As the coronavirus outbreak continues worldwide, many airlines have cancelled flights and countries have placed various travel bans.
While people in the UAE have been advised not to travel unless absolutely essential, there are still quite a few changes that have taken place.
The Emirates Woman team have rounded up key changes to travel you need to know about in the UAE. To stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus developments, visit the Department of Health’s COVID-19 website.
Changes to entry visas
All entry visas to the United Arab Emirates are to be suspended effective as of March 17.
In a statement issued by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, the organisation said the decision has been made as a precautionary measure in order to contain the spread of coronavirus. This comes after the World Health Organisation announced the spread of the outbreak was now considered a pandemic.
“The ICA affirms that the decision stems from the UAE’s deep sense of responsibility and diligent efforts in collaboration with other countries of the world to fight the coronavirus pandemic and survive this ongoing crisis,” the statement added.
There is no firm date as to when the suspension will be lifted, but it will reportedly stay in effect until the implementation of medical screening measurements for those arriving in the UAE.
However, following the statement from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, Dubai Airports issued their own statement clarifying the changes to entry visas stating that some countries are exempt from the. suspension.
“Effective March 17, UAE authorities have temporarily suspended the issuance of all entry visas,” the statement on the Dubai Airports website said. “This does not apply to those passengers holding diplomatic passports or those who have had visas issued prior to March 17.
“It also does not apply to passengers who hold passports from the following countries. These passengers can continue to travel to and from the UAE although may be subject to additional screening.”
People from these countries are exempt from the visa ban: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy (from Rome only), Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Vatican, United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Abu Dhabi Terminal 2 temporarily closes
Following the cancellation of many flight routes, Abu Dhabi Airport has announced the temporary closure of Terminal 2. All existing flights will be migrated to Terminal 1 until further notice.
While it hasn’t been confirmed, given other the other local shutdowns are to take place until the end of March it’s likely it will be the same for AUH’s Terminal 2.
As part of our continuous efforts to provide exceptional service to our airline partners and passengers, we are announcing the closure of Terminal 2 and migrating all existing flights to Terminal 1 at AUH.#AbuDhabiAirport #AUH #AbuDhabi pic.twitter.com/2FgvpScSq3
— Abu Dhabi Airport (@AUH) March 16, 2020
Emirates launches thermal screening, extra cleaning measures
As of March 12, Emirates has implemented thermal screening measures for passengers travelling to the to the US from Dubai International Airport.
Thermal scanners have been placed at all departure gates of US flights.
In a statement from the airline it was confirmed if any passenger is found to have a higher than normal temperature, they will undergo further testing”.
There are plans for the airline to roll out thermal screening procedures for all flights leaving Dubai.
Furthermore, all Emirates flights between Dubai and Italy have now been suspended. A total of 1,809 people have now died in Italy from COVID-19.
In terms of keeping their aircrafts clean Emirates has stated it has “implemented proactive and voluntary measures to ensure a safe flying experience with enhanced cleaning and complete disinfection protocols in over 248 aircraft departing Dubai each day”.
“The airline utilises high-grade cleaning chemicals proven to kill viruses and germs, leaving a long-lasting protective coating against viruses, bacteria and fungi on surfaces,” the statement outlined. “The comprehensive cleaning process includes a thorough wiping down all cabin surfaces, in addition to other normal procedures such as changing head rest covers on all seats, replacement of reading materials, vacuuming, amongst other cleaning activities.”
If any Emirates aircraft is has transported a suspected or confirmed coronavirus case “further deep cleaning including the defogging of cabin interiors and misting with disinfectant across all soft furnishings, and replacement of seat covers and cushions in the affected area”.
“The aircraft’s state-of-the-art air circulation system, utilising HEPA cabin air filters, will also be replaced,” the airline has confirmed.
Changes to flights
For changes to flights with Emirates, the airline has given passengers an “additional peace of mind”. For those who made any bookings prior to March 31, all change and reissuance fees for rescheduling flight dates will be waived.
Additionally, cancellation and refund fees will be waived for any bookings made between March 7 and March 31, 2020, regardless of passengers’ travel dates.
Etihad Airways has also offered similar waivers on fees. On their website, the airline states passengers who had tickets issued on or before March 5, who were advised not to travel from the UAE, can change their flights for departures up to May 20, 2020 without being charged change fees.
“Only one change is permitted, and further changes will attract standard fees,” the website states. “Any re-routing beyond the original ticketed destination will require payment of the difference in fares.”
Similarly, change fees have been removed for new bookings made between March 8 and April 7.
More information on coronavirus: