Last year, the coronavirus pandemic brought the world to an unexpected, abrupt standstill, confining people to their homes. Though the last part of 2020 saw international borders gradually opening up, international tourism hasn’t picked up yet post lockdown.
2021, however, started on the much-welcome note of mass vaccination programmes, giving travellers the hope of getting to fly cross-border once again. With thousands of people getting the jabs everyday in the UAE and many other countries, international travel doesn’t seem too far down the road anymore.
Let’s take a closer look at how the COVID-19 vaccination will reshape international travel.
Can Emiratis travel after getting vaccinated?
In short, yes.
While getting vaccinated doesn’t automatically mean travel is back to normal, vaccination carries certain travel incentives, at least in the UAE.
In early January, Abu Dhabi has announced several exemptions enjoyed by the vaccine recipients. People getting vaccinated from COVID-19 are largely exempt from border regulations and quarantine.
- Entering Abu Dhabi from land: They will no longer need a PCR or DPI test to enter Abu Dhabi by land.
- Entering Abu Dhabi from abroad: They will not have to serve mandatory 14-day quarantine. However, they will still need to carry a PCR test result and get tested again on arrival, and on the 4th and 8th day after arrival.
These benefits can be verified via the Alhosn app.
Is it safe to travel after getting vaccinated?
Does the vaccine reduce the chances of contracting the virus? Sure. But does it eliminate it altogether? No.
No vaccine is 100% effective and there is always a chance of getting sick in spite of being inoculated. Though the COVID vaccines that have been approved around the world for emergency use are highly effective, they don’t come without their limitations.
Even after receiving all the doses, the vaccine may take time to build up your immunity. Achieving herd immunity, too, will take several months, and will hugely depend on the number of vaccines getting approved, production and distribution of the vials, and public acceptance of the vaccine.
Moreover, new, mutated strains of the coronavirus having been cropping in different regions. Till now, most vaccines have been proved to work against all the different strains, but that may not necessarily be the case for all the possible mutations.
Dr. Alia Mohammad Al Dallal, acting director of specialized program services at the Dubai Health Authority, has advised people who plan to travel to consult a medical professional about the vaccine, in order to assess their medical condition, allergies, and pre-existing health conditions.
The vaccine should be taken at least one month before departure to make sure the immunity system is well-primed against the virus.
Safety precautions while travelling
Considering all this, it is better to take all the necessary safety measures, in case you do travel.
- Wear well-fitting masks at all times when in public and maintain social-distancing norms.
- Sanitise your hands constantly and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- While booking your seats, try to avoid sitting next to other people.
- Limit your travel to offbeat locations which will be less crowded.
- As far as possible, skip public transport.
- Consider vacation homes and apartments, as they are less likely to be frequented by travellers, unlike hotels and resorts.
- Prefer delivery and take-out options to dine-in in restaurants.
In short, be just as careful as you would have been if you hadn’t been vaccinated.
Will COVID vaccination be mandatory for international travellers?
Whether or not coronavirus jabs should come with travel-related privileges, such as exemption from the two-week quarantine rule, has become a much-discussed and debated question. While some airlines have taken a stand in support of it, some have left it to their respective governments.
Though it is too early to tell, it is likely that countries will bring in vaccination as a prerequisite for international arrivals, sooner or later. Just as the vaccine protects the traveller from catching the infection in that country, it also hedges the country against the possibility of the traveller being infected and spreading the virus amidst the locals. (This, however, depends on the assumption that individuals vaccinated against COVID-19 won’t transmit the virus to others, like in the case of other viruses.)
The IATA hasn’t arrived on an official position yet, but has been leaning towards testing in lieu of quarantine. Its Travel Pass app will carry users’ vaccination certificates and will be crucial in countries that will allow entry to only vaccinated individuals.
The exact impact that COVID vaccination has on international travel restrictions and the stances that different countries take on the situation will become clear once their vaccination programs near the end and governments turn their attention to the revival of their tourism sectors again.
Where can Emirati travellers fly after getting vaccinated?
Can’t wait to travel again? We totally understand and so do some destinations in the world.
If you’ve been vaccinated (two doses for most vaccines out in circulation), some countries will allow you to skip testing or quarantine. Seychelles, Romania, Georgia, and Estonia are only some of the growing list of countries that are flinging their borders open for travellers who have been vaccinated. With more and more people getting vaccinated and countries growing desperate to welcome tourists, expect more places around the world to join this list.
Emirati passengers who have completed their both COVID-19 vaccine doses will also be exempted from the seven-days’ institutional quarantine at Mumbai, India.
The UAE is also in talks with Israel to create a travel corridor for vaccinated citizens, to facilitate travel for commercial, tourism and official purposes.