UAE-India flights: Does 7-day quarantine rule mean expats can't travel for short trips?

No clarity on travel in case of a medical emergency, death in the family, or short business trip



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Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Thu 13 Jan 2022, 10:26 AM

Last updated: Thu 13 Jan 2022, 10:43 PM

Indian expatriates in the UAE are seeking clarity from authorities on quarantine procedures for those who wish to take shorter trips home.

Residents and travel agents speaking to Khaleej Times said that after the Indian government made seven-day home quarantine mandatory for all international travellers to India, several of them have ditched or put their travel plans on hold indefinitely,

However, the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which mandated the revised travel regulations on Tuesday, January 11, has yet to clarify quarantine or travel regulations for those making short trips.

The Ministry updated rules given the rise in Covid-19 cases of the Omicron variant.

Anandita Dutta, an English teacher at a Sharjah school, had planned an emergency trip to India on Wednesday as her mother back home in Calcutta is unwell. "My mother is presently living with my older sister, who has to travel to Mumbai in a day or two. The plan was that I take over her care during her travel."

Unfortunately, Dutta had to cancel her plans due to the new quarantine regulations. "I was going to travel Thursday night and return in time for school opening on Monday. Since it is very close to exam season and I cannot take time off work. My sister had to scrap her plans as well.

"It would be good if the Ministry provides clarification and exemptions for those wishing to travel on emergency," Dutta said.

The change in weekend days in the UAE had also made short trips appealing to several expatriates.

"Sharjah residents enjoy extended weekends. I had planned to travel to Kerala for my niece's wedding on January 20. I cannot make it to the wedding now because I cannot take ten days off work. Moreover, I would have to stay in quarantine for seven days; it is not feasible," said Gautam Menon, an ad professional.

Moreover, travel agents have confirmed that there has been a substantial drop in demand for UAE- India travel.

Surendranath Menon, Director, Business Development of Equator Travel Management, said, "UAE-India travel demand has come down by 80 per cent. We projected that it'd come back up; however, people will continue to drop their plans if the restrictions continue. Most people go with fewer leaves of about two weeks. If half the time goes in quarantine, it makes no sense to them."

Some agents said January 15 to March 15 is the off-peak season for UAE- India travel.

"Families, except in case of emergencies, do not travel during this time," explained Afi Ahmed, the managing director of Smart Travels told Khaleej Times.

"We are noticing that those who wish to travel will be travelling. I've been in Kerala for a few weeks now. Agents, as well as travellers, are keeping a close eye on the trends. For example, as soon as you arrive at the airport, health officials offer strict instructions to all passengers to stay at home for seven days," said Ahmed.

He added, "The ground reality is that many passengers are not abiding by the rules either. I can see that many are leaving their homes a day or two after arriving. Since the symptoms of the Omicron variant are mild, many in Kerala treat the disease lightly. For them, it is like the common flu."

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Raheesh Babu, the group chief operating officer of Musafir.com, an online travel agency, said, "Demand for travel to India has dropped. Ticket prices have gone down considerably. Tickets are available for as cheap as Dh 200. Currently, demand in the India-UAE sector is high. Those who had travelled for a vacation to India are returning to UAE, and many are also travelling to see Dubai Expo 2020."

He added, "In the UAE- India sector, the most demand is from blue-collared workers and supermarket salesmen who go on long leaves. Moreover, those currently in the UAE on visit visas are changing their status within the country. The demand for such services is high.

"The main challenges at the moment are that the RT-PCR test results are taking time, and there is no clarity on those who want short term travel. Business travel has suffered. For example, those who suffer death or medical emergency in the family take the risk and travel," explained Babu.

Dhanusha Gokulan​


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