UAE and Qatar to resume cross-border flights amid coronavirus concerns

UAE and Qatar to resume cross-border flights amid coronavirus concerns
The United Arab Emirates and Qatar will reopen flights at the end of the month.
3 min read
21 January, 2021
The UAE and Qatar resumed diplomatic relations [Getty]

The United Arab Emirates and Qatar will resume cross-border flights at the end of January for first time in three years, following the end of a diplomatic rift.

Flydubai will operate twice a day to Doha from 26 January, and Etihad Airways will restart flights on 15 February. Qatar Airways will also offer two flights a day starting from 27 January, and one daily flight from Abu Dhabi from 28 January.

Cross-border flights between the two Gulf states had been suspended in June 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a blockade on Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and fostering close ties with Iran. The blockading countries and Qatar recently ended the rift, with Doha having long denied their accusations.

Egypt on Wednesday became the latest country to resume diplomatic relations with Qatar, three years after cutting off ties to the Gulf nation.

"The Arab Republic of Egypt and the state of Qatar have exchanged two official notes today, January 20, according to which the two countries agreed to resume diplomatic relations," a statement from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said.

At a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council earlier this month, Egypt signed the Al-Ula Declaration, ending the three-year dispute between Qatar on the one hand and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt on the other.

Covid-19 restrictions

Coronavirus considerations were not mentioned in the new flight announcements, however Dubai has released new restrictions due to a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Dubai's tourism department Thursday announced an immediate halt to all live entertainment at hotels and restaurants, a day after suspending non-urgent surgeries at hospitals to deal with an influx of Covid-19 patients.

Although bars and restaurants would remain open for the time being, Dubai’s media office said it would pause the issuance of new entertainment permits to venues effective immediately to ensure "public health and safety".

The office said it issued more than 200 violations for "non-compliance" with Covid-19 guidelines and shuttered 20 establishments over the last few weeks.

"There is a stop to all events and entertainment in hotels and restaurants, and we are working to clarify any ambiguity as to what this means," said Khaled Fawaz Al-Najjad, press office manager for the tourism department.

He declined to say whether the move came in response to the virus surge and gave no time frame for the resumption of entertainment activities. It remained unclear whether the restrictions would extend to parties and wedding celebrations, which the city now caps at 200 people.

Thursday's decisions come after the UAE shattered its infection record for the ninth consecutive day, with over 3,500 cases.

The country does not release location data for infections, making it difficult to determine where in the federation of seven sheikhdoms has been hardest hit by the virus.

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