The UK Has Now Banned Travel From The UAE (Bad Luck “Influencers”!)

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Over the past couple of weeks, and as it battles to try to get its coronavirus infection rates under control, the UK has been announcing new restrictions on international travel. Pre-departure testing rules for all international travelers have been introduced, all travel corridors have been suspended, travel from an entire continent has been banned and government-supervised quarantine measures have been announced. Now, as new variants of COVID-19 continue to raise fears, one of the world’s current busiest air routes has been shut down.


In November last year, the UAE was added to the UK’s travel corridor list which meant that it was possible for residents of the UK to visit one of their more popular winter destinations without having to quarantine upon their return.

The UAE made it easy for UK travelers to visit and to enjoy themselves once they arrived (it wanted their cash) so although a lot of noise was made about how much emphasis was being put on health and safety, the reality was that a lot of the restrictions that were meant to be in place were either not being policed or not being implemented at all. A lot of Brits made the most of their chance to escape the UK winter and to head to the sun.

In December, when the British government finally realized that it was not in any kind of control of the virus, the UK went into its second full lockdown, and residents were told, unequivocally, that they should not travel for leisure. A lot of people didn’t listen and we’ve been seeing various so-called “influencers” posting images to social media promoting themselves (and the brands that are dumb enough to pay them) as they lie on sunloungers and beaches in Dubai.

With images like this one from Dubai International Airport appearing in the news and on social media sites almost every day…

a group of people in a large room

…it didn’t take a genius to work out that the UAE was heading for another big spike in coronavirus cases. Sure enough, in the days immediately after the image above was posted, virus cases in the Emirates started to rise rapidly and on 11 January the UK removed the UAE from its travel corridor list.a screenshot of a message

Everyone returning from the UAE now had to self-isolate (quarantine) upon their return to the UK.

Since then, virus cases in the UAE have continued to rise and the past few days have seen the country publish new record numbers of cases every day.

a graph with a line


In an announcement made yesterday evening (UK time), the UK’s Minister for Transport Grant Shapps announced that the UAE was being added to the UK’s “red-list” and that all travel to and from the UAE was banned from 13:00 (UK time) on 29 January 2021 (today).

a screenshot of a news story

A key worry for the government is that the new South African variant of the coronavirus is making headway in the UAE so following recent claims that the UAE’s COVID testing for departing passengers wasn’t robust (Denmark recently banned all travel from the UAE for this reason), it couldn’t afford to take any more risks. Travel to/from the UAE had to be stopped.

As of 13:00 today, a flight ban is in place and Etihad and Emirates have halted all flights to the UK.

What This Means

The UAE is now on the UK’s red list so flights between the UK and the UAE are suspended.

British and Irish Nationals and legal residents of the UK may return from the UAE (via another country) but will be required to self-isolate for 10 days upon their return and may not use the UK’s ‘Test to Release’ program to reduce that self-isolation period. Everyone else who has been in the UAE at any point in the 14 days leading up to their date of travel is forbidden from entering the UK.

The addition of the UAE to the UK’s red list means that it now joins countries like Portugal and South Africa and all the counties of South America in being a destination from which anyone returning to the UK will be placed into government-supervised quarantine once that program is implemented. More details of that program are expected to be announced next week.


The removal of the UAE from the UK’s travel corridor list was inevitable when we saw the minimal efforts being made to keep people safe at Dubai International Airport and at numerous hotels and restaurants around the UAE. Likewise, the addition of the UAE to the UK’s red list became inevitable as soon as the red list was created. The country’s case numbers have been sky-rocketing for weeks and we’ve known for at least 8 days that the South African variant of the virus (the variant scientists seemed to be most concerned about) is established in the UAE, so the only surprise has been that it’s taken this long for travel to/from the UAE to be banned.

The hardest hit by this news will be Emirates as, up until now, it has been seeing enough passenger demand from the UK to justify flying its A380s into Heathrow multiple times a day seven days a week. Now, very suddenly, those A380s will almost certainly have to be grounded.

The next hardest hit will be people who have traveled from the UK to the UAE for genuine business reasons and who now find themselves having to find a way to get home and who face 10 days of self-isolation upon their return. I could argue that they should have seen this coming and not traveled in the first place but for some, there may not have been any other option.

The people I have no sympathy for are the ones who traveled to the UAE under false pretenses just to enjoy a vacation in the sun and who now find themselves stuck in the UAE and wondering how they’re going to get home. These guys broke the law to leave the UK and showed no regard for anyone else so, with a bit of luck, the next few days will be a painful and expensive lesson for them.

Bottom Line

The UK has banned all travel from the United Arab Emirates and as of 13:00 today (29 January 2021) Etihad and Emirates have suspended all their UK flights. The only people allowed to enter the UK having been in the UAE at any point in the past 14 days are British and Irish Nationals and legal residents of the UK who will be required to self-isolate for a full 10 days upon their return.