UAE suspends flights in and out of Dubai, city on lockdown

The United Arab Emirates on Monday suspended all passenger and transit flights to and from the country. / Net photo.

The United Arab Emirates on Monday suspended all passenger and transit flights to and from the country for two amidst global outbreak of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19).

The decision to suspend flights to and from Dubai International Airport followed the death of two people over the virus on Friday, the first fatality to be reported in the UAE.

 

The deaths were reported on March 20, with 153 confirmed cases currently.

 

Monday’s announcement came hours after Dubai carrier Emirates announced it would suspend all passenger flights by March 25.

 

"Additional examination and isolation arrangements will be taken later should flights resume in order to ensure the safety of passengers, air crews, and airport personnel and their protection from infection risks," said the statement.

This was followed by a directive putting all the states of UAE on a lockdown, where everyone other than those providing essential services to stay at home.

The move makes Emirates the largest airline to completely ground its fleet. The U.A.E. based carrier flies the most passenger-kilometers each year and has a fleet of 277 aircraft.

Dubai's airport is a vital hub connecting Europe and other Western nations with countries in Asia and Australia. Suspending transit flights there impacts travelers around the world.

There are around 26,800 cases of the virus confirmed in the Middle East, but more than 21,000 of those cases are in Iran and many others are linked to travelers from Iran, which has reported nearly 1,700 fatalities.

Globally, the count of confirmed cases has risen to 342,393 confirmed cases and 14,762 deaths so far.

Meanwhile, with 19 cases of confirmed coronavirus cases in Rwanda, some patients have been linked with Dubai.

The latest cases involve two Rwandan men who travelled from Dubai on March 19 and March 20 who were on Sunday confirmed by the Ministry of Health to be positive of the virus.

Previously, there have been other confirmed cases in Rwanda where the patients had either been to or transited through Dubai.

Members of the Rwandan business community have been going to Dubai in large numbers to get merchandise.

Recently, RwandAir-national carrier- experienced an increase in its passenger traffic in Dubai by about 17 percent, and cargo by 38 percent in the first 7 months of 2019, according to Al Rais Travel that represents the airline in Dubai.

There was also an even more significant spike recently, after the Rwandan business community saw Dubai as an alternative market during the initial days of the outbreak of the coronavirus, which struck China first, making it inaccessible.

Before RwandAir suspended all its flights last week, it operated a daily flight to Dubai.

Rwanda's total exports to the UAE amounted to over US$ 280 million in 2018, up from US$ 237 million in 2017. 

Exports mainly comprised of minerals and agricultural products such as coffee. On the other hand, imports from the UAE increased to US$ 166.4 million in 2018 up from US$ 23 million in 2017.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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