In a blow to travelers, the UAE has extended its flight ban on passengers from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh until August 1st. The move comes despite news of the country looking to slowly ease travel restrictions. For now, only a handful of travelers can fly to the UAE under the restrictions.
In a statement, UAE flag carrier Etihad has confirmed that flights that travelers from South Asian countries cannot fly until August 1st. The extension affects travelers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Separately, bans from South Africa and Nigeria have also been extended until the same date.
With the rules unchanged, only three types of travelers can fly to the UAE. These are, UAE citizens, diplomats on official duty, and holders of the golden residency visa. All non-nationals on any visa who have been in the banned countries in the last 14 days cannot enter the UAE.
The news will come as another blow to the many passengers stranded in South Asia due to the ban. The UAE banned travelers from India on 22nd April and added the other countries in mid-May, as the highly infectious Delta variant caused an increase of cases. However, even after cases have fallen to a fraction of Spring levels, the UAE has maintained its ban for now.
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The ban is particularly hard for separated families, many of whom came home to care for loved ones during the second wave in April, and for those working in the UAE. The only way to currently fly to the country is to spend 14 days in a non-banned country, but options are limited, even for vaccinated travelers.
There was a glimmer of hope last month when Dubai announced that it would ease travel measures for travelers. Passengers from India with residency visas could enter if they were fully vaccinated and completed three tests from 23rd June. However, this decision never went into effect, with the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) extending restrictions as usual.
Previously, the ban was set to expire on July 15th. This led to rampant speculation that the UAE would resume flights, with airlines selling tickets once again. However, with the date now come and gone, the GCAA has reaffirmed that the ban will remain until July 30th.
Airports around India have been preparing for the original restart since June 23rd, according to the Khaleej Times. 10 international airports now have rapid COVID testing labs to process results as required by the UAE’s proposed rules. However, there has been no use of them just yet.
Following the confusion of the last four weeks, it will take an official statement from the GCAA to confirm a restart of flights. For now, there seems to be no set date for when services will resume, with thousands hoping for an August restart.