UAE: Residents opt for staycations instead of holidays abroad as Omicron virus fears grow

Some residents rethinking travel plans over fears of border closures


Nandini Sircar

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Several families in the UAE have decided to postpone their vacations abroad. File photo
Several families in the UAE have decided to postpone their vacations abroad. File photo

Published: Mon 29 Nov 2021, 4:00 PM

News of the Covid-19 variant Omicron has triggered alarm and is prompting nations to reconsider plans for international travel as they scramble to avert an outbreak.

Nations are clamping on new curbs for fear it could repel inoculations drives and upend a burgeoning economic re-opening after a two-year pandemic.

American expat in the UAE, Shukri Deria who is an avid traveller, said, “We decided to stay put as we have no clue what would happen in the future. What if there is another lockdown and residents who are travelling abroad are suddenly barred from entering the country as the situation globally is again getting a bit alarming. In the past, a lot of people have been stuck outside their country of residence for long durations due to Covid-19 travel restrictions and because of that they encountered a lot of problems.”

She adds, “Though, it would be the best time to be with family, regardless of concerns due to the new strain of the virus and spike in cases, I think it would be wise to stay back and probably do a staycation instead.”

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Australia abruptly reversed plans to reopen its international borders to skilled workers and students, driven by concerns over the Omicron variant.

Israel decided to bar entry to foreigners and Morocco said it would suspend all incoming flights for two weeks starting Monday.

Egyptian expat Mina Kiwan said, “I am travelling to Egypt on December 19. I have to go home as I haven’t set foot outside the UAE since 2019. I have some pressing work there that needs to be attended to. I understand the troubling new variant of the virus is of great concern and the world is shutting its doors to international travellers. It is bothering me as things are again beginning to look uncertain. Travel protocols for foreign travellers have also been upped and more layers of checks are being imposed with rules changing rapidly.”

Omicron has now been identified in passengers from southern Africa to Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel, with WHO describing it as being “of concern”.

Potentially more transmissible, highly-mutated Omicron’s symptoms differ from those of other variants.

Indian expat, Zoya Chapra who flew to India on Monday said, “I am leaving for Mumbai (India) today with my daughter, as I had already booked my tickets. I haven’t been home in two years and this journey is what I have been looking forward to since the time I bought the tickets. At the time of ticket booking, the situation globally was much better. However, in the last few weeks with Omicron cases being found in more countries things are not looking too good. India is also updating its travel protocols for international travellers. I am worried of another lockdown situation or mandatory institutional quarantine like before. Besides, despite the inoculation one isn’t sure if this new variant weakens vaccine efficacy.”

Some express faith in government mitigation plans

However, some fully inoculated travellers still remain unfazed hoping government mitigation plans and maintaining essential health and safety protocols is the way forward.

Dubai resident Maryam Shirinova who is originally from Azerbaijan, explained that she would be travelling to Oman for a vacation with her five children, husband and the nanny.

“I am going to Muscat for a family holiday for five days on December 20. I am not that concerned as our house help, my husband and I are fully vaccinated. Besides, we will be travelling by road and not crossing airports. Therefore, although the situation is unfortunately changing with the spike in cases especially in parts of southern Africa and Europe, I feel so far, this region is still in a far better position,” she said.

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