UAE-India travel: Some expats cancel plans as Covid cases surge
Indian government yet to make changes in international travel regulations, travel agents say.
As Covid-19 cases rise at an alarming and unprecedented rate in India, expatriates in the UAE are adopting a wait-and-watch policy ahead of their travels back home.
A few Indian expatriates have cancelled their travel plans altogether due to a growing fear of contracting the new strain of SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.
Others have told Khaleej Times that they fear getting stranded as some states and cities in the country have imposed lockdowns and night curfews.
No change in Indian government's regulations yet
However, the Indian government has made no formal change in international travel regulations yet, said travel agents. "The last set of regulations were published on January 8. We’ve not been intimated of any changes to the current set of regulations," said Afi Ahmed, Managing Director (MD), Smart Travels.
His agency, however, has reported a few passenger cancellations from Dubai to Maharashtra. The state government announced a 15-day state-wide curfew starting Wednesday, April 14.
Ahmed said, "There’ve been a few outward travel cancellations after Maharashtra announced cancellations. However, the general demand for travel to India from the UAE is pretty low. Fare prices are relatively low; a one-way ticket only costs Dh300." The number of inbound passengers (India to the UAE) continues to remain high, said Ahmed.
The travellers' profiles on the UAE–India route include those on visit visas, business and medical travellers, and few families travelling for emergency purposes.
On Sunday, India reported 150,000 new Covid-19 cases, the highest since the pandemic. Media reports suggest that Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Chattisgarh, and Uttar Pradesh account for 70.8 per cent of India's active cases.
'Vaccinated individuals with genuine emergencies ok to travel'
TP Sudheesh, manager of Deira Travel and Tourism, said, "Trains and flights are operating as usual in India. Curfews have been announced in some cities; however, international air travel hasn’t been impacted yet."
He said, "There is some travel demand; it is not non-existent. Individuals wishing to travel from the UAE to India have already taken the vaccine. Unlike earlier, the fear factor is not as potent as last year." Sudheesh said the inbound traffic to the UAE is very high. "People consider the UAE as a safer destination with more opportunities.
Raheesh Babu, the general manager of Musafir.com, an internet-based travel agency, said, "The current regulations are pretty stringent as it is. PCR tests have been made mandatory for every incoming passenger, including children."
Expats prefer to 'wait and watch'
Shaneer N Sidiqqui, a Dubai resident, said, "Honestly, it is a wait and watch the situation. All the plans depend on the situation in India. As per the current situation, I won’t travel."
Premi Mathew, the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Hair of Hope, said she'd hoped to travel to Kochi to meet with her aged parents. "I planned to visit my parents, but now everything appears uncertain. I waited till they were fully inoculated before I could make the trip. So far, they've only received the first dose of the vaccine." She added, "I did not purchase the tickets, but in all probability, I won’t travel. Also, the travel procedures are quite complicated, unlike before where you could book a ticket and hop on a plane." Also, with the current lockdowns in various cities, movement is a challenge for most travellers.
Ann Abraham, a retired schoolteacher and a Sharjah resident, said, "I travelled to Hyderabad recently, and I feel only if there’s a genuine need to travel should people take that step. The condition here is terrible. While we're in the UAE, we abide by all rules and regulations. The same person as they land in India, they forget everything about safety."
Zankar Uchat, a tea specialist, said, "I travelled during the December 2020 vacations and was all set to go back in March. However, given the ongoing situation, I cancelled my plans altogether."
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