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Time for a rethink on the UAE’s red listing? An open letter to Grant Shapps, the UK’s Secretary of State for Transport

As the UAE’s coronavirus cases continue to decline, and the nation is named as one of the most covid-resilient in the world, Arabian Business is urging a rethink on the emirates’ Red List status.

Dear Mr Shapps,

It is perhaps fitting that I write to you as the Arabian Travel Market takes place in Dubai, a safe live event of global significance that I know many tourism representatives from the UK wanted to attend, but cannot.

You are of course aware of this because your Green List of safe travel destinations came into effect this week, a list that not only omits the UAE but keeps the country on your Red List.

While you will keep your counsel on this matter, the safety of the UK being your prime concern, I would urge you to reconsider this decision at the earliest opportunity (you were to review this every three weeks), and I ask this based on the following:

As the Arabian Travel Market took place in Dubai with attendees from 90 countries, on May 17 the number of new cases of coronavirus in the country fell to just 1,229, while the number of vaccine doses administered rose to 11,489,475, with a rate of 116.17 doses per 100 people.

The UAE has been consistently one of the world’s leading vaccinators and yet travel between it and the UK has been prohibited, which is to the detriment of the travel and hospitality sectors in both nations.

However, this isn’t the only reason I urge you to rethink.

On Friday, May 14, Arabian Business reported how a new report suggested the UAE is the second-most pandemic resilient country in the world. The Pandemic Resilience Index ranked 40 countries on factors including vaccination approval dates, vaccination drives, critical care bed capacity and mass testing.

The study – conducted by advocacy group Consumer Choice Centre (CCC) – aimed to provide an overview of global health system preparedness for the Covid crisis.

Israel topped the list, followed by the UAE, the US, UK and Bahrain respectively. Ukraine was last on the list of those countries, at number 41.

It is worth noting that Ukraine on May 17 had 2,136 new daily cases, nearly double the cases of the UAE, and its death toll stands at 48,184 compared to the UAE’s 1,633 (nearly 30 times fewer).

I only highlight its figures to point out that it is on the UK’s Amber List, as indeed is the USA.

Statistically, I would urge that numbers alone justify a rethink on the Red List status of the UAE.

Indeed, Fred Roeder managing director, of CCC, who led the Pandemic Resilience Index, said: “The UAE is a country that managed to quickly kick off its vaccination campaign, vaccinated over 50 percent of its population [by March 31] and has carried out extensive testing – which is why it performed so well in the index.”

Roeder continued to describe how the UAE stands out on testing and is markedly ahead of countries such as Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, France, Lithuania and Italy.

The UAE is a country whose residents and businesses have a strong sense of respect for the coronavirus precautions put in place by the government. Our initial lock-down in 2020 was comprehensive and rigorous, with curfews in place, and permissions to be sought for leaving the home, even for grocery shopping. The UAE was among the first countries in the world to close schools, in early March of 2020.

Our vaccination take-up has been world-leading, and quite simply we do, in large part, follow the rules. There is no argument over mask wearing, here that is respected, and there are fines and measures large enough to deter non-compliance. Almost 90 percent of people surveyed saw Dubai as the safest place in the world after it re-opened, according to independent research conducted by GRS Explori, a world-leading research company for exhibitions, visitor attractions and large events and research partners of UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry.

Likewise our hospitality industry has responded in an almost heroic fashion, here hotels and restaurants are run with a world-class degree of professionalism, with operators committed to keeping customers and staff safe. They have learned lessons at every juncture of this pandemic.

And regular inspections by the authorities ensure that rules are followed at all venues, it’s that simple.

These same world-class precautions are clearly visible at our airports, with contactless check-in among the many safety features, and on board our flights, with every passenger arriving requiring a negative PCR test. Each visitor is also required to download a highly successful track and trace app.

The UAE is welcoming and deserves your attention again.

On June 7, on behalf of Arabian Business at the very least (and anyone else who chooses to add their voice to this letter) I ask you to think again and remove the UAE from the UK’s Red List.

Originally published here.

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