COVID-19: UAE likely to see curbs removed before EXPO 2020, say experts

Dubai on Monday announced revised safety protocols, lifting some curbs

  
Hamdan Mohammed visits Expo 2020 Dubai and was briefed on the preparations to host the international event commencing next October which will see the participation of over 190 countries. Image courtesy Dubai Media Office Twitter handle.

Hamdan Mohammed visits Expo 2020 Dubai and was briefed on the preparations to host the international event commencing next October which will see the participation of over 190 countries. Image courtesy Dubai Media Office Twitter handle.

Restrictions and curbs imposed by the UAE related to the coronavirus pandemic are expected to be removed before the upcoming Dubai Expo 2020 event which will ensure the success of the mega event, according to travel, tourism and hospitality industry officials. 

The UAE has already started removing Covid-19 curbs. On Sunday, Abu Dhabi announced resuming tourism activities in the emirate and opening doors for international visitors from July 1 by lifting quarantine requirements.

Similarly, Dubai has also further lifted the curbs, allowing vaccinated residents and visitors to attend concerts and community events. In addition, live entertainment and activities are also allowed in restaurants, cafes and shopping malls for a trial period of one month (extendable) starting May 17.

“Abu Dhabi’s decision to remove Covid-19 restrictions from July 1 is a very good sign because the UAE capital is very strict when it comes to the pandemic. So if Abu Dhabi opens up, it means things are very much under control,” said Mohamed Jassim Al Rais, deputy managing director of Alrais Group.

Al Rais believes that the Covid-19 restrictions will be removed before Expo 2020.

Kees van Schaick, managing director of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, also echoed Al Rais, saying Covid-19 related curbs will be gradually removed in the coming months as vaccination levels grow in the UAE and other neighbouring countries.

Wizz Air will utilise its four aircraft once Abu Dhabi ends quarantine for travellers from July 1, which will result in increased air passenger traffic to Abu Dhabi.

“Opening up of Abu Dhabi is great news and that means, from July 1, we will build our network to fully utilise our four aircraft. If all goes well, we’ll be adding aircraft next year so that we can further expand our network... We see a huge change by the end of the year in terms of opening up of countries, as compared to today,” he said.

The budget carrier currently serves 23 destinations.

“We expect to serve close to 30 destinations by the end of the year, as we are eager to expand our network to Africa, GCC, Russia, CIS and Subcontinent in the future,” he said, adding that risk-based approach to opening up of countries and testing regimes will remain in place for the time-being.

Sayed Zaid, group director of sales, Dubai, at City Seasons Hotels, also sees the situation improving by October this year.

“I expect all Covid-19 related-curbs to be over, probably by October 2021. By then, the situation related to Covid-19 guidelines and restrictions will reach a point where they will stay for the next year as well,” he said, adding that businesses will be better by over 20 per cent than what is now.

UAE among the first to recover from Covid-19

The UAE, led by Dubai, will be the first to recover not just in the Middle East but worldwide, according to Al Rais.

“Dubai is one of the first cities worldwide to open in July 2020 and didn’t close since then, as authorities have been balancing the economy and Covid-19 restrictions very well with priority given to the health of the residents. I believe the UAE will be the fastest to recover when other countries reopen borders, because big countries like China, India and Malaysia are still closed,” he said.

The city received 5.5 million visitors in 2020 as compared to 16.8 million in 2019. “Dubai received one third of its visitors in 2020. No other city managed to attract this much last year. In fact, local tourism doubled from over 3 million room nights to over 7 million room nights,” he said.

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