Abu Dhabi: Most among 75,000 US citizens living in the UAE would like to stay back here in the midst of a global challenge to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, according to a top US diplomat.
Only a couple of hundreds among US citizens in the UAE want to go back home as they may have personal commitments, especially during summer time, John Rakolta, the US Ambassador to the UAE, told Emirates News Agency, WAM, in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
He revealed that the embassy made the estimate of people who wanted to go back home, from the number of phone calls and emails received from US residents as there was no registration process for this purpose.
Rakolta clarified that the embassy would not encourage the US citizens to leave the UAE. "I think personally it is one of the safest places to be at this point of time," he pointed out.
He, too, prefers to stay in the UAE. "I love it. It is one of the best places in the world. I have been living here since October; so far it has been perfect," the envoy explained.
UAE has done a superb job
"The UAE Government has done a superb job in containing the spread of the virus." He praised the UAE's achievement of testing a high percent of the population.
As reported, the UAE had conducted a record number of coronavirus tests in a short period, reaching 539,195 tests nationwide as of 7th April.
"They are doing so many good things," the ambassador said.
He wants to inform the US citizens in the UAE who are interested in going back home about a limited number of commercial flights available on Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways to the US destinations until 21st April.
"What we want to encourage them if they want to go home, this is the time to take advantage of it," Rakolta stressed.
These flights are going through European and Asian gateway cities that do not permit passengers to stay there in the present circumstances. They can pass through those cities as transmit passengers, he explained.
There is one special Emirates nonstop flight on 18th April from Dubai to Chicago, the envoy said.
He urged the prospective passengers to get in touch with the airlines directly as the embassy is not involved in the booking process.
The embassy is extending all support related to passport services. "It is an important time. The embassy's one of the important tasks is to protect the citizens and help them by all possible ways, including repatriation [if required]," the ambassador emphasised.
However, the embassy does not plan to charter any flights to repatriate US citizens from the UAE at the moment, he clarified.
Therefore, he urged the US citizens to make use of the flights available these days. "After 21st April there is no scheduled flights. This is the best time if they plan to go home in couple of months," Rakolta reiterated.
He also called upon US residents to register on the Smart Traveller Enrolment Programme, STEP, which is a free service to allow US citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.
They can directly receive information from the U.S. State Department and embassies and consulates through the STEP, he concluded.