Covid-19: Stranded Indian expats running out of options to return to the UAE
With Armenia revoking approval on charter jets and Bahrain restrictions, Indians are at their wits end.
With Armenia revoking approval on charter passenger aircrafts from India and delaying visas to Indians, and with Bahrain too imposing restrictions, Indian expats are running out of options for a third country to enter the UAE, after doing a 14-day mandatory quarantine.
After Armenia got stringent, the Directorate of Monitoring and Licensing Bahrain Tourism & Exhibitions Authority (BTEA) also issued a circular allowing entry to the Kingdom of Bahrain only to citizens, GCC citizens, and holders of residence visas from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh Nepal and Sri Lanka, effectively from May 23, Sunday. Two charter flights to Armenia - one scheduled to take off from Mumbai on Saturday and another from Kochi later in the week, have been cancelled.
“People don’t have many options to return to the UAE,” Raheesh Babu, general manager of Musafir.com, told Khaleej Times.
“So many Indians are eager to return to the UAE because they have a job threat. Many are stuck in India and even the affordability of private jets makes it impossible for them to make use of this option. Families cannot afford this kind of amount,” he added.
An advisory sent by the General Department of Civil Aviation of the Republic of Armenia (GDCA) to a charter flight operator, a copy of which Khaleej Times has seen, read: “We regret to inform that the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Armenia is prohibiting the flight to take place to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Therefore, the permission to operate the flight to Armenia is cancelled.”
Some travel agencies and operators in the UAE and India had launched tour packages to Armenia in the range of Dh6,000 to Dh7,000, which included flights, hotel stay, food and a PCR test. Passengers could undergo quarantine before flying to the UAE under the package. However, this route is now off limits.
“Armenia revoked the approvals for chartered flights. They are also delaying visas to Indians,” revealed Babu. “Bahrain also has put up lots of restrictions. People were travelling to Bahrain and staying there for 14 days,” he added.
Bahrain’s BTEA said that travellers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh Nepal and Sri Lanka, must conduct a PCR test upon arrival as well as a PCR test five days after arrival for those who remain in the country for more than five days, and another test after 10 days for those who remain in Bahrain for more than 10 days.
“In addition, passengers arriving from the aforementioned countries are required to quarantine in their own residence for 10 days. Passengers must provide proof of residence at a property (owned or leased) by the passenger or a direct family member or must quarantine at one of the licensed designated hotels by the National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA),” BTEA’s circular said.
Air India Express too, issued a similar advisory.
Hotels and other guest accommodations that are not authorised by the NHRA to serve as a quarantine facility, are strictly prohibited from accommodating travellers from these countries. Violations could result in closure and fines.
The UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) had extended the suspension of passenger entry from India to the UAE until further notice. It had come into effect on April 25.
The only exemptions are UAE citizens, diplomats, official delegations, golden residency visa holders, and flights of businessmen.
A GCAA official had told Khaleej Times in an earlier interview that the suspension of incoming passenger traffic between UAE and some of the South Asian countries will continue to remain indefinite until further notice. The official said, "We have not set a deadline to the end of the suspension, so people do not purchase tickets and lose money. The decision to lift the suspension will be made depending on the situation in these countries. Furthermore, it will be the benefit of all parties involved."
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