The announcement by the National Emergency and Crisis Management Authority and the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) relaxing entry procedures for UAE residents is a big relief for expatriates and their children stranded abroad since the pandemic began in March.
The UAE residents will no longer require pre-approval before entering the country and an optional simple three-step procedure is all that is required in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah.
The rules for expatriates with resident visa issued by Dubai, however, remain un-changed. They still need a pre-approval by General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) before returning to the country.
Visas were suspended on March 17 as part of wider measures to contain the growing pandemic. Since the beginning of July, the UAE has taken a series of steps to gradually resume normal activities as the country’s battle against COVID-19 is showing encouraging results
It was not immediately clear as to why Dubai residents stranded abroad still require this permit when residence-visa holders from other emirates don’t. A clarification from the GDRFA will help ease anxiety of those desperate to return to the UAE and resume their jobs.
The ICA announcement came weeks after restrictions on tourist visa — both pre-approved and visa on arrival — were lifted late last month. These two steps will help restore mobility of people between the UAE and other countries as the emirates resume normal business and tourism activities.
The tourist visas were suspended on March 17 as part of wider measures to contain the growing pandemic. Since the beginning of July, the UAE has taken a series of steps to gradually resume normal activities as the country’s battle against COVID-19 is showing encouraging results.
For the last several weeks, the positive cases have remained less than 300 while the testing has been widened to over 65,000 on a daily basis. Also, the mortality rate has remained one of the lowest in the world — two key indicators of the pandemic coming under control.
While the entry rules have been relaxed, the health officials have made it clear that safety protocols will remain in place at all entry ports. Passengers heading to the UAE need a PCR test result before boarding flights and must follow quarantine rules.
While a relaxation of entry rules will ensure greater mobility of expatriates and tourists, the health authorities must remain on guard and continue to closely monitor disease patterns among residents and citizens.
Their next big challenge is the reopening of schools this month end and early September when tens of thousands of students return to classrooms. A resumption of normal tourist, business and education activities, while necessary, is expected to increase the risk of exposure.
Residents and citizens, therefore, have a greater responsibility to continue to follow safety protocols mandated by the health authorities.