Over 6,500 foreign nationals have already returned to the UAE since the country allowed residents to return following a period of shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a UAE government spokesperson.
Flights out of the UAE were suspended on March 23 as officials moved to contain the spread of the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. Emirates and Etihad have both been involved in government repatriations to bring citizens home. Flights that allow UAE residents have only recently been announced, with passengers able to fly once government approval has been granted.
“A total of 6,504 foreign nationals have already returned to the UAE onboard the UAE national carriers,” Dr. Khaled Al-Mazrouei, Assistant Undersecretary for Consular Affairs at Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Al Arabiya English.
For UAE residents and tourists looking to return home during the lockdown, airlines have also been offering separate one-way flights.
“Following the decision to temporarily allow specific flights to pass through the airports, 317 air repatriations of foreign citizens have taken place so far, with a total of 74,745 repatriates and we are expecting to have in the pipeline for the coming days over 112 repatriations,” Al-Mazrouei added.
It is currently unclear when all government restrictions on passengers will lift. The UAE has temporarily banned visas on arrival for all nationalities and banned its citizens from traveling outside the country.
Residents return to the UAE
Earlier on Wednesday, Dubai-based Emirates airlines announced it would resume flights to nine cities in eight countries, including providing connections between the UK and Australia, from May 21.
For UAE residents looking to return to Dubai, passengers will need to secure approval from The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) via the online UAE Twajudi Resident service.
All passengers will be subject to a mandatory Dubai Health Authority (DHA) coronavirus test on arrival, followed by a 14-day quarantine period and follow up test.
The news follows last week’s announcement that Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways would be operating one-way flights to the UAE capital for residents and nationals to return to the country beginning May 9. Earlier on Wednesday Etihad said it would operate a "special" flight from Abu Dhabi to New York for Americans looking to return home May 15.
In early May, Etihad and Emirates chiefs said that it could take three years for air travel demand to return to pre-COVID-19 levels.
On April 29, Etihad Airways said that it would be delaying the return of regular passenger flights until June 16.