The Latest News on the Current Coronavirus Situation in Dubai
LAST UPDATED: 10 DECEMBER
The self-isolation period for people returning from countries not on the travel corridor has been cut from 14 days to 10 days. This can be cut further as part of the test to release scheme. Under the scheme you can choose to pay for a private COVID-19 test. The earliest you can take the test is 5 full days after you left a destination not on the travel corridor list. If the result is negative, you can stop self-isolating.
The emirate of Dubai and its namesake city have long been popular with international travellers of all kinds. Not only does this centre for trade and financial services draw businesspeople from all over the world, Dubai is truly unparalleled as a tourist destination. Vibrant, sophisticated and cosmopolitan, Dubai welcomed over 12 million visitors, 1.5 million of them British, in 2019.
Dubai boasts the world’s tallest building, the world’s largest shopping mall and a vast array of exciting experiences for the traveller: fine dining, nightclubs, spectacular hotels, enchanting souks offering pretty much everything your heart could desire… Add to the urban adventures a glittering sea and plenty of sandy beaches, and it’s easy to see why Dubai is a tourist mecca.
But the coronavirus pandemic spared no part of the world, and much like every other country, Dubai went into lockdown for a while. The good news is that the emirate’s strict sterilisation efforts have paid off, and the country has now opened its doors to international visitors once more - and yes, the UK is on that list. What’s more, as of 14th November the FCDO will no longer advises against travel to the UAE. The UAE is now on the list of countries and territories where self-isolation is not required on return to the UK. However travellers coming from the UK to Dubai have the option to either present a negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test before departure, which is valid for 96 hours from the date of the test, or to take a PCR test on arrival at Dubai airport.
The Latest Coronavirus News in Dubai
THE INITIAL LOCKDOWN
Dubai took the outbreak of the coronavirus very seriously, instituting some of the strictest lockdown measures seen anywhere in the world. A curfew, at first only for nighttime but then expanded to 24 hours, mandated that residents could leave their homes only for ‘essential’ reasons (the usual grocery shopping, doctor visits and trips to the pharmacy).
Even for such necessary outings a police permit was required. The online application asked for a national ID number, address, phone number, reason for leaving the house, destination and expected time of departure and return. If granted, the permit had to be used within 24 hours, and residents had to apply for a new one every time they wanted to leave the house.
The police took infractions very seriously. Anyone found outside their home without permission, or without wearing gloves and a mask, could face a substantial fine.
With the streets thus deserted during the curfew, the city was busy sterilising everything. Everything. Steets, public transport facilities, even parks were sprayed with disinfectant.
On 24 April, at the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (23 April to 23 May), Dubai began relaxing its stringent lockdown rules. Police permits are now a thing of the past. Many commercial establishments have been allowed to reopen, although they are subject to the usual kinds of rules in keeping with social distancing procedures.
Businesses have been allowed to reopen at 30% capacity; employees in other sectors are encouraged to continue working remotely.
Shopping malls, shopping centres and markets (yes, we need to say all three: there are a lot of shopping opportunities in Dubai!) will be open during restricted hours and at reduced capacity.
Many restaurants are opening again, although only at 30% capacity and with two metres required between tables. Check out the triumphant return of the restaurant of the iconic hotel Dukes the Palm.
People are once again allowed to have their hair and nails done at salons, but only by appointment.
Public transport is back in operation, but again with some restrictions. The Dubai Metro is running, with social distancing and masks required for staff and passengers. You can take a taxi, but only two people are allowed in one at a time, and water transport, limousines and car-sharing services are still off limits.
Public parks have reopened, and sports and recreational activities are permitted again – providing no more than five people gather together.
As of 29 May, four beaches have been reopened to the general public, as well as the Dubai Frame, an architectural landmark in Zabeel Park. Looks like it’s time to break out that swimming costume again!
All this is good news for everyone except those over 60 and those between three and 12 – they’re still on lockdown for their own safety.
Gyms, massage parlours, cinemas, pools and mosques have all been given the green light to resume services again, although they must follow strict precautionary measures.
You can have a live view of the situation in Dubai here.
How Hotels in Dubai Responded
As prospective tourists, our minds naturally turn to the lodging situation. Are hotels now open? The short answer is yes, but first let’s back up and give a longer answer because during the worst of the crisis the UAE had a really good idea about what to do with empty hotels: they made them available as quarantine areas for people who had only mild cases of COVID-19. Here they could remain in isolation from the general population until they recovered, thus reserving hospital beds for people suffering from serious coronavirus cases.
Now, with Dubai’s cautious reopening, private hotels are welcoming travellers again, with – you knew we were going to say this – certain restrictions in place. But the good news is a lot of these hotels are on the beach, and people are allowed on the beach! Yes, you have to have your temperature checked, keep your distance, wear your mask and bring your own towel, but that seems like a small price to pay for being on the beach in Dubai. Not least because you are paying a small price – or at least a smaller one – because hotel rates are much lower than usual.
Holidays to Dubai: 2020 and Beyond
That’s the state of play for the locals. What does the situation look like for international tourists?
The short answer? Really good!
Dubai is officially allowing international visitors into the country again, and has been since 7 July. To enter the UAE, international travellers must:
- Get travel health insurance
- Complete a PCR at least four days before their trip, and bring proof with them that it came back negative
- Undergo a thermal screening when they arrive in Dubai
- Download the COVID19 - DXB Smart App to register for their trip and fill out a Health Declaration Form (they really do have an app for everything these days!)
Once you do all that, it’s smooth sailing - if you’re showing no symptoms of COVID, there’s no mandatory testing or quarantine period. You can simply exit the airport and start enjoying your holiday right away!
However, it’s important to note that the UK government still recommends that you don’t travel to Dubai unless absolutely necessary - and even then, once you return back to the UK after your trip, you will have to self-isolate for 14 days. It looks like it’s best to hold off on booking your holiday for the time being… but we’ve got our fingers crossed that Dubai will be added to the list of government-approved travel corridors soon!
Is it Safe to Travel to Dubai Right Now?
Sadly, no, even though you can get in. When can you? It’s anybody’s guess. 2020 is a possibility, but holidays to Dubai in 2021 might be a safer bet.
Locusts and Money, Kids and Gold
The origin of the word ‘Dubai’ is hotly disputed (well, among the sort of people who hotly dispute such things). Two leading theories are ‘locust’ and ‘money’. Both seem appropriate. Dubai, like the rest of the world, has recently suffered a plague of locusts. But we’re very hopeful that this rich city, this bustling financial centre and extravagant haven of pleasure, will rise again to see a lively exchange of currency on all fronts. And we’re hopeful that we will be there when it does.
A journalist asked kids who live in the UAE what they’re looking forward to most when life goes back to normal. Roslin, age five, said: “I want to go on holiday!” We’re with Roslin on this one. Until that’s possible, dream on and tune in to our blog posts. We’ll keep you informed – and we’ll help keep your travel dreams alive. May they shine as bright as the golden treasures of this newly reopened souk in Dubai.