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Published on Monday, January 11, 2021

Dubai holidaymakers forced to quarantine in Scotland, will England follow suit?

Dubai has been removed from Scotland's 'safe travel' list by the Scottish Government this morning due to a rise in returning passengers testing positive with Covid-19.

Inevitably this raises the question, will England follow suit and remove its travel corridor with the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai?

The UAE has been on England's 'safe travel' list since mid November, but Dubai has seen a sharp rise in the number of Covid infections since the New Year. While these are still low compared to the UK, they rose from 1963 new reported cases on 2 January to 2,998 on 9 January.

While the nationwide lockdown in England includes a ban on international leisure travel, agents say some clients are still going ahead with pre-booked holidays to destinations including Dubai, especially when tour operators are refusing refunds and offering only free amendments or vouchers for future travel instead.

This is putting agents in a difficult position, with some concerned that clients are breaking the law and/or risking becoming stranded abroad if flights are cancelled at short notice.

The move by the Scottish Government to introduce a mandatory 10-day quarantine for people returning from Dubai from 4am today has been supported by the Scottish Passenger Agents' Association (SPAA), which described the decision as 'understandable'.

Passengers who have travelled to Scotland from Dubai since 3 January are also being asked to isolate for 10 days from the day they arrived back in the country.

The Scottish Government said the change is due to a number of positive cases identified in passengers who have flown into Glasgow from Dubai since the New Year.

"This preventative action addresses the significant rise in cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), and the increase in the numbers of cases testing positive in Scotland," it said.

"Guidance remains clear that people should not be undertaking foreign travel other than in exceptional circumstances."

SPAA president Joanne Dooey said: "Removing Dubai from the safe list is understandable. We believe that there has been a cluster of infections around Scots who travelled to Dubai over the Christmas and New Year period.

"There's also the news today that one footballer returning from there has also tested positive." The unamed Celtic player had been taking part in a team training camp in Dubai.

Dooey said while the SPAA was keen to see a return to increased international travel, protecting the health of the whole country 'remains our key concern and we are supportive of this move'.

"Dubai is an extremely popular destination for Scots for both leisure and business travel. Emirates has been flying from Glasgow to Dubai for 16 years since 2004 and was the only airline to fly an A380 into Scotland."

Scotland's Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: "It is evident, both in Scotland and in countries across the world, that the virus continues to pose real risks to health and to life and we need to interrupt the rise in cases.

"Imposing quarantine requirements on those arriving in the UK is our first defence in managing the risk of imported cases from communities with high risks of transmission. That is why we have made the decision to remove Dubai from the country exemptions list.

"Whether or not an overseas destination has been designated for quarantine restrictions, our message remains clear that people should not currently be undertaking non-essential foreign travel. People need to stay at home to help suppress the virus, protect our NHS and save lives."

All international travellers arriving into Scotland, apart from a very limited number of individual exemptions, must complete a passenger locator form and provide evidence that they have done so on arrival in the UK.

Failure to comply with the requirement to quarantine may result in a fine of more than £480.

The UK Government has said that it plans to introduce mandatory Covid testing for all arrivals from this week, but it has yet to give further details.


By Louise Longman & Linsey McNeill


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