UAE suspends all passenger and transit flights for two weeks

Emirates Boeing 777-300ER planes at Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Feb 15, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

CAIRO (REUTERS, AFP) - The United Arab Emirates suspended all passenger and transit flights to and from the country for two weeks over coronavirus fears - state news agency WAM said on Sunday (March 22) citing National Emergency and Crisis and the Civil Aviation Authority.

The Emirati authorities "have decided to suspend all inbound and outbound passenger flights and the transit of airline passengers in the UAE for two weeks as part of the precautionary measures taken to curb the spread of the Covid-19", reported WAM.

It said the decision - which is subject to review in two weeks - will take effect in 48 hours, adding: "Cargo and emergency evacuation flights would be exempt."

The UAE, whose international airports in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are major hubs, announced last Friday its first two deaths from the Covid-19 disease, having reported more than 150 cases so far.

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

But the aviation giant then reversed its decision, saying it "received requests from governments and customers to support the repatriation of travellers" and will continue to operate passenger flights to 13 destinations.

Emirates had said it will continue to fly to the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, the United States and Canada.

"We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services," said the airline's chairman and CEO, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum.

Gulf countries have imposed various restrictions to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, particularly in the air transport sector.

The UAE has stopped granting visas on arrival and forbidden foreigners who are legal residents but are outside the country from returning.

Meanwhile, UAE's ministry of health has decided to close shopping centres, all commercial centres, and open markets, except for the fish, vegetables and meat markets and will limit restaurants to delivery services, WAM said on Sunday.

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