British expatriates in the United Arab Emirates have spoken of their joy and relief after the UK moved the UAE to the COVID-19 amber list, with many now planning to make a long-awaited trip back home to see family and friends.
The UK announced late Wednesday that the UAE and several other countries, including Qatar, Bahrain and India, had been reclassified from a ‘red’ to an ‘amber’ country, following a review of its traffic light system, allowing travel without a hotel quarantine for fully vaccinated visitors.
For British expats in the UAE the news had been a long-time coming.
Karl Feilder, CEO of Natural Fuels in the UAE, described the new rules as a “game changer”.
He has not seen his three daughters, aged 20, 17 and 15, who all study in the UK, throughout 2021.
Fielder is currently also in COVID-19 isolation after contracting the virus. The fact his daughters can now travel to the UAE and not quarantine in a hotel upon return is a “huge relief.”
“I am very, very relieved. “I have had a nightmare for 13 months. My three daughters are in the UK to study, but Dubai is their home and this red list situation as been a complete and utter nightmare for well over a year. All have them haven’t been home to the start of the year and until the UAE went to amber, they wouldn’t have been able to come see us all this year. They miss us, their pets, their friends.”
Dubai mother Rohini Gill told Al Arabiya English that the news brought comfort to her and her family, saying that the reclassification had opened the option to now travel to the UK if they needed.
“It is knowing that we have the choice to go back is something happens – that is the relief,” she said. “I cried happy, happy tears as I read the news – tears that I didn’t know I had.”
“I am delighted by the news, whilst I may not be able to travel in August, I will as soon as possible in September.”
Lauren Lynn Brennan said the reclassification means she can also travel home – and her family can finally meet her baby boy Freddie, born during the pandemic.
“After 20 very long months we can finally go back to Scotland now the UAE has gone on the amber list in the UK. We cannot wait to introduce our baby boy to our family. Over a year old and he finally is going to meet his family. Time to pack the suitcases!”
UAE resident Dave Evans also welcomed the news
“I work for Spinneys as part of the logistics team and we have been busy keeping the stores stocked throughout this pandemic,” he told Al Arabiya English on Thursday. “In this time, I have not been able to get back to the UK to see family for two years now).”
“I have missed my father turning 70, and missing my mum turning 70 today. I have also missed good friends getting married last month and my wife has a daughter and four granddaughters that she is dying to make it back for the youngest first birthday.”
“This announcement is a very welcome boost to so many people, simply to know that if there was a problem you can hop on to a plane and get back without being trapped in a hotel is good for the mental health of people.”
John Martin St. Valery, chairman of the British Business Group, Dubai and Northern Emirates, welcomed the news saying it would be good for UK-UAE business relations.
“The change from red to amber for Covid travel between the UAE and UK is a huge relief for many including; the British expats in the UAE, business travellers, the hospitality and tourism community and everyone involved in Expo 2020.
So many of our members will now be encouraged to book travel, which will be a much needed boost for the travel and tourism industry and also a welcome relief for those fatigued with virtual business communication, keen to meet face to face again with clients and strategic partners, that have delayed business travel to the UAE in the last year.”
Since the UK introduced the red, amber, and green light traffic travel system in January 2020, the UAE had remained on the red list, meaning visitors previously had to quarantine in a costly government-approved hotel for 10 days in England.
All changes will come into effect at 4am on Sunday August 8.
Following the announcement, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We are committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we’ve made through our successful vaccination program, helping connect families, friends and businesses around the world.”
“While we must continue to be cautious, today’s changes reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe, which is good news for both the sector and traveling public.”
UK Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said as the world learns to live with the COVID-19 virus, the UK continues to take steps to safely reopen international travel, based on the latest data and expert public health advice.
“The vaccines have already prevented around 60,000 deaths and 22 million infections in England, and with over seven in 10 adults in the UK now double jabbed we are building a wall of defense against the disease.”
“As well as moving more countries to the green list, the announcement also demonstrates the need for continued caution. Further countries have been added to the red list to help protect the success of our vaccine rollout from the threat of new variants.”
The British Embassy in the UK said all classification changes have been decided by UK Ministers, informed by the latest data and analysis by the Joint Biosecurity center (JBC) and wider public health considerations, to help the public understand the risks to public health of traveling to different destinations.
All measures announced will be kept under review, and “further action may be taken to protect public health,” it said.