Dubai: Several Indian expats in the UAE, who had planned to travel back home, are rushing to catch a flight before mandatory quarantine for UAE passengers begin on Wednesday.
India on Monday announced compulsory quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days for all passengers from UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar with effect from 1200 hrs GMT on March 18 at the port of departure as part of its latest preventive measures against the spread of novel coronavirus.
“Incoming travellers including Indian nationals are advised to avoid non-essential travel and are informed that they can be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days on their arrival in India,” the latest travel advisory related COVID-19 issued by the Bureau of Immigration added.
However, there is a chance that passengers from the UAE who fly even before that could also be put under home quarantine in places like Kerala, Maharashtra, Delhi and Chandigarh that have already started implementing the new preventive measure for all international passengers.
Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor told Gulf News on Tuesday morning that the mandatory quarantine in India would begin with passengers on flights that take off from here from 4pm UAE time on Wednesday.
If people have taken off before lunch by tomorrow, then it is likely that they will not be put under compulsory quarantine, he said.
Urging Indians and other travellers to India to avoid all non-essential travel, the envoy said: ““People should follow the government of India’s advisory to avoid non-essential travel. The government has asked Indians back home not to travel overseas and those who are overseas not to travel back to India or anywhere else unless it is critically urgent. It is best for people to stay put wherever they are unless there is a very compelling reason to fly.”
“The nature of the emergency is such that the less people travel, there is less chance of the spread of the virus,” he said, while urging people not to panic and fly home.
Airlines flooded with calls
Meanwhile, airline offices are inundated with calls and visits from Indians to reschedule their tickets, industry sources told Gulf News.
“Several people are trying to fly home before the mandatory quarantine time starts. Those who had booked for later dates are calling up to advance their bookings. It’s mad rush since this morning,” said one source.
Many others are also calling the airlines to cancel their tickets in view of the new developments, said another source.
“Those people who had decided to fly even after all other advisories came are now worried about the quarantine and they want to cancel the tickets.”
Local airlines like Fly Dubai announcing suspension of flights to India till March 31 has added to the travel chaos.
“More airlines are contemplating further cancellations as there is no point in flying with very less number of passengers on some routes,” added the first source.