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UAE visitors will be allowed to stay amid coronavirus shutdown

Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship to grant permission to stay in the country

A specific mechanism for that will be announced in the few coming days.

Visitors to the UAE caught up in the current coronavirus restrictions will be allowed to stay in the country for the foreseeable future.

The United Arab Emirates announced on Monday it will temporarily suspend all passenger and transit flights amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Emirati authorities “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 the official state news agency, WAM.

While carriers across the world have followed suit and countries closed borders, leaving many stranded in the country and far from home.

However, the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) has cushioned the blow by granting them permission to stay legitimately in the country, with specific instructions set to be announced in the coming days.

A statement from the authority said: “The ICA is keen to deal with various developments arising from the measures taken at both regional and international levels to contain the spread of coronavirus, Covid-19, in a way that will ensure necessary care to all residents of the UAE.”

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Etihad Airways launches credit plan to defer cost of virus-hit flights

Etihad Credit permits a free cancellation and offers the original value of a booking to be used as credit towards their next trip

Etihad Airways said on Thursday it is introducing Etihad Credit to give passengers the freedom to delay their travel plans as the coronavirus crisis continues to grip the world.

Etihad Credit permits a free cancellation and offers the original value of a booking to be used as credit towards their next trip, the Abu Dhabi-based airline said.

“As the situation around the novel coronavirus continues to evolve, these new measures will provide maximum flexibility and ensures guests that need to travel, do so safely and conveniently,” it added in a statement.

Robin Kamark, chief commercial officer, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “In these unprecedented times, we understand that some of our guests are either unable to, or choose not to travel and it is our responsibility to help them as much as possible. 

“Now, more than ever, there is a global effort to care for one another and halt the spread of Covid-19 and under these challenging circumstances. Etihad Credit is our way of helping to relieve some of the unnecessary burden many of our customers are facing.”

Etihad Credit is available for all passengers who have booked to travel before June 30. They have until September 30 to rebook their trip, for travel until December 31 – any ticket, any fare type, any Etihad destination. Any fare difference from the original ticket price will be charged.

Additionally, Etihad Guest Members will be gifted monthly bonus Tier Miles from the end of March for three months to help them maintain their Tier Status.

“The safety of our loyal customers, and of our employees continues to be our utmost priority, and we are taking the necessary steps to ensure their wellbeing,” added Kamark.

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Bahrain's Gulf Air to reduce flights after first virus death

Only flights to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Muscat, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Cairo, Mumbai, Delhi, Cochin, Karachi and Manila will operate from Wednesday

Gulf Air, the national carrier of Bahrain, on Monday announced plans to temporarily suspend flights to and from several destinations across its network effective from early Wednesday until the end of the month.

The decision comes on the same day as the Gulf kingdom announced the Gulf region’s first death related to the new coronavirus, known as Covid-19. The country has so far reported a total of 221 infections.

Gulf Air flights that will continue to operate to and from Bahrain International Airport are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Muscat, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Cairo, Mumbai, Delhi, Cochin, Karachi and Manila.

All other flights have been suspended temporarily due to the growing threat of the new coronavirus, the airline said in a statement. The airline operates scheduled services to 56 destinations in 30 countries across Africa, Asia and Europe.

It added that passengers arriving into Bahrain International Airport will be subject to medical tests if Bahrain is their final destination.

“Passengers must comply with such tests and procedures such as filling health declaration forms and screening processes,” it said.

Passengers are urged to check Gulf Air’s website before traveling or to call the Gulf Air Contact Centre for more information on +97317373737.

The statement added: “Gulf Air apologises to all passengers for any inconvenience that this may have caused and is working closely with the concerned authorities in the kingdom of Bahrain to take all precautionary and preventive measures in order to ensure the safety and security of the citizens and residents of the Bahrain along with its passengers and crew.”

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Egypt's fragile tourism sector braces for virus impact

Egypt has not been spared the virus’ spread, reporting its first fatality from the illness, a 60-year-old German tourist who died in the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada.

Just when Egypt’s crucial tourism sector was recovering from years of political tumult and jihadist attacks, the industry finds itself bracing for a potential buffeting by the new coronavirus.

The guesthouse where Bassam Hamimi works in archaeologically rich southern Egypt usually hosts numerous tourists from China, but since the outbreak of the deadly virus, far fewer have arrived.

“There were heaps more Chinese before. But since the coronavirus appeared in China, their absence has been felt here,” Hamimi told AFP recently in a Nubian village near Aswan, 900 kilometres (560 miles) south of Cairo, a popular destination for tourists.

Many flights that would have carried visitors to Egypt have been cancelled amid efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The virus had infected over 110,000 people worldwide and killed more than 3,800 as of Monday, disrupting travel and delivering a blow to the global economy far beyond its Chinese epicentre.

Hamimi said he was concerned that a dip in tourists visiting Pharaonic temples would hit his income, a worry shared by many in the country.

Egypt has not been spared the virus’ spread, reporting on Sunday the country’s — and Africa’s — first fatality from the illness, a 60-year-old German tourist who died in the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada.

At the end of February, several countries, including France and Canada, announced infections among people who had visited Egypt.

The north African nation had reported 55 infections by Monday, a number that includes 45 from the cruise ship “A-Sara”, docked near the southern city of Luxor, the beating heart of Pharaonic tourism.

“Preventative measures that countries have taken with regards to travel because of the virus will for sure affect the tourism sector” in Egypt, Adela Ragab, a former deputy tourism minister, told AFP.

But, she added, “it’s hard to predict what will happen. We can really (start to) assess the situation if Easter bookings are affected in April.”

– Brave face –

Egypt’s tourism industry — key to the country’s economy — has shown signs of recovery in recent years, after the 2011 revolution, a 2013 coup and the 2015 downing of a Russian airliner by the Islamic State group hit visitor arrivals.

Though still far off the 14.7 million recorded in 2010, Egypt welcomed 11.3 million arrivals in 2018, compared with just 5.3 million in 2016.

Revenues from the sector grew to $12.6 billion between 2018 and 2019, compared to $10 billion the previous year, according to the central bank.

Egyptian authorities have taken measures to forestall the spread of the virus.

State television has broadcast numerous images of the disinfection of Cairo’s metro and trains.

The government is remaining upbeat for now.

“Tourist activities are proceeding normally in Luxor… as thousands of visitors have flocked onto its different archaeological sites,” the tourism ministry said Monday.

Speaking to reporters in Luxor on Sunday alongside Health Minister Hala Zayed, Tourism Minister Khaled El-Enany said tourists were still arriving in droves.

“You have seen the numbers yourselves, the buses, the queues: tourism is still very stable in Luxor… everything is going well so far,” he said.

– Cruise ship quarantine –

Former president of the Federation of Chambers of Tourism, Ilhami al-Zayyat, told AFP there had been “a slight uptick in cancellations so far from countries” including China and Italy, another country heavily affected by the virus.

“But we still have Americans, British, Australians and South Americans coming,” he said.

He added, however, that he expected fewer tourists from Arab countries, “especially those coming from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia”, which have placed restrictions on travellers from Egypt due to the virus.

Egyptian authorities had on Saturday reported moving 45 suspected cases — 33 passengers and 12 crew — from the stricken “A-Sara” cruise ship into isolation on land, without specifying what happened to the others aboard.

Matt Swider, an American cruise passenger who tested positive for the virus, documented on Twitter his transfer to a north coast hospital aboard a military jet, saying the staff had been “extremely friendly”.

The scores of foreign tourists on the ship, including American, French and Indian nationals, as well as Egyptian crew, had been quarantined aboard the ship, passengers on board told AFP.

Health Minister Zayed said passengers who tested negative were free to leave after 24 hours, though two travellers AFP spoke to on Monday said they were still in quarantine.

On Monday, 340 tourists coming from Greece aboard a Maltese ship were tested for the virus.

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