COVID-19: Etihad, Emirates and Philippine carriers ban passengers from UAE on flights to Manila

Dubai: All major carriers of the UAE and the Philippines have cancelled their flights to Manila, following the decision of the Philippine government on Thursday evening to impose a travel ban on “all travellers going to the Philippines coming from Oman and the UAE from May 15 until May 31”.

“In line with the latest directives issued by the government of the Philippines, passengers from the UAE and Oman will not be accepted for travel to Manila (MNL) effective Friday 14 May at 23:59 UAE time until further notice, with the exemption of Filipino citizens who are part of the government repatriation programme. This is in addition to the current ban on travel from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to the Philippines,” Etihad said on Friday in a statement.

The Abu Dhabi-based airline will continue to operate flights to Manila carrying transit passengers from non-restricted countries and flights from Manila with passengers travelling to Abu Dhabi and across its network. “These passengers will be subject to acceptance and quarantine conditions,” Etihad said.

The airline said it is working closely with impacted guests to notify them of the changes to their itineraries. More information is available on the airline’s website, through the mobile app, and the call centre. “Guests who have purchased their tickets through a travel agent are advised to contact the agency from which they purchased their ticket for assistance,” the airline said.

Dubai-based Emirates also halted flights to the Philippine capital. “As directed by the government of the Philippines, restrictions on the carriage of passengers into the country will be in effect from 15 to 31 May 2021. Passengers whose journey originates from the UAE, including Filipino nationals, will not be accepted for travel to all points in the Philippines. During this time, flights will continue to operate as scheduled and passengers transiting in Dubai and those returning to the Philippines under the government repatriation programme will be allowed to travel. We regret the inconvenience caused, and affected customers should contact their booking agent or Emirates call centre for rebooking,” an Emirates spokesperson said.

A PAL official in Dubai confirmed to Gulf News on Friday that they were awaiting for advice from Manila about other flight suspensions during the 16-day travel restrictions.

In line with the Philippine government’s decision, “CEB has cancelled its flights to and from Dubai starting May 15 to 31, 2021,” Cebu Pacific told Gulf News in a statement. “Affected passengers are being informed via contact details provided in the booking. Guests may select their preferred option through the Manage Booking portal on the Cebu Pacific website up to two (2) hours before their flights,” the carrier said.

On Thursday, the Office of the Philippines Presidential Spokesperson announced: “All travellers coming from Oman and the UAE or those with travel history to these two countries within the last 14 days preceding arrival shall be prohibited from entering the Philippines beginning 0001H of May 15, 2021 until 2359H of May 31, 2021, upon the recommendation of the (Philippines) Department of Health and the Department of Foreign Affairs.”

Philippine authorities sought stricter border control measures after two passengers coming from the Middle East were tested positive for B.1.617 COVID-19 variant, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified as “a variant of global concern.” Some preliminary studies have shown that B.1.617 spreads more easily.

Alethea De Guzman, director of the Philippine Health Ministry’s epidemiology bureau, earlier said that the variant had been confirmed in two Filipino seafarers who returned in April from abroad. “We need to continually monitor what other variants we may be able to detect locally, as well as monitor the spread of the variants we have already detected,” noted De Guzman, adding: “The seafarers were isolated on their return and had both recovered.”

Quarantine and testing protocols

Meanwhile, the Philippine government said: “Passengers already in transit from the above-mentioned countries (UAE and Oman) and all those who have been to the same within 14 days immediately preceding arrival to the Philippines, who arrive before 0001H of May 15, 2021, shall not be subject to the above restriction, but shall nevertheless be required to undergo stricter quarantine and testing protocols, i.e. the observation of a 14-day facility-based quarantine period upon arrival, notwithstanding a negative Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) result.”

Travel ban extension

The Philippine government has also extended until May 31 the rule barring travellers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka from entering the country. The rule also applied to persons who had travelled to those countries within 14 days from arriving to the Philippines.

“The Department of Transportation should ensure that airlines are directed not to allow the boarding of passengers who are prohibited from entering the country pursuant to travel restrictions imposed by the Office of the President and IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) resolutions except if they are part of the repatriation efforts of the national government,” Philippines Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque underlined.

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