No clarity about travel in the event of a medical emergency, death in the family or a short business trip
Indian expatriates in the UAE are asking authorities to clarify quarantine procedures for those wishing to make shorter journeys home.
Residents and travel agents who spoke to Khaleej Times said that after the Indian government mandated seven days of home quarantine for all international travelers to India, several of them have dumped or indefinitely suspended their travel plans,
However, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which imposed the revised travel regulations on Tuesday, January 11, has not yet released any clarity on quarantine or travel regulations for those making short trips.
The ministry has updated the rules given the increase in Covid-19 cases of the Omicron variant.
Anandita Dutta, an English teacher at a school in Sharjah, had planned an emergency trip to India on Wednesday because her mother is unwell at home in Calcutta. “My mother currently lives with my older sister, who has to go to Mumbai in a day or two. I was supposed to take care of her during her trip.”
Unfortunately, Dutta has had to cancel her plans due to the new quarantine regulations. “I was supposed to travel on Thursday evening and be back in time for the school opening on Monday. Since it’s almost exam season and I can’t take any time off, my sister also had to cancel her plans.
“It would be good if the ministry provides clarity and exemptions for those who want to travel in an emergency,” Dutta said.
The change in weekend days in the UAE had also made short trips attractive to several expats.
“Sharjah residents enjoy extended weekends. I was planning to travel to Kerala on January 20 for my niece’s wedding. I can’t go to the wedding now because I can’t take ten days off. In addition, I would be seven days in quarantine for days; it’s not feasible,” said Gautam Menon, an advertising professional.
In addition, travel agents have confirmed that the demand for travel between the UAE and India has fallen significantly.
Surendranath Menon, operations manager of Equator Travel Management, said: “Demand for travel between the UAE and India has fallen by 80 percent. We predicted it would rise again, but people will continue to abandon their plans if restrictions continue. “Most people go with fewer leaves of about two weeks. If they go into quarantine half the time, they don’t feel like it.”
Some agents said January 15 to March 15 is the low season for travel between the UAE and India.
“Families do not travel during this period except in an emergency,” Afi Ahmed, the director of Smart Travels, told Khaleej Times.
“We notice that those who want to travel are going to travel. I have been in Kerala for a few weeks now. Agents and travelers alike are keeping a close eye on trends. For example, once you arrive at the airport, health officials give strict instructions to all passengers every seven days stay at home,” Ahmed said.
He added: “The reality is that many passengers are also not abiding by the rules. I see that many leave their homes a day or two after arriving. As the symptoms of the Omicron variant are mild, many in Kerala treat the illness slightly. To them it’s like the regular flu.”
Raheesh Babu, the group chief operating officer of Musafir.com, an online travel agency, said: “The demand for travel to India has fallen. Ticket prices have fallen significantly. Tickets are available for as cheap as Dh200. Currently, the Demand in India-UAE sector is high. Those who had traveled to India for vacation are returning to UAE and many also travel to see Dubai Expo 2020.”
He added: “In the UAE and India sector, most of the demand comes from workers and supermarket sellers who are going on long leave. In addition, those who are currently visiting the UAE are changing their status in the country. The demand for such services is high.
“The main challenges at the moment are that the results of the RT-PCR test take time and there is no clarity about those who want to travel at short notice. Business trips have suffered. For example, those who die or have a medical emergency in the family take the risk and travel,” explains Babu.