Winter break: UAE families reveal travel plans amid Omicron variant threat

Schools advise residents to keep up-to-date with return formalities before rejoining new term



Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP
by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Mon 6 Dec 2021, 5:55 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Dec 2021, 5:57 PM

Schools in the UAE are a few days away from Winter break and the enthusiasm of the Holiday season is all too evident. For many UAE families' travel plans have been in place much before the ominous outbreak of the new Coronavirus variant.

The advent of Omicron has triggered alarm for families who had planned to travel during the winter break, prompting them to reconsider their international visits.

Countries worldwide are clamping on new curbs for fear it could repel inoculations drives and upend a burgeoning economic re-opening.

The variant has been identified in at least 20 countries and whether it is more transmissible or severe than the other forms of the coronavirus is yet unknown.

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 were 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.”

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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.”

Indian expat, Arijit Nandi who will be travelling to India soon said, “I am leaving for Mumbai (India) next week. I haven’t been home in two years and I have some pressing paper work to complete.”

Nandi adds, “In the last few weeks the surge in Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron virus has been quite worrying. India is also frequently updating its travel protocols for international travellers. I am concerned about another lockdown situation or mandatory institutional quarantine like we have witnessed earlier. Despite vaccination, one isn’t sure if this new variant weakens jab efficacy as travelling through international airports is always wrought with virus risks. Therefore my son and wife are not joining me on this trip as per our earlier plan.”

But for people who are travelling abroad with families, schools are urging them to have a proper understanding of all the formalities that they may need to adhere to upon return and before rejoining school in January 2022.

Institution heads urge families to tread with caution

Naveed Iqbal, Principal/CEO at GEMS Metropole School – Motor City, said, “As a school, we have recommended that if staff can avoid travelling, this will be the safest option right now. However, we understand that many would wish to travel. In such cases, we have recommended that they completely understand the travel requirements of the country they are travelling to and keep up-to-date with the expectations when they arrive back. Almost all of our staff are double-vaccinated, and we expect them to complete a PCR test upon return to their school.”

Iqbal adds, “Staff who travel will need to ensure that they don’t book their return dates very close to the first day of the spring term; allowing a few days before will ensure that there is time to adjust back, and meet any change in protocols if such a need was to arise.”

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Although travelling for fully vaccinated people may pose fewer risks for adults, institution heads are requesting families to tread with caution as most children have not yet been vaccinated.

Zubair Ahmad, Head of Operations, Springdales School Dubai, says, “Since the winter break is not too long and various countries have different protocols pertaining to overseas travel like mandatory quarantine period and other formalities, therefore, it is advisable not to travel. The new variant is leading to a spike in Covid-19 cases, and that is a cause for concern.”

He adds, “we are yet to hear from the emirate’s education regulator on formalities that students and staff are to fulfil upon the return of international travel, and that will be communicated to everyone as soon as we hear from the KHDA.”


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