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For illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Pixabay

Dubai: The UAE has suspended all passenger flights from India with effect from 11.59pm on April 24, authorities confirmed on Thursday evening.

The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) have announced the suspension of all inbound flights for national and international carriers coming from India, WAM reported.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the authorities said passengers coming from India through other countries must have stayed in those countries for not less than 14 days to be allowed to enter the country, as of 23.59 on Saturday, April 24, 2021, for a period of 10 days that can be extended.

The travel ban includes inbound transit passengers with exception of transit flights coming to the UAE and heading to India.

The authorities confirmed that UAE nationals, diplomatic passport holders, official delegations, business flights, and golden residence visa holders are excluded from this decision, provided they follow certain precautionary measures.

The preventive measures for them include a 10-day quarantine period and PCR tests on arrival at the airport as well as on the fourth and eighth days after entering the country.

Also, they must carry negative reports of PCR tests taken within 48 hours, (instead of 72 or 96 hours) prior to the departure from accredited laboratories that issue the QR Code for the original test reports.

This comes in response to the proactive precautionary and preventive health measures issued by all authorities concerned in the country to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the statement added.

Passenger flights from the UAE to India and cargo flights between the two countries will remain unaffected. The GCAA clarified this in a tweet late Thursday.

The tweet, in Arabic, read: "The General Authority of Civil Aviation indicates that flights departing from the UAE to India will not stop during the suspension period for travellers from India."

Affected passengers

The GCAA called on all travellers affected by the decision to follow up and communicate with the airlines to schedule their flights and to ensure their safe return to their final destinations without any delay or other obligations.

Affected customers should contact their travel agent or Emirates contact centre for rebooking options, Emirates said on its website.

“If a passenger’s flight has been cancelled they will be offered a refund or the option to rebook to a later date,” flydubai said in a statement to Gulf News.

Etihad said it is working closely with impacted guests to notify them of the changes to their itineraries.

“Guests who have purchased their tickets through a travel agent are advised to contact the agency from which they purchased their ticket for assistance.”

Responding to the announcement of the travel curbs, Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor told Gulf News: “I have been assured by the UAE civil aviation authority that fights are not being suspended and only non-exempt passengers will be barred from flying into the UAE during the restricted period. Flights will continue to operate between the countries.”

“We respect the decision of the UAE Government. We will continue to work with them closely in the area of healthcare, including on dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.

Anil Punjabi, chairman, Eastern Region, Travel Agents’ Federation of India, said travel agents in India also received the notification.

“The travel and tourism sector in India have already been hit hard by the pandemic. Further flight suspensions are an additional blow,” Punjabi said.

New curbs amid highest tally

India recorded the world’s highest daily tally of 314,835 COVID-19 infections on Thursday as a second wave of the pandemic raised new fears about the ability of crumbling health services to cope, according to a Reuters report.

The UAE is the latest country to curb travel from India in view of the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, which has put India’s healthcare system in an unprecedented crisis.

The UK on Monday imposed its strictest travel curbs on India after an explosion of coronavirus cases there, hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called off a trip to New Delhi.

On Wednesday, Oman announced it will bar entry to arrivals from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh starting April 24, as part of measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The entry ban for passengers from India to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait continues.

Earlier this week, Dubai airlines Emirates and flydubai joined Indian airlines to announce that passengers from India to Dubai must carry negative reports of COVID-19 RT-PCR tests done within 48 hours prior to their departure with effect from April 22, Thursday.

Passengers flying from India to Dubai till the travel restrictions become effective are expected to follow the same.

Continuous monitoring

The UAE authorities said the decision to suspend flights came after studying and evaluating the epidemiological situation in the friendly nation of India and within the framework of continuous coordination and cooperation with all relevant authorities inside and outside the country that continuously monitor developments in the situation to maintain the security and safety of civil aviation."

The authorities concerned, under the umbrella of the NCEMA, follow up the global situation to take appropriate decisions that ensure the continuity of the work system within the country, while at the same time reducing the risk of the spread of the pandemic.