Dubai South Africa UAE
Dubai sky line (Getty Images)
  • The United Arab Emirates has upheld its ban on South African travellers, which has been in place for almost seven months.
  • Travellers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Nigeria, and Uganda, who were previously banned, will be allowed to enter from Thursday.
  • Nigeria infamously banned all Emirates flights in protest of the ongoing travel ban.
  • South Africans, whether fully vaccinated or not, will only be allowed to transit through the United Arab Emirates and will be confined to "special lounges" at airports.
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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has updated its travel regulations, permitting entry to certain visitors from previously banned countries. South African travellers will only be allowed to pass through.

It's been almost seven months since the UAE tightened restrictions on South African travellers amid concern about the Covid-19 Beta variant. While international travel bans have become commonplace during the pandemic, the UAE's has been regarded as especially unforgiving.

Thousands of expatriates – with jobs and families waiting in the UAE – have been stranded by the unrelenting travel ban, according to first-a hand account published by the Dubai-based Khaleej Times.

Glimmers of hope, in the form of reprieves announced by Emirates Airlines and Dubai's Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management, have been swiftly overturned, adding to frustrations.

The UAE's National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) – tasked with overseeing the country's response to the Covid-19 pandemic – eventually confirmed, on Tuesday, that the travel ban would be relaxed.

Certain categories of travellers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Nigeria, and Uganda will be allowed to enter the UAE from Thursday 5 August onwards. This includes travellers with residency permits, so long as they've been fully vaccinated.

But South Africa – along with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Zambia – remain firmly on the UAE's restricted list. Passengers from these countries will be allowed to use the airport to catch a connecting flight but will be contained in "special lounges".

The decision to lift the ban on Nigeria while keeping South Africans out of the UAE is especially significant. The UAE's initial restrictions on Nigeria, which allowed Emirates to operate outbound flights from UAE, as is the case with South Africa, was met with fierce criticism.

Nigeria's Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika responded to the restrictions by banning Emirates from flying to Nigeria. This halted the flight route between the two countries for more than three months. Meanwhile, Emirates has been operating a limited flight schedule to South Africa for most of the year.

Emirates has yet to announce its flight plans from South Africa to the UAE following the transit allowance.

This comes at a time when more countries – especially in Europe – are reopening to South African travellers who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The UAE proposed the same allowance back in June, but swiftly recanted.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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