Dubai has been added to the “red” list of countries as part of the reopening of international travel from 17 May, it was confirmed on Friday.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that the country would not make the list of ‘safe’ green countries, stating that the removal of international travel restrictions on May 17 was “necessarily cautious”, adding: “We must make sure the countries we reconnect with are safe.”
The lists are expected to be reviewed and updated every three weeks.
With year-round sunshine and just a few days of annual rainfall, it’s no wonder Dubai is such a hit with British holidaymakers – 1.2 million Brits visited in 2019.
While the pandemic brought its tourism industry to a grinding halt, its advanced vaccination programme is an encouraging sign for visitors and locals alike, with over 10 million doses administered to an adult population of around eight million.
But how likely is a Dubai departure this summer? Here’s everything you need to know.
What are the current rules in relation to Dubai travel?
It’s currently illegal to travel abroad from the UK for holidays, although this is expected to change from 17 May, in England at least.
At present, those travelling from or through the UK and arriving in Dubai must present evidence of a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to departure.
Travellers arriving in Dubai may be subject to further tests and possible isolation depending on the result.
Foreign leisure travel will reopen this summer in England under a traffic light system, with countries split into three categories: green, amber or red, depending on their level of risk in relation to Covid-19.
Destinations will make it onto the ‘green list’ based on their case numbers, vaccination rates, and prevalence of any virus variants of concern. Visitors to these countries will not be required to quarantine upon their return to the UK unless they test positive for coronavirus.
Dubai is on the red list - but for how long?
The United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is one, are currently on the UK’s red list due to their status as global travel hub.
The transport secretary told an online ConservativeHome event that this meant UK health authorities could not be certain about travellers’ origins.
Grant Shapps said: “The specific issue in the UAE is one of transit. It’s because they are a major transit hub.
“The Joint Biosecurity Centre can work wonders studying all this detail, but eventually you get to the point where they are having to make too many assumptions about where people are travelling to/from.
“And that is specific issue we have with the UAE as opposed to prevalence or some other reason.”
When might this change?
It’s currently unclear whether Dubai may be promoted as the summer holidays approach, but as its red list status is based on its extensive travel connections, rather than its own infection rates, it might be a while before it’s given the nod.
Shapps appears to be taking a cautious approach to reopening.
“Here is where the public are: they do not want us to screw this up now,” he said. “They do not want us to have gone through a year of lockdown for nothing.
“If you ask the public, if you look at the polling, they basically say ‘Close the damn borders – why are you being so slow?’.”
What rules will travellers visiting countries on the red list have to comply with?
Returning Brits will be required to present a negative Covid test (which can be lateral flow or rapid antigen as well as PCR) before departure to the UK. They must then quarantine in a government-mandated hotel for 10 days upon arrival at a cost of £1,750, and are required to take a PCR test on days two and eight.
Which countries are expected to be on the green list?
Only a small group of countries have made the green list, including Israel, Gibraltar and Portugal.