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Coronavirus: Emirates and Etihad airlines resume limited passenger flights

The UAE carriers return to the sky two weeks after the Gulf state halted all flights to and from the country
UAE Emirates plane coronavirus AFP
An Emirates aircraft takes off from Dubai International Airport on 6 April, after the airliner resumes a limited number of outbound passenger flights (AFP)

Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways, the United Arab Emirates’ biggest carriers, have resumed limited passenger flights two weeks after the Gulf state halted all flights to and from the country in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The flights are open to foreign citizens who wish to leave the UAE, but no incoming passengers are allowed, according to AFP. 

Foreign residents of the oil-rich nation are banned from re-entering until at least mid-April.

On Monday, the UAE reported 277 new coronavirus cases, its biggest daily jump, and one new death. In total, it has recorded 2,076 coronavirus cases and 11 deaths.

Last week, Dubai’s Emirates said it had obtained approvals to carry passengers on certain flights.

“Effective Monday 6 April, initial flights will commence from Dubai to London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels and Zurich, with 4 flights a week to London Heathrow, and 3 flights a week to the other cities,” said a statement published on Thursday by the airlines.

Emirates said it operated a flight to London late on Sunday and another to Frankfurt on Monday as part of its limited resumption.

Etihad, on the other hand, said that from 5 April it would be operating “a number of outbound flights to help foreign citizens return home from Abu Dhabi”.

“Repatriation flights will start with Seoul Incheon, followed by destinations such as Melbourne, Singapore, Manila, Jakarta and Amsterdam,” according to a travel alert posted on Etihad’s website. 

The limited operation resumed on Sunday with a passenger flight to Seoul, Ethihad said.

The travel alert also listed the flights it plans to operate through 21 April, including six more to Seoul, five to Singapore, six to Manila and two to Jakarta.

On 23 March, the UAE announced that it would halt all passenger and transit flights to and from the country for two weeks. In addition, foreign airlines would no longer be allowed to land or transit through Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or any other airport in the UAE.

But the two carriers were issued approvals on Thursday for limited flights to repatriate stranded foreigners.

To combat the spread of the virus, the UAE has imposed a sweeping crackdown, including the flight ban and closure of borders, shopping malls, entertainment centres, and markets.

A 24-hour curfew was introduced on Thursday following a big jump in the number of cases in the UAE where some 10 million people live, with 90 percent of them being expatriates.

According to Reuters, more than 20,000 Pakistani workers stuck in the emirates are seeking to return home. Pakistan is a big labour supplier to the UAE, with more than a million Pakistanis living and working in the country, according to Pakistani diplomats.

Pakistani authorities were in talks with their UAE counterparts to try to arrange flights so that the Pakistanis could return home, a spokesman said.

Neither Emirates nor Etihad has announced flights to Pakistan.