UAE travel restrictions: 5-year visa holders now allowed; new rules announced for charter flights

GCAA tightens COVID-19 rules for passenger, charter flights from 'restricted countries'

  
Dubai International Airport (DXB). Image courtesy Dubai Media Office Twitter handle. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Dubai International Airport (DXB). Image courtesy Dubai Media Office Twitter handle. Image used for illustrative purpose.

The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has issued a new list of more stringent safety protocols for exempted passengers on regular and charter flights arriving from countries where restrictions are currently in place.

Additionally, UAE “silver visa” holders are now allowed to enter the UAE via flights from where passenger entry is suspended, according to a circular issued by the GCAA. Khaleej Times understands that silver visa holders are those with residency permits issued for five years.

Previously, only golden visa (10-year validity) holders were permitted. Other categories permitted to board flights from the affected countries include members of diplomatic missions and UAE citizens.

New Covid safety measures listed by the GCAA in the circular for exempted passengers include mandatory tracking devices. The stringent regulations apply to all aircraft operators conducting flights from and to the UAE and the following countries – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nepal, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Zambia.

Exempted passengers must wear the tracking devices for at least 10 days, according to the new circular.

“The current development on the Covid-19 pandemic leads the UAE to impose new flight and passengers’ restrictions. The UAE government is closely monitoring the situation and will provide further updates and instructions as necessary,” read the advisory, a copy of which Khaleej Times has seen.

A GCAA official has confirmed to Khaleej Times that the circular has been issued to all entities concerned.

Travel agencies and charter flight operators said the wristband tracking devices have so far been given to passengers arriving in Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah. Since September last year, Abu Dhabi has been asking incoming passengers to wear such devices during their 14-day home quarantine.

Raheesh Babu, group COO of Musafir.com, an internet travel agency, said passengers landing in Dubai had to adhere to a 10-day mandatory quarantine and undergo a series of PCR tests. “Passengers who arrived in Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah were asked to wear the wristband,” said Babu.

The GCAA circular said that besides the tracking device and the mandatory 10-day quarantine, passengers must take a PCR test upon arrival followed by two other PCR tests on the fourth and eighth day of their quarantine period.

The rules are also applicable to crew members operating from countries mentioned in the safety decision. Additionally, passengers must immediately quarantine in a hotel during the whole transit period and their movement is limited to the transport between the hotel and the airport, without being in contact with people in the UAE community, said the circular.

Babu also said the GCAA approval process has been made ‘extremely stringent’ to ensure Covid-19 safety.

The circular stated that all arrivals are subject to the immigration conditions in the UAE and the approval of the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) must be obtained for unscheduled and charter flights. “NCEMA shall be notified at least 5 days before the flight,” it added.

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