courtesy Emirates

The gloves and face masks must be worn throughout the airport and face masks are compulsory on all Emirates flights.

Emirates has added a cabin service assistant to flights with a journey time of more than 90 minutes. This crew member will ensure lavatories are cleaned at frequent intervals of  45 mins. Courtesy Emirates

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Additionally, all residents have to apply for permission to return to the Emirates before booking their original outbound flight.

This can be done through the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs for those in Dubai. Others can apply through the federal government’s Twajudi system.

Paulo Oliveira, 28, a management consultant in Dubai, said he was travelling back home to Lisbon, Portugal on Thursday to see his family. He hopes to return to Dubai in mid-August but is concerned about potential changes to travel guidelines in the interim period.

"More important than simplifying the process is ensuring proper and clear communication,” he said.

Eid al Adha holiday signs.

Eid al Adha holiday signs.

Eid al Adha holiday signs.

Eid al Adha holiday signs.

Eid al Adha holiday signs.

Eid al Adha holiday signs.

Eid al Adha holiday signs.

Eid al Adha holiday signs.

Eid al Adha holiday signs.

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Mr Oliveira will have to take a Covid-19 test in Portugal before returning to the UAE but said he is looking forward to finally getting away.

Vitor Sousa, a Portuguese managing director in Dubai, also travelled to Lisbon earlier this week to make the most of the long Eid weekend.

He said he arrived at the airport early to allow for additional screening measures before boarding and already secured his GDRFA approval for when he returns to the UAE.

"I travelled to my home country to see my family because I felt homesick," he said.

"We felt healthy and tried to abide by all the safety guidelines and be careful and respectful to others."

Travel agents reflect on changing times

Maggie Bootsman, general manager of Travel Counsellors in the UAE, a company that arranges bespoke holidays, said travel trends have changed dramatically during the pandemic.

“Most of our business over the last few months has been staycations,” she said.

“When the Eid holiday dates were announced, we had a massive up-shift in staycation sales for the UAE.

Though bookings for overseas trips have dipped since the Covid-19 outbreak, she said some global destinations have tweaked their package deals to attract tourists.

“The Maldives were one of the first places to react when the UAE announced that PCR tests into the country would be mandatory from August 1,” she said.

“Now, some places in the Maldives have introduced testing at the resort.

“The samples are sent to the mainland to be certified by a government approved facility which will determine if a person can fly or not.

"We have had a few bookings for the Maldives for the Eid break and some from people travelling back to their home country."

Basel Abu Alrub, managing partner at Utravel in Dubai, said there would be a reduced demand for leisure trips this summer.

“The majority of people do wish to travel however they are keeping their options as narrow as going back to their home country to visit family members,” he told The National.

“Even that is being hindered by the lack of clarity on requirements and/or strict quarantine restrictions in the receiving country.

“This is a discouraging factor for short trips because if a 14-day quarantine is required, it does not make any sense for a short getaway.”

The price of tickets had gone up as much as 30 per some on some routes and airlines, he said. And additional costs, including Covid-19 travel insurance and mandatory PCR testing before returning to the UAE, was "discouraging many, especially families, from travelling".

Updated: July 29, 2020 12:53 PM

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