The chairman of Dubai’s flagship airline is optimistic about a return between the United Arab Emirates and Great Britain – one of its key tourism and investment partners – even if a new variant of Covid-19 threatens to complicate plans to reopen.
The most emigrated desert sheikh cathedral of around 10 million was on the UK’s “Red List” for travel Mandatory hotel quarantine has been required for anyone arriving from the United Arab Emirates since mid-January, causing a hefty price tag of £ 1,750 (US $ 2,428) per person.
The Removal of the UAE from the United Kingdom’s “Safe Travel” corridor Earlier this year, an explosion of Covid-19 cases was triggered in both countries, triggered by a highly contagious variant of the disease first identified in the UK. Residents and executives are calling for the ban to be rethought.
“Our officials are already speaking and are taking this very seriously. They are talking to the government and officials there to ensure that we are removed from the Red List very soon,” said Emirates Chairman and CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum , opposite CNBC under the Arab travel market in Dubai on Monday.
The UK Foreign Office and Transport Department spokespersons were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC. The British Foreign Office is currently advising against “based on the current assessment of the COVID-19 risks from all but essential travel to the entire United Arab Emirates”.
Shoppers in protective masks walk near the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, January 27, 2021.
Christopher Pike | Bloomberg | Getty Images
When asked what it would take to lift the ban, Al Maktoum told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble, “I think you have to prove to the world first that we are in the top three countries to be vaccinated. That’s nearly 12 million people vaccinated so far and there are only nine 9.5 million people in the UAE. That should really make the UK government think we should be removed from the red list. “
The United Arab Emirates currently offers the second fastest vaccine campaign in the world after Israel in terms of vaccine doses per capita. According to the country’s health ministry, around 11.5 million doses of vaccine were administered on Monday. The emirates of the country have approved Sinopharm, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Russia’s vaccines for Sputnik V for use, although the available shocks vary between the emirates.
Still, the new daily Covid-19 cases per capita in the United Arab Emirates are higher than in the UK. The reasons for this are uncertain, but have been attributed to everything from the UAE’s fully open economy to more frequent testing to suspicions about the effectiveness of the Sinopharm vaccine. These suggestions were not confirmed.
As a member of Dubai’s ruling royal family and as the head of one of the country’s largest corporations, the Emirates chairman has a particular influence – and both his company and the UAE are at significant stake over the travel ban.
The UAE-UK. Air routes were among the most popular by airlines before the pandemic started. The Red List designation also applies to many of the approximately 120,000 UK nationals who live and work in the UAE, as well as their families and Emiratis with real estate and businesses in London and elsewhere in the UK. British people who live in the UAE and want to visit their home country expressed confusion and anger on Westminster’s decision, particularly on the Red List hotel quarantine requirement.
“I’m sure they want to go home, their children want to go back and maybe see friends and family,” said Al Maktoum. “So I’m sure we’ll see a big moment of traffic in the next six months.”
However, caution should be exercised with the UK, which has experienced one of the longest cumulative blackout periods in the world. At the end of April, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We are not restricting the UAE due to the coronavirus level in the UAE. It is about transit.”
Critics of this statement say that any major city could act as a similar transportation hub and that there are ways to ensure that people don’t use Dubai – home to one of the world’s leading airports for passenger traffic – as a travel portal from more heavily infected countries.
The UAE has banned flights from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal in recent weeks amid a tidal wave of fatal cases that struck South Asia. A dangerous new variant of coronavirus believed to be behind the surge could complicate the UK’s long-awaited reopening after the lockdown, its leaders have warned.
The United Arab Emirates started reopening about a year ago after a tough lockdown in spring 2020 and reopened to tourism in July last year. Strict measures were taken to enable a fully reopened economy later.
It was only on Monday that the country’s commercial and leisure capital, Dubai, loosened the rules for major events and gatherings further, reinforcing the sense of relative “normality” that residents have enjoyed for months, accompanied by ongoing demands for mask-wearing and social distancing .
“I think when you look here everyone is really keeping their distance and wearing their mask,” said Al Maktoum. “The government really has very strict rules, you know, and that’s why we lived our normal lives.”