New measures imposed as number of cases rise in UAE, a country which has become a hub for Europeans fleeing lockdowns.
The United Kingdom removed the United Arab Emirates from its travel corridors list on Monday, following a surge of COVID-19 cases in the Gulf country.
The move took effect at 04:00 GMT on Tuesday and means travellers arriving in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from the UAE are required to self-isolate for 10 days.
The decision by the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) came as a number of British celebrities and social media influencers have shared photos and videos online of their holiday trips to Dubai, an Emirati city known for its five-star luxury hotels and beaches.
“The decision has been made following a significant acceleration in the number of imported cases, along with the number of reported new cases over the past 7 days, which have risen in the UAE by 52 percent,” the DfT said on Monday.
Under the UK’s existing rules, passengers arriving from all international destinations, including the UAE, must present a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to three days before departing for England or Scotland.
The UAE has adopted entry requirements designed to boost tourism despite the pandemic, and hotels, restaurants and bars are open for business.
Last week, the Financial Times reported that “party city” Dubai, also the UAE’s trade hub, had become an “escape hatch as Europe locks down”, for British, French and Russian tourists fleeing strict social distancing restrictions.
Throughout the UAE, the number of new daily COVID cases has risen sharply in recent weeks.
The Gulf state does not disclose where in the country infections or deaths take place and has not recently announced new measures to prevent the pandemic’s spread.
In total, it has recorded more than 230,000 cases and 711 deaths, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Authorities in the UAE, which has a population of about nine million people, said last week that 826,301 vaccines had been administered as of January 5, without specifying which type.
They added the country aimed to vaccine more than 50 percent of the population in the first quarter of this year.
Last week, Abu Dhabi started phase three clinical trials of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.
The UAE is also conducting phase three trials of a vaccine developed by the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). The vaccine has been approved for use in the country and it is available for free to anybody who wants it, with priority given to more vulnerable individuals, according to the UAE’s health ministry.
Dubai also began inoculating people last month with the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the number of recorded COVID cases has now risen to more than 3.1 million. The country’s overall death toll from the pandemic stands at nearly 82,000 people – the fifth highest in the world.