Dubai has taken two big decisions to slowly normalise travel hit by the pandemic. On Saturday, the emirate said it will allow in-bound travel for residents coming from India, South Africa and Nigeria from June 23.
Also, a day later, it announced reopening of Terminal 1 and Concourse D at Dubai International Airport, 15 months after the two facilities were shut to consolidate operations due to the pandemic.
Approval to in-bound travel, particularly from India, will help scores of UAE residents who are stranded there since April end when flights were suspended due to the second wave when a deadly variant swept through the sub-continent, killing tens of thousands in April and May.
New infections have gone down in India which reported 60,000 cases yesterday and restrictions are being gradually lifted in that country.
A cautious step
Still, out of abundant caution, Dubai will allow only residents who have received both the doses of a UAE-approved vaccine and those who have tested negative to Covid-19 tests. Dubai’s caution is understandable given the virulent nature of Delta variant prevalent in India.
There is no timeline for allowing other categories of people to enter Dubai from India where health experts have warned of a third wave as people crowd malls and markets.
Yesterday’s announcement to reopen Terminal 1 and Concourse D from June 24 will improve Dubai airport’s capacity to handle passengers. A senior official said the airport that can handle up to 100 million passengers per year is expecting a big rush as more and more people become confident of travelling again.
Free flow of people and goods between nations is critical for post-pandemic economic recovery. But for that to happen, countries must stem the outbreak in their respective territories.
Large travel hubs like Dubai are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks in neighbouring countries and the only way to deal with a surge is by suspending flights, a move that separates families and prevents residents from returning to the UAE.
After allowing vaccinated residents, Dubai may further ease travel from India and other neighbouring countries only if the health regulators are absolutely certain of airports’ ability to detect infected passengers and prevent them from boarding Dubai-bound flights.
There are no official statistics available but a large number of UAE residents are stranded in India. Many of them who don’t meet the eligibility criteria announced on Saturday, will remain stranded in India till restrictions are eased further.
These restrictions are painful and cause significant economic loss, but are essential for protecting lives of people and stemming the outbreaks.