Mario Falcone has been caught out living it up in Dubai during lockdown while posting old photos on Instagram, giving the impression he is in the UK.
The former TOWIE star, 32, and his make-up artist fiancée Becky Miesner were seen enjoying the sunshine in the emirate with their son Parker, two, but have continued to upload images taken at their Essex home.
On Thursday, Becky posted a photo of her wrapped up in a warm winter coat and Wellington boots – just as she and Mario were spotted enjoying the beach wearing shorts and sunglasses in temperatures of 27C.
Spotted: Mario Falcone has been caught out living it up in Dubai during lockdown while posting old photos on Instagram giving the impression he is in the UK
In a video clip filmed that same day and exclusively obtained by MailOnline, Mario can be seen standing on a boardwalk next to the sand, looking relaxed.
The footage shows Mario discussing quarantine with a pal as he grabbed a coffee, while Becky looks after Parker in a pushchair.
Mario and Becky have been staying at the £250-a-night 5-star Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel – despite giving the impression to their followers that they’re still in Essex.
A guest at the hotel told MailOnline how they spotted Mario, who’s the brother of I’m A Celeb winner Giovanna Fletcher, 36, enjoying a beach day.
‘Chilling’: This week Mario shared an image to his 1.2million Instagram followers that showed him sitting in his Essex garden despite being spotted in Dubai at the same time
Family: Mario and his fiancée Becky Miesner were seen in the sunshine in the emirate with their son Parker but have continued to upload images taken at their Essex home
The onlooker said: ‘It’s bad enough the influencers who are out here trying to defend themselves as some have.
‘But to slip over here and leave all your Instagram followers thinking that you’re back home shivering with everyone else in England during lockdown is outrageous.’
Boutique owner Lou Spearpoint tagged the couple in an Instagram story as they visited a salon in Dubai on Thursday, where they posed on video alongside model Lottie Tomlinson.
A tanned Mario is seen grinning at the camera before pulling a silly face as music pumps in the background.
His presence on the beach came a day before posting an image of himself in his garden in Essex with the caption ‘chilling.’ Less than 24 hours ago Becky shared a picture of her dressed for winter.
A representative for Mario declined to comment when contacted by MailOnline.
Caught out?: Less than 24 hours ago, Mario’s girlfriend uploaded a photo showing her dressed in a warm coat and boots, the same day she was seen in sunglasses on the beach in Dubai
But a friend of the couple insisted Becky was in Dubai for a meeting linked to her beauty business and that Mario had gone for the 48 hour trip to look after Parker.
Their journey to Dubai came as UK remained in national lockdown, with the government enforcing rules to stay at home to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Under strict law, UK citizens are only advised to leave home for essential reasons, such as exercising with someone from your household.
Ministers yesterday stepped up their war against illegal foreign holidays with a new ad campaign telling Britons not to travel – as influencers continued to live it up in Dubai.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office launched adverts warning ‘going on holiday is currently illegal’ amid a clampdown on illicit trips.
It is believed Mario checked out of his Dubai hotel early on Friday morning and has already returned to the UK with his family, meaning he will have to quarantine for ten days.
On Friday afternoon, he posted an Instagram story of Peppa Pig being played on his large TV screen at home in Essex, with someone snuggled under a blanket on the sofa.
The Government’s enforced ban on all direct flights from the UAE started at 1pm today.
Fun times: Lou Spearpoint tagged the couple in an Instagram story as they visited a salon in Dubai on Thursday, where they posed on video alongside model Lottie Tomlinson
The only way influencers can come back to the UK now from Dubai is to fly via third hub, including Doha, Amsterdam or Paris.
Those who made the flight back before 1pm will have to quarantine at home for ten days.
Earlier this week, Mario voiced concerns on Twitter at the prospect of travellers having to isolate in a hotel after returning from overseas trips.
Mario suggested in a series of tweets that the Government should introduce ‘stricter checkups’ on people quarantining at home rather than putting people in hotels.
Pampering: Lou shared an Instagram story, tagging Mario’s long-term girlfriend Becky and Lottie at the salon and describing their time together as a ‘girl’s day’
He tweeted: ‘So with this ‘hotel quarantine’ idea.
‘Will lorry drivers bringing food in have to? Football teams in the European cups?
‘Pilots and cabin crews? What stops people just leaving? A fine? By force?
‘Are the hotels ventilation systems not going to pass the virus around?
‘Sure it makes sense to have stricter check ups on people quarantining at home? Tag people? Airport rapid tests?
‘What if people actually travel for work? Or are travelling for an ill relative etc?’
Mario is the latest reality star to be criticised for travelling abroad.
Models, social media ‘personalities’ and reality TV stars have defiantly stayed at the poolside in Gulf resorts after thousands of other British travellers raced home to beat the travel ban, which began on Friday afternoon.
‘Sunday strolls’: Mario has uploaded a series of photos to Instagram the past week, including a picture of him wrapped up in a red puffer jacket and wearing trainers
‘Difficult week’: Mario, pictured with son Parker, is the latest reality star to be criticised for travelling abroad while continuing to post old Instagram pictures online
Henry Simmons, who appears on Absolutely Ascot, shared a view from his balcony and a story about influencers being stranded with the caption: ‘Oh what a shame.’
The likes of Mia Sully from Absolutely Ascot and Love Island stars Joseph Garratt and Anton Danyluk were pictured on Instagram enjoying life in the sunshine yesterday, despite the UK Government adding the United Arab Emirates to the so-called red list of countries from where travel to Britain is prohibited during the coronavirus pandemic.
Others including Only Fans model Honey Evans from Leeds said they would stay out in Dubai despite the ban. She tweeted: ‘Flights from Dubai to the UK are banned. Guess I have no choice but to stay out here. Shame.’
Following a backlash, Honey later added: ‘So many people giving me s*** for being in Dubai.’
Under lockdown rules in place since the start of the month Britons ‘going on a foreign holiday is not a valid reason to leave home,’ one official said, adding that it ‘increases the risk of spreading the virus and puts people in danger’.
Due to border closures caused by Covid-19, Dubai to London was the world’s busiest international route in January with 190,365 scheduled seats this month. In normal times the busiest route to and from London is New York City.
Many Britons are staying out in Dubai because they know they will only have to quarantine at home for ten days upon their return and a rule forcing them to stay in a hotel will not come in until February 8 at the earliest.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office launched adverts warning ‘going on holiday is currently illegal’ amid a clampdown on illicit trips.
Living it up: Instagram influencers posted photographs of themselves still in Dubai on Friday despite the UK travel ban coming into force
But some including make-up artist Amy Wilson from Sheffield said they had just managed to get home just before the ban on direct inbound passenger flights from the UAE to Britain came into effect at 1pm on Friday.
Amy tweeted: ‘Can’t believe how lucky me and Jack have been with flights. Got back from Turkey two hours before the quarantine deadline and getting the last flight home from Dubai before the UK closes its boarders to the UAE. Someone’s looking out for me.’
Dubai, which is home to some 240,000 British expats and is a major tourist destination for UK travellers, is likely to face a major economic hit from the travel ban. It comes as daily reported coronavirus cases in the UAE near 4,000 and Dubai sacked the head of its government health agency without explanation following the surge.
Three flights from Dubai and two from Abu Dhabi were due to land at Heathrow before the 1pm curfew. One flight arrived at Manchester Airport from Abu Dhabi, and one landed in Glasgow from Dubai.
Fun: Influencer Gav Gibson posted a photograph of him with a drink at Train Beach Club at La Mer in Dubai on Friday with the caption: ‘UK government, you can’t come home. Me, cheers’
Emirates and Etihad Airways said all UK passenger flights from the UAE have been suspended, although British Airways told passengers that some were still running.
Other countries which have banned flights from the UAE include Denmark, which had concerns over the reliability of Covid-19 tests at some private clinics in Dubai – although the UAE has since reassured Denmark about this.
Meanwhile British athletes at a training camp in Dubai have criticised the Government for the 11th-hour rule change after the usual elite-sport travel exemptions were scrapped for the UAE.
Love Island star Joe Garratt and his American girlfriend Desiree Schlotz continued to enjoy the sun on Friday after arriving in Dubai five days ago
Absolutely Ascot star Mia Sully posted a photo on Instagram on Friday of her by a swimming pool in Dubai
Mia Sully (left), social media strategist Bianca Lynch (centre) and Yazmin Oukhellou from Towie (right) in Dubai on Friday
Yazmin Oukhellou from The Only Way Is Essex sat by a poolside in Dubai on Friday despite the travel ban coming into force
Anton Danyluk (left) from Love Island is among those still in Dubai despite the travel restrictions coming in on Friday
Former Coronation Street star Arianna Atjar also posted an Instagram photo from a poolside in Dubai on Friday
Dutch model Anniek van Keulen who works for Clean Nutrition posted this Dubai poolside picture on Instagram on Friday morning
Stephen Parsons posted this picture of him getting a haircut from celebrity barber Ryan Ward while in Dubai, saying: ‘Was supposed to get a flight today… I got a fresh trim instead’
Love Island winner Paige Turley shared a picture at a restaurant in Dubai, saying: ‘Chinese cuisine with gorgeous views of the dancing fountain and burj khalifa’
As daily reported coronavirus cases near 4,000 in the UAE, Dubai has sacked the head of its government health agency
Daily confirmed Covid-19 deaths in Dubai have also been increasing in recent weeks – back to levels last seen in May 2020
The last flight to the UK from Dubai before new quarantine restrictions kicked in touched down at Birmingham Airport this afternoon carrying several hundred relieved passengers who scurried home to beat the 1pm deadline.
Dubai faces economic cost of flight bans
After throwing its doors open to partygoers over the New Year, Dubai is now facing the economic cost of surging coronavirus cases as flight bans threaten its £23billion tourism sector.
Britain last night placed an outright travel ban on the Middle East party haven where the New Year revelry has been blamed for a spike in infections.
Denmark also shut down flights last week while Germany is now requiring negative tests for travellers from the UAE.
Before the pandemic struck last year, 100,000 British tourists a month were visiting Dubai during the winter, typically spending £34million per month to stay in its stylish hotels – which now face a setback after enjoying a revival in December.
British tourists normally make up seven per cent of all visitors to Dubai, the third-largest group behind Indians and Saudis, but the UK government has shut down flights over fears of importing the feared South African strain of the disease.
The Philippines has discovered the UK variant in a man who returned from Dubai, while Israel has closed its main airport to nearly all flights after finding more than 900 positive cases in people coming back from the emirate.
The UK ban is also an irritation for long-haul travellers who would normally connect in Dubai, where flagship carrier Emirates has stopped flights from Britain to Australia.
While many countries shut down travel from Britain after the UK variant was blamed for an exponential growth in cases in Kent and elsewhere, Dubai kept its doors open.
Glamorous British influencers and reality stars flocked to Dubai to enjoy the city’s famous beaches and bars, some claiming that their trips were essential for work.
Dubai’s re-opening has helped to staunch the bleeding of its crucial tourism and hospitality sectors after lockdowns and curfews cratered its economy.
Hotel occupancy in the city rose to 71 per cent in December, the highest since the pandemic began.
But cases have climbed alarmingly for weeks, with deaths also rising to their highest level since the spring, forcing some new restrictions on gyms and bars.
‘The new year shenanigans in Dubai were an obvious superspreader event,’ one expat doctor told the Financial Times.
Passengers blasted Boris Johnson for giving them less than 24 hours to return. Businessman Nick Powell, 66, was due home on a Manchester flight on Saturday but boarded a flight to Birmingham after it was cancelled.
He said: ‘I run a ceramics business and I could’ve done with another 10 days and schedule some more meetings. But I didn’t wanna be stuck in a hotel with no flights to get home. So I’m glad to be here before the 1pm deadline, but it has been crazy and frustrating. The government gave us no time at all.’
Mr Powell, of Denby, North Wales, said an added inconvenience was the longer journey from the Midlands to his home
Grandparents David and Debbie Butler, from Bollington, Macclesfield, flew home early leaving their daughter and grandchildren behind.
Mr Butler, 72, said: ‘It’s hugely unsatisfactory. If we hadn’t got this flight, we would’ve been stuck there. And our visas were due to run out as we’ve been there for more than a month.
‘We would’ve been stuck there. And our visas were due to run out as we’ve been there for more than a month.
‘I’d like to have stayed on with my wife, daughter and grandchildren. My daughter lives there, so it’s hard to leave them behind in a situation like this. Now we have to quarantine for 10 days on top of that.’
Karen Moran, 34, was returning to the UK with her husband Christian, 32, after seven years living in Dubai. By complete chance, the flight they had picked turned out to be the last one before tighter restrictions are imposed on incoming travellers.
They had booked onto a flight at 7am into Manchester but when they woke up at 4am they discovered this had been cancelled and they would be given a new destination at the airport.
‘It was chaotic,’ said Karen, ‘we found out we would be flying to Birmingham and we felt lucky to get onto the flight. At the gate we saw many people being turned away, about one in every four it seemed.
‘I asked and was told that they were travelling to places where the borders had been closed. Maybe they weren’t UK residents. It was a confused situation.
‘In the end the flight was almost full. We were just lucky to get on it and good luck for us that we can avoid the isolation.’
Karen’s father Gary Stockton, 63, said: ‘It was all change for the taxi driver. I expected to be going to Manchester and was suddenly diverted to Birmingham.’
International watch businessman Tony Harris, 52, from Derby, said he had taken a calculated risk when booking his flight to Dubai last Sunday.
‘I had meetings with Middle Eastern clients which needed to happen and as I’ve been working from home anyway I thought it was worth a calculated risk.
‘I tried to check in last night before I went to sleep and there was a technical issue which stopped me. When I woke up this morning I saw a text to say the flight had been changed. It was a full flight as far as I could see.’
Mr Harris said his hotel had arranged for his Covid test three days before his departure.
Musician Steve Singh, 40, from Leeds arrived in Birmingham having flown from Pakistan via Dubai. He said: ‘I fly a lot – up to five times a month and this was the busiest Emirates flight that I’ve been on since Covid began.
‘People just want to avoid 10 days isolation in a hotel. I know business class was completely full and there were not many spare seats.’
The final direct flight from Dubai to London’s Heathrow Airport landed shortly before mid-day with passengers expressing relief that they were on it.
Lara, 23 who had been in Dubai for six weeks visiting family revealed that she was initially scheduled to fly back on Sunday.
She said: ‘There are a lot of Brits in Dubai, well known social media influencers are running around all over the city and they are all panicking.
People enjoy sitting in a swimming pool in Dubai yesterday as UK brought in a travel ban for the United Arab Emirates
A woman wears a bikini and a visor at the poolside in Dubai yesterday as the coronavirus pandemic continues
Instagram influencers pose in a swimming pool in Dubai yesterday as other Britons rushed to get home before the 1pm deadline
Some British passengers including make-up artist Amy Wilson from Sheffield said they just managed to get home just before the ban on direct inbound passenger flights from the UAE
Only Fans model Honey Evans from Leeds said she would stay out in Dubai. She tweeted: ‘Flights from Dubai to the UK are banned. Guess I have no choice but to stay out here. Shame.’
Love Island’s Arabella Chi posed for a picture yesterday having returned to Britain following a trip to Dubai earlier this month
Love Island contestant Georgia Harrison posted this picture from Dubai on Instagram yesterday, during her stay in the UAE
‘The Covid situation is getting worse in Dubai and I think the ban is a good move. As soon as I heard about it, I changed my return flight, and the airline were very good at arranging this. But I know quite a few people who weren’t able to get on it and are not trying to figure out a way of getting back.’
Q&A on UAE travel – and are there exemptions?
Why is the UAE being added to the travel ban?
It follows evidence that the more infectious South African strain of Covid-19 had been detected in the UAE.
What does this mean?
From 1pm yesterday, no passenger flights from Dubai or Abu Dhabi may arrive in the UK. Non-UK residents will be banned from entering if in the UAE within ten days.
Have all flights been cancelled?
No. Emirates and Etihad Airways said all UK passenger flights from the UAE were suspended, although British Airways told passengers that some were still running.
Are there exemptions?
Yes. British, Irish and third country nationals with residence rights in the UK will be allowed to return from the UAE but they will need to travel via a third country.
Are there many Britons in Dubai?
Up to 10,000 UK residents are thought to be in the UAE
Will arrivals from the UAE have to quarantine in hotels?
Not yet. Officials are said to be considering this from the week beginning February 8. For now, UK residents must self-isolate at home with all members of their household for ten days if returning from the UAE.
Can you circumvent the rules?
Non-UK residents are banned from entering Britain if they have been in the UAE within ten days. So a non-UK resident in Dubai could travel to a country not on the banned list, stay there for ten days, then enter Britain.
How many countries are now on the banned list?
The UAE joined the existing red list of 30 countries – mainly in South America and southern Africa – along with Rwanda and Burundi in central Africa.
Will this affect those travelling through Dubai?
Yes. The ban could have a much wider impact for British travellers returning from further afield because Abu Dhabi and Dubai are major international transit hubs.
Dr Lucy Medcalfe, 35 who had been in Dubai working in a clinic for the past six weeks said: ‘I was initially scheduled to return on a late Friday flight but managed to get my ticket changed.
‘I was a bit concerned that I might not be able to get a seat, so am quite relieved to be home. Covid levels in Dubai are increasing, there’s not much social distancing and I feel that this travel ban is a positive move.’
Hairdresser Kim, who had been in Dubai for the past three weeks working said: ‘It was all a bit of a rush trying to get on this flight, but I was desperate to come back.
‘I go to Dubai quite regularly and this ban is a bit worrying because of the impact that it might have on my work.’
Arthur Bird, 19 who had been in Dubai for the past three weeks visiting his parents said: ‘Dubai is very popular with Brits and is a major travel hub. I don’t understand the benefits of this ban because you can still fly to the UK, only you can’t do it directly. How does that make sense?
‘Covid rates are increasing in Dubai but that’s also because they are testing more. But I think the ban is a good thing even though it’s going to could cause more problems for me, especially if it stays in place for a long time.
UK Athletics believes there are about a dozen British athletes in Dubai, including long-distance runner Charlotte Purdue and middle-distance runners Jake Wightman and Eilish McColgan.
Dundee-born McColgan, who competes in the 3,000 metres steeplechase and 5,000 metres races, wrote on Instagram yesterday: ‘Today has been a nightmare – hours in the airport trying to sort out our visa.’
At Dubai International Airport yesterday, the early morning flights to London were unusually full as Britons clamoured to be on the last direct services home. ‘It was pretty chaotic,’ admitted one returning businesswoman.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, said: ‘I wouldn’t say it was panic stations, but quite a few people who were due to fly back in the next few days certainly changed their plans in a hurry after the news came through.
‘After all, how long is it going to be before we have to quarantine in a hotel for ten days when we return? No-one fancies that. Some people were asking about standby tickets, but I think most travellers will have to find alternative indirect routes back to the UK.’
Arriving at Heathrow from Dubai yesterday, engineering assistant and influencer Klaudia Zakrzewska, who has 22,300 followers on Instagram, said she spent a ‘nightmare’ two-and-a-half hours in a queue at the airport as she tried to beat the deadline to return home.
Ms Zakrzewska, 27, of Greenford, west London, who was meant to be on holiday with friends in Dubai until next week, said: ‘From Dubai, it was a complete mess. Flights got cancelled and we managed to get back on the last flight.’
Klaudia Zakrzewska (left), 27, and Elizabeth Svensson (right), 35, from London, arrive back in the UK at London Heathrow Airport’s terminal two after being on holiday in Dubai for 15 days
Grandparents David and Debbie Butler (pictured left, at Birmingham Airport yesterday), from Bollington, Macclesfield, flew home early leaving their daughter and grandchildren behind. International watch businessman Tony Harris (right), 52, from Derby, said he had taken a calculated risk when booking his flight to Dubai last Sunday
Passengers arrive from Dubai yesterday after the last flight to Birmingham Airport landed at 11.45am
Businessman Nick Powell (left, at Birmingham Airport yesterday), 66, was due home on a Manchester flight on Saturday but boarded a flight to Birmingham after it was cancelled. Musician Steve Singh (right), 40, from Leeds arrived in Birmingham having flown from Pakistan via Dubai
Karen Moran, 34, was returning to the UK with her husband Christian (pictured at Birmingham yesterday), 32, after seven years living in Dubai
Sidd Raj (left), 23, who had been in Dubai for the past two weeks visiting relatives, told MailOnline at London Heathrow yesterday that he heard about the travel ban at 10pm local time yesterday, which prompted him to immediately change his ticket. Chris Eggeling (right), 61, was waiting to board the 9.10am Emirates flight to Dubai from London when he decided not to continue with his journey because of the problems he might face getting home. His company paid £5,000 for a business class ticket
She said she only heard about the new restrictions on Thursday night and ‘everyone was panicking’ at her hotel as they rushed to get ready to leave. She said: ‘It was all just so confusing. There were no real guidelines about what to do and what was going on. We just suddenly were told that all the flights were going to stop at 1pm.
Passengers say they are NOT being asked to declare reasons for travel
Passengers departing from Heathrow Airport are not being asked to declare the reasons for their travel, despite Government assurances that they would be asked to do so.
Anker Baros, who was travelling to Athens, told MailOnline: ‘I’ve not been asked anything about my reasons for travel. I was asked to show documentation that I had tested negative for Covid, but apart from that there were no other checks.
‘My reasons are valid as I’m going for a business meeting and an important family matter, but nobody bothered to ask me.’
Another passenger who was also travelling to Athens but did not want to be named said: ‘The check in staff were very good but nobody raised any issues about my reasons for travel. It’s very confusing because the British Government say that they will do a lot of things but don’t seem to act on them. It’s lucky that they didn’t ask me because I’m not sure if my reason for travelling would be considered vital; I’m going to see my cousin.’
Antony Fisher, who was travelling to Frankfurt on business, said: ‘I did see on the news that passengers would have to declare their reasons for travelling. But I wasn’t asked anything.
‘The airport’s not that busy and it was quite easy and quick checking in. I didn’t hear anybody being asked about whey they are travelling.’
A senior member of the check in staff, who was overseeing the check in process for a number of airlines, told MailOnline: ‘The Government haven’t told us when we have to start asking passengers for their reason for travel. Until we receive a directive on this, we will not be asking anybody. I’m sure it will start happening quite soon but as yet, we are not obliged to inquire about why people are travelling.’
‘We just thought ‘let’s not risk it and be stuck out here for months’. It has been stressful because it has all been so last-minute. People were packing in the corridors of our hotel and people were running to the airport and fighting for the last spots – it was like a movie.’
Make-up artist Lily Smith, also arriving at Heathrow yesterday, said she was happy to have scrambled on to the last flight to get home to Canary Wharf in east London but said arranging it was ‘just annoying’.
After touching down at Heathrow, she said: ‘It was 2am in Dubai and we had to get someone from London to call Emirates on our behalf to change the flights. We had to book ourselves on the 7.45am flight, which was really packed.
‘There was not any notice really. I had about 30 minutes to pack. It was terrible. I even had plans to extend because I wasn’t ready to come home but my plans have just gone straight into the bin. It has ruined everyone’s plans and the notice was just rubbish.’
Medical supplies retailer Khalid Mugher, 60, was on a business trip to Dubai that was cut short in the early hours.
A message from his son alerting him of the travel changes meant he had to rebook flights and go to hospital to get a Covid test at 4am before getting a flight back to Heathrow.
He said: ‘I had to go to the hospital at 4am to get my Covid test, which was a risk. I had to change flights and to pay extra money.
‘I think it will be a long time before I can get to go back to Dubai but I think my life is more important than my business. Everyone was rushing.’
A return traveller, who would only give her name as Atiqua, said it was 3am in Dubai when she found out via a telephone call from her sister that she would have to immediately return home to England.
After arriving on the last flight back to Heathrow, she said: ‘The worst thing about it is that my car is still at Manchester because this was the last flight I could use to get home.
‘It was stressful. It was really, really crowded. Even though they were saying to do social distancing, how can you do social distancing on a plane? I am just glad to be back now because I need to be with my family.’
By lunchtime in Dubai the main Emirates departure hall had returned to its lockdown norm of being eerily quiet with the vast marble-tiled terminal only processing small groups of passengers on a handful of flights.
One passenger arrived at Dubai Airport early this morning to discover her Emirates flight to Manchester had been abruptly cancelled.
Emma Rhodes, a 21-year-old student, arriving back at Birmingham Airport on a flight from Dubai yesterday. She said she boarded the ‘packed’ flight to Birmingham, having originally been set to come home on an Emirates flight destined for Manchester
Passengers arrive at London Heathrow Airport this morning with the last few flights coming back to the UK from Dubai
Air passengers walk into the arrivals hall at London Heathrow Airport this morning as flights continue to come into the UK
Travellers arrive at London Heathrow Airport’s terminal two with their baggage yesterday as some flights continue to operate
Charlotte Jones, 31, from Liverpool told MailOnline: ‘The airline told us it was because the UK government had refused that specific fligh.
UK athletes in Dubai slam Government for rule change on elite sport
By DAVID COVERDALE and RIATH AL-SAMARRAI
British athletes have criticised the Government for the 11th-hour rule change which means many now have to quarantine for 10 days when they return from a training camp in Dubai.
It was announced last night that the United Arab Emirates was being added to the Government’s ‘red list’ of countries from where direct flights to the UK are banned.
The usual elite-sport travel exemptions have also been scrapped for those countries, meaning anyone who arrived back in Britain after 4am on Friday morning must now self-isolate for 10 days.
It is understood that up to 12 Great Britain international athletes have been at warm-weather camps in Dubai, including Jake Wightman, Eilish McColgan and Charlotte Purdue. Since the announcement, some athletes have been scrambling to find ways to get home indirectly.
400m runner Laviai Nielsen got an early morning flight out of Dubai on Friday and is heading back to the UK via Zurich, while race walker Tom Bosworth is flying home via Frankfurt. Bosworth, though, will have to quarantine after missing the cut-off and is now hoping to get a treadmill delivered to his home so he can continue some form of training in what is a crucial period in the build-up to the Olympics in July.
He told Sportsmail: ‘It is incredibly frustrating. Athletes, our support staff and governing bodies are trying to work with the Government so we can continue to compete, train and prepare as normal as possible.
‘We understand that rules have to change and things have change very, very quickly. But if we leave on a training camp with the clearance to do so, and with exemptions from quarantining, those have to be honoured or at least give us time so we can change our plans and get home.
‘Reasonable notice for ‘elite’ sports people would have given all athletes time to get home or move their training elsewhere. We totally understand rules have to change and I fully support that, but it’s very, very difficult to deal with it with just a few hours of notice, which is what we had on Thursday night.
‘We are not social media influencers ‘working’, we are training. We can’t train from the house, which is why it’s all so frustrating. We wouldn’t have travelled if we knew the Government would so easily go back on their word.’
‘So they had reallocated passengers to the Birmingham and London Heathrow flights, leaving us all to find our own way home.
‘Our new flight to Birmingham was 50 minutes delayed and people were hurrying on at the last minute after boarding was meant to close – loads of people not filled out passenger locator forms and all the Manchester forms are now incorrect because we’d all put Manchester Airport rather than Birmingham but Emirates didn’t seem bothered.
‘But because of this change, loads of people will have to travel on public transport rather than in their car which is so silly, especially as the whole reason for this is because they’re worried about a strain of Covid that may be resistant to the vaccine. All they’ve done is increase the possibility of spreading it which is just ridiculous.’
Speaking via wifi on her plane, Ms Jones added: ‘Now we’re cutting it fine to get in before the deadline – we’re due to land at 11.55am – only an hour before the ban comes in.’
The solicitor said she and her husband Andrew, who works in finance, and their ten-month-old daughter Olivia had left Britain before the lockdown began and therefore broke no rules.
John Martin St Valery, chairman of the British Business Group in Dubai, told The National: ‘Regrettably, the behaviour of some visitors over the past few weeks, and the flouting of regulations, has made tourists unpopular.
‘Clearly, this is not good news for the UAE’s travel and hospitality industry but we must continue to do all we can as a collective to try and drive case numbers down and avoid further variant strains coming to the UAE.’
State media Wam reported that the UAE would ‘maintain its role as an important travel and logistics hub while adhering to the highest standards of health and safety.’
At London Heathrow Airport this morning, travellers from Dubai spoke of panic as they rushed to make last minute changes to their journeys before the ban on flights from the country comes into effect.
Ian Parkes, 50, was originally meant to return on Saturday on a flight from Dubai to Manchester, which was cancelled, arriving instead at Heathrow so that he could get home before the ban kicks in.
Mr Parkes, who had been fitting Covid testing machines in Dubai, said: ‘My company rang me up and said get back as quick as you can. That was the first I knew about the travel ban from Dubai.
‘I had been in Egypt for ten days before that and was supposed to come home on a flight to Manchester. I’m just glad that I’ve made it back in time, even though I’ve arrived in London but that was the only flight Emirates Airline could book me on.’
Mr Parkes added: ‘I think this ban is a good move but it’s a bit late. Dubai is a very popular destination and a lot of people have been travelling there. I don’t understand why the Government is taking this action now, they should have done it about a year ago.’
British middle-distance athlete Eilish McColgan posted this picture of her in Dubai on January 18 where she has been training
British long-distance runner Charlotte Purdue is also training in Dubai and posted this picture of her there on January 18
British middle-distance runner Jake Wightman has been training in Dubai and posted this photograph in November last year
Busiest international route this month for scheduled flights is Dubai to Heathrow
Dubai to Heathrow was the busiest international route for scheduled flights this month, according to a respected flight data company.
OAG looked at how many scheduled seats were available for all international flights in January 2021 – and there were 190,365 available on Dubai to Heathrow services, beating Cairo to Jeddah into second place (154,377). Orlando to San Juan was ranked third (151,916).
The domestic ranking was dominated by Asian routes, which account for nine out of the top ten busiest.
Number one in this ranking was Jeju International to Seoul Gimpo in South Korea with 1,069,677 seats available this month. Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City was second (1,020,790) and third was Sapporo New Chitose to Tokyo Haneda (716,292).
OAG suggested that the Dubai to London route was at the top of the international table at the start of this month ‘as a result of the removal of the UAE from the UK’s quarantine list’. However, it pointed out that January lockdown in England will ‘likely impact demand for this route’.
The rest of the top ten busiest international routes for January 2021 were Paris Orly to Pointe-a-Pitre in Guadeloupe (fourth, 138,475 seats), Seoul Incheon to Tokyo Narita (fifth, 127,170), New York JFK to Santiago DO (sixth, 120,876), Moscow Domodedovo to Simferopol (seventh, 116,956), Shanghai Pudong to Taipei (eighth, 115,969), Cairo to Riyadh (ninth, 115,124) and Fort de France in Martinique to Paris Orly (10th, 113,363).
The rest of the top ten domestic route table comprises Beijing to Shanghai Hongqiao (fourth, 695,156 seats), Fukuoka to Tokyo Haneda (fifth, 670,234), Guangzhou to Shanghai Hongqiao (sixth, 643,431), Shanghai Hongqiao to Shenzhen (seventh, 630,500), Jakarta to Denpasar (eighth, 566,375), Jeddah to Riyadh (ninth, 548,226) and Tokyo Haneda to Osaka Itami (10th, 520,689).
OAG explained that the busiest routes are ‘defined as those with the largest volume of scheduled seats in the current calendar month’ and says ‘data is for both directions on each route’.
In normal times the busiest international route is Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, with the busiest to and from London being New York.
Sidd Raj, 23 who had been in Dubai for the past two weeks visiting relatives, told MailOnline that he heard about the travel ban at 10pm local time yesterday, which prompted him to immediately change his ticket. He was originally scheduled to return to London next Saturday.
Mr Raj: ‘I was at Dubai airport by midnight, I’m lucky to get back because I think I got the last seat. The ban was a bit rushed and I feel that travellers could have got a bit more notice.
‘I totally understand why it’s been introduced and the need for a lockdown, but it could have been planned better.
‘Luckily I already had a valid recent Covid negative test which meant I could board the flight. But imagine if I didn’t have this. It would have meant a very complicated journey getting home.’
Nick More, 42 had been in Dubai for the past month with his family. Mr More, who works in finance said: ‘We were having a great time. I was working while the kids were by the pool and we were hoping to spend a bit more time in Dubai.
‘As soon as I heard about the travel ban, I got onto the airline and it was very easy to change our tickets. It’s a great time to be in Dubai. Top class accommodation is quite cheap and the weather’s wonderful, so I think this ban is going to spoil a lot of people’s plans.’
William Ross-Anderson, 23, was waiting for his brother Hamish who had been stranded in Dubai as he was unable to get on the Emirates flight to Heathrow.
Mr Ross-Anderson had flown in from Zambia and was busy on the phone helping his brother make alternative travel arrangements.
He said: ‘There were no seats left on the direct flight and now my brother is trying to figure out a way of how he can get to London. We were coming from different countries, but our flights were arriving at more or less the same time, so we arranged to meet at the airport before travelling to our home in Cheltenham.
‘It’s caused a lot of problems for my brother because he was due to be going back to university on Monday. We haven’t worked out how he’s going to get to the UK, but I hope he’s not waiting around at Dubai airport for too long.’
One passenger revealed how he abandoned his travel plans to Dubai after learning about the travel ban while seated in the business class lounge watching television.
Chris Eggeling, 61, was waiting to board the 9.10am Emirates flight to Dubai from London when he decided not to continue with his journey because of the problems he might face getting home. His company paid £5,000 for a business class ticket.
Mr Eggeling, a pilot who flies private jets for wealthy clients said: ‘I had cleared immigration, was having some breakfast and watching the television in the business class lounge and then I saw the news about the Dubai travel ban.
‘Not being able to get back on a direct flight would have created a lot of problems for me because I’m on a very tight schedule. I was supposed to be in Dubai until February 5 but decided not to get on the plane.’
Mr Eggeling added: ‘The airline staff were a bit shocked. I then had to go through the whole process of going through immigration and customs so that I could get out of Heathrow. The whole thing has been badly managed by this Government, it’s a bit of a farce.’
Air passengers are pictured inside Dubai Airport in the United Arab Emirates this morning which was mostly quiet
Emirates planes are pictured at Dubai Airport in the United Arab Emirates earlier this month on January 13
Emma Rhodes boarded the ‘packed’ flight to Birmingham, having originally been set to come home on an Emirates flight destined for Manchester, scheduled for Friday.
Which British influencers have defended trips abroad?
Former Love Island contestant has hit back at a number of followers who criticised her decision to continue posting sun-soaked snaps from the Maldives, while Britain is in lockdown
On one of pictures, showing her stepping out of a crystal blue sea, a follower remarked: ‘Breaking the rules again – don’t see this as a business trip!’
But Kady hit back: ‘Oh so because you don’t see it as a business trip it means it isn’t? Oh ok lol.’
Replying to another follower on a different picture, she said: ‘This is how I pay my bills!’
Former Love Island contestant Gabby Allen moved out to Dubai on December 7.
She too faced criticism but, unlike many other influencers, she quickly set out her argument for the move – saying that her boyfriend, Brandon Myers, had a business.
In a post on Instagram, she said: ‘Hey guys, just to let you know, we made the decision to fly out to Dubai as my boyfriend’s business is based here & luckily allows us to travel,’ she wrote.
‘We were both fit to travel with negative PCR tests [for COVID-19]. I wanted to come on here and acknowledge this to my followers as it was a difficult decision for me.
‘I really hope you can understand that it was an opportunity I had to take.’
Perhaps one of the more bizarre defences came from former Love Island star Amber Gill.
The former reality show winner jetted off to Dubai in December following news that London and much of the south East would be affected by the new rules.
But she said she ‘no idea’ what she was doing and claimed she was confused by the Tier 4 rules.
In a staggering Instagram post, she wrote: ‘Just want to put it out there that I had no idea Tier 4 was a thing.
‘The flight here was booked way before. I thought the only changes were being made on the 16th meaning I was still allowed to travel for work.’
Laura Anderson has insisted that flying to Dubai was ‘a coping mechanism’ during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Love Island star, 31, said she ‘felt guilty the whole time’ she was away after claiming she’d flown to the UAE for a ‘business trip’ following backlash towards influencers bending travel restrictions to fly abroad.
During an Instagram Q and A, after being asked whether she felt guilty about being in Dubai, she said: ‘I felt guilty the whole time. I don’t think anyone realised how bad the strain would get, and how quickly. So hearing people upset, I felt horrific.’
Geordie Shore’s Holly Hagan – who has remained in the UK – weighed in on the widely-discussed issue of reality stars jetting to Dubai amid the coronavirus pandemic.
During an Instagram Q&A on Tuesday evening, the TV personality, 28, was quizzed over her thoughts on the vast amount of celebrities, including her MTV co-stars and Love Islanders, heading to Dubai amid restrictions and rules.
She was quick to defend her peers and pals, and while she admitted it is ‘frustrating’ for social media users to see their lavish antics, she personally would prefer ‘people to be happy in Dubai than suffering at home’.
Holly remained at home during the pandemic, while many of her pals – including Chloe Ferry and Sophie Kasaei – upped and left to Dubai.
The fitness influencer sparked a backlash earlier this week when she defended her decision to leave the UK for Dubai on This Morning.
The 24-year-old, from Sunderland, who has a following of around 11,000 on Instagram, arrived in Dubai on January 2, just a few days before the third national lockdown.
Since then, the social media star, who runs ‘Shape Up With Sher,’ has been sharing glamorous, sunshine-filled content with her Instagram followers as she enjoys relaxed restrictions in the United Arab Emirates.
But as she tried to justify her travels to Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on This Morning, the influencer failed to win over viewers.
They called her ‘selfish’ and ‘disgraceful’ for trying to imply her work – sharing sun-soaked selfies and outdoor fitness classes – was essential.
‘The reason I came to Dubai was purely for business,’ Sheridan started during a video call with the This Morning duo.
A cynical Phil told Sheridan: ‘A lot of the fitness stuff, this could be in your garage in Bolton, you don’t have to be in Dubai to do that.’
The influencer claimed she had travelled to the United Arab Emirates because she was struggling with her mental health, adding that ‘clients depend on me to bring them happiness’.
She said her thought process was: ‘The only way I’m gonna get out of this is to find an opportunity to get out of here on a plane to Dubai.
She said the travel was ‘the opportunity to get good content,’ and stressed she has no children and no ties
‘I’m not going to get content at home watching Netflix,’ she said. ‘It is all about the whole aspect of content, getting clients, all that kind of stuff.’
She had to get a negative Covid-19 test to initially fly to Dubai and then ‘paid for a PCR test in order to come back’ to the UK.
She added: ‘I feel like now, I wouldn’t advise people to go (to Dubai) because things have changed; they don’t know if they’d get back, or have to pay for hotel quarantine. I wouldn’t feel comfortable going now, myself.’
Another woman arriving back from Dubai, speaking outside Birmingham Airport’s arrivals building, said she had cut short an indefinite stay in the UAE.
The woman, who declined to give her name as she waited with a luggage trolley stacked with three colour-coded cases, said: ‘I didn’t have a fixed date to come back. I had another few weeks on my hotel stay, but I’ve left part-way through. I’m not bothered by the money.’
International wrist-watch businessman Tony Harris had been in Dubai on business, meeting travelling clients from India and Pakistan.
A frequent flyer until the second lockdown, he described how the Birmingham-bound plane had been ‘full’, including business class.
The 52-year-old, who lives near Derby, said: ‘I had been flying every week or two in normal times, but I looked at the situation and thought ‘I cannot keep delaying trips for business’.’
Regarding the chance any delay in the flight on Friday could have landed him with a 10-day hotel quarantine stay, he said: ‘I took a calculated risk – I work from home anyway, so working from a hotel would have made no difference to me.’
Tony Harris said his hotel in Dubai had arranged for him to have a Covid-19 test three days before his flight back to Birmingham, which was negative.
Asked what coronavirus control measures had been in place in the UAE that he had seen, he said: ‘Yeah, it’s Covid-safe. ‘Everyone is wearing a mask – you get the odd person whose nose is showing, but people forget don’t they. You are only allowed two people in a taxi, plus the driver – three people if it’s a big taxi.’
Karen and Christian Moran, from York, had booked a flight back to the UK six months ago, after a change in circumstances, having been working in Dubai for seven years.
Events planner Mrs Moran, 34, said they were notified in a text message from Emirates at 3am on Friday that their original flight home to Manchester was cancelled, so they ‘rushed to the airport’ to get aboard the Birmingham-bound plane.
She added: ‘When we were at the boarding gate (in Dubai) there were extra checks, some people were getting turned away, but it wasn’t clear why.
‘A member of airline staff said it was because the borders within the UK were closed. There was one young girl nearly crying but I did see her later – she got on the plane.’
Ministers in Britain acted to enforce the ban following evidence that the more infectious South African strain of Covid-19 had been detected in the UAE.
Up to 10,000 UK residents are thought to be in the country, which is popular with wealthy winter sun-seekers for its luxurious hotels and beaches.
Scores of social media influencers and millionaires have flocked there recently.
Ministers announced the move at 5pm yesterday, giving holidaymakers less than 24 hours to scramble for tickets on the handful of direct flights scheduled to arrive in the UK before the deadline.
Britons will still be allowed to come back on indirect flights. Business trips to the UAE will no longer be considered essential.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted last night: ‘From Friday 29 January at 1pm, we’re extending our travel ban with the United Arab Emirates, Burundi and Rwanda all added to the UK’s red list.
‘This means people who have been in or transited through these countries will be denied entry, except British, Irish and third country nationals with residence rights who must self-isolate for ten days at home.
‘Passengers must still have proof of a negative test and completed Passenger Locator Form before arrival – or could otherwise face a £500 fine for each.’
Thanks to other rules introduced on Wednesday, adding the UAE to the red list means Britons returning from there face having to quarantine in airport hotels for ten days.
It was still unclear yesterday when this will come into force, but officials are thought to be considering the week beginning February 8.
Arrivals from countries not on the red list will still be required to quarantine, but at home instead.
In addition to the ban on direct flights that comes in from 1pm, another set of restrictions came into force yesterday from 4am.
UK residents must self-isolate at home with all members of their household for ten days if they return from the UAE, and non-UK residents are banned from entering Britain if they have been in the UAE within ten days.
The latter does not apply to British, Irish and foreign nationals with UK residence rights.
Former Geordie Shore star Chloe Ferry, 25, is among the scores of influencers who have flocked to Dubai in recent weeks. Others include Sophia Peschisolido, 23, the daughter of Tory peer Karren Brady, who posted Instagram snaps of herself in Dubai.
Love Island stars such as Laura Anderson, who has since flown back, were also among those to jet off to the Gulf state before the third national lockdown began. One influencer caused fury this week by claiming to be there as an essential worker.
Sheridan Mordew, 24, who has been in Dubai since the start of January, said she was there for an ‘essential work trip’ to provide sunny content for fans in lockdown and ‘motivate them’.
Home Secretary Priti Patel criticised influencers in the Commons on Wednesday as she unveiled the measures for quarantine hotels.
She blasted them for setting a bad example by holidaying in the sun when Britons have been told to stay at home.
The UAE joined the existing red list of 30 countries – mainly in South America and southern Africa – along with Rwanda and Burundi in central Africa.
It could have a much wider impact for British travellers returning from further afield because Abu Dhabi and Dubai are also major international transit hubs.
Thousands more planning to travel back from Asia and Australasia will now see onward flights axed.
The restrictions mean UK residents who arrive from the UAE after 4am yesterday will have to quarantine for ten days along with their whole household.
They are not entitled to early release after five days with a negative test under the Test and Release scheme.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘The decision to ban travel from these destinations follows the discovery of a new coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa, that may have spread to other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Burundi and Rwanda.’
British arrivals from ‘red list’ countries are also facing having to quarantine in airport hotels for ten days under new measures announced on Wednesday.
It was still unclear yesterday when they will come into force, but it is understood officials are eyeing the week beginning February 8.
Arrivals from countries not on the red list will still be required to quarantine, but at home instead.
Under the new measures, anyone wanting to leave the UK will also have to complete and present a declaration form at the border stating why their reason for travel is essential.
Border Force and police numbers will be boosted at ports and airports to question outbound passengers.
Carriers will also be responsible for barring any passengers who don’t have the declaration form or whose reason for travel does not meet Government requirements.
Due to border closures caused by Covid-19, Dubai to London was the world’s busiest international route in January with 190,365 scheduled seats over the month, according to airline data provider OAG.
Emirates and Etihad normally carry large numbers of passengers connecting from Britain to destinations like Australia through their airport hubs, meaning the decision to cancel those flights will have far-reaching implications.
Towie’s James Lock and his girlfriend Yazmin Oukhellou are still in Dubai together
Love Island star Georgia Steel (left) was in Dubai but has recently been posting pictures in the Maldives. Molly Mae Hague (right) posted pictures in the Maldvies, but is now back in the UK
Chloe Ferry of Geordie Shore, who travelled out to Dubai at the end of 2020 – before lockdown measures were introduced – originally claimed she had hoped to stay for ‘two months’
The Australian government said it will add more charter flights from Britain if needed as a result of the Emirates and Etihad cancellations.
Fines for holidays with police checking your passport at the airport
How can the Government stop Britons from going on holiday?
Lockdown rules already ban people from international travel unless it is for work. Leaving home is only permitted for a small number of reasons. Under the lockdown laws introduced at the start of January and which will run until March 31, people in England are allowed only to leave the house for a very slim range of activities. But the rules, which are largely the same as for the second lockdown in November, also ban foreign leisure travel, just as they prohibit domestic leisure travel.
What happens if I want to travel abroad?
People wanting to leave the UK will have to fill out a form giving the reason for their trip. Anyone who turns up at ports and airports without a valid reason for travel will be directed to return home and may face a fine. Priti Patel said: ‘Going on holiday is not a valid reason, so we will introduce a new requirement so that people wishing to travel must first make a declaration as to why they need to travel. This reason for travel will be checked by carriers prior to departure.’ Travel operators are also expected to face fines if they fail to inspect these forms.
What will I have to prove if I went to travel?
Work trips are allowed, so you will have to show some proof that your flight or sea crossing is vital for your employment. However, there are a range of other reasons for ‘essential travel. These are the same at the reasons for leaving your house: medical care, to escape harm, compassionate visits – for example a funeral – and weddings. The list of travel exemptions will be urgently reviewed so that only the most important and exceptional reasons are included.
Who is going to enforce these rules?
It is not clear whether airlines and other travel operators will have the unilateral ability to decide whether someone has given a genuine reason for a trip on their forms, or it will end up being referred to police. There will also be an increased police presence at ports and airports, fining those in breach of the stay at home regulations.
Why is this being highlighted now?
The Home Secretary lashed out at social media influencers who have been posting images of themselves in sunny parts of the world like Dubai during the lockdown. Many have claimed they were travelling for work, but have attracted a backlash from people stuck at home after also enjoying the nightlife and beaches. Ms Patel also singled out people ‘turning up with their skis’ at London’s St Pancras station to catch the Eurostar to European resorts, adding: ‘That is clearly not acceptable.’
Eran Ben-Avraham, an Australian stranded in Britain due to strict limits on the number of arrivals in Australia, said his options for getting home were continually shrinking.
‘At the moment it is only giving us three options of flying Qatar, ANA or Singapore Airlines,’ he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. ‘Every day it is making it more difficult to get home. The flights back are anywhere from like £4,000.’
Asked yesterday what will constitute ‘essential’ travel under the new rules, senior minister Michael Gove told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think if it’s an essential humanitarian reason, if there is a powerful business reason, we can look at specific case by case reasons why people should travel.
‘But we’re very clear that people should not be travelling abroad to go on holiday, to boost their Instagram profile… [or] for anything other than essential reasons.’
He was asked several times when the new measures will come into force, but failed to answer.
The travel industry warned that the UAE move raised fears of more countries being added to the red list.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: ‘I think the Government will need to be clear on why countries are being added to the high-risk list.
‘If it grows each week, with new countries being added, then it will sap consumer confidence in future travel and no-one in the travel sector wants to see blanket hotel quarantine introduced via the backdoor.’
Meanwhile, after opening itself to New Year revellers, Dubai is now being blamed by several countries for spreading the coronavirus abroad, as questions swirl about the city-state’s ability to handle record spikes in Covid-19 cases.
The government said the kingdom is doing all it can to handle the pandemic, though it has repeatedly declined to answer questions about its hospital capacity.
In a statement, the government said: ‘After a year of managing the pandemic, we can confidently say the current situation is under control and we have our plans to surge any capacity in the health care system should a need rise.’
However, Nasser al-Shaikh, Dubai’s former finance chief, offered a different assessment on Twitter, and asked authorities to take control of a spiralling caseload.
‘The leadership bases its decisions on recommendations from the team, the wrong recommendations which put human souls in danger and negatively affect our society,’ he wrote, adding that ‘our economy requires accountability’.
Dubai, known for its long-haul carrier Emirates, the world’s tallest building and its beaches and bars, became one of the first travel destinations to describe itself as open for business last July.
The move staunched the bleeding in its crucial tourism and property sectors after lockdowns and curfews had hit the economy.
As tourism restarted, daily reported coronavirus case numbers slowly grew, but mostly remained stable through the autumn.
But then came New Year’s Eve – a major draw for travellers from countries otherwise shut down over the virus who partied without face masks in bars and on yachts.
For the last 17 days, the United Arab Emirates as a whole has reported record daily coronavirus case numbers as queues at Dubai testing facilities grow.
Towie’s Yazmin Oukhellou (left) told fans she was in Dubai ‘for work purposes, for business’, but added: ‘Obviously we’ll make the most of it while we’re here as well.’ Love Island’s Laura Anderson (right) faced a backlash when she spoke about how hard it was to be an ‘influencer’
Fitness influencer Sheridan Mordew, 24, from Sunderland, arrived in Dubai on January 2, just a few days before the third national lockdown
Geordie Shore’s Sophie Kasaei is another reality TV star who has been out in Dubai recently
Quarantine hotels: What are they, how much and when do they come in?
Tougher border controls have been announced in a bid to protect the UK against the spread of new coronavirus variants. Here is how they will work:
What are quarantine hotels?
UK nationals and residents returning from one of 30 listed countries will be taken to a Government-approved hotel where they must self-isolate for 10 days. Foreign nationals and non-UK residents from those destinations – which include South America, southern Africa and Portugal – are already banned from entering the UK.
How much will they cost?
The finances have not been announced but it could cost in excess of £1,000 per person.
Which hotels will be included?
This has not been confirmed but hotel chain Best Western said it was ready to ‘step in’.
When will the policy be introduced?
That has also not been announced. The delay will allow people to return home without the additional hotel stay.
What is happening with enforcement of existing rules?
Home Secretary Priti Patel said there are ‘still too many people coming in and out of our country each day’. There will be an increased police presence at ports and airports, fining those in breach of the stay-at-home regulations.
Will I have to give a valid reason to leave the UK?
Passengers will be required to declare their reason for travel, such as for business. Operators are being told not to allow people to board if their trip is not essential.
Why are further border measures being launched?
Hotel quarantine has been proposed as a way to ensure people follow self-isolation rules relating to international travel, and guard against new variants of coronavirus entering the country. Amid significant pressure on the NHS, there are concerns about the risks posed by strains identified in South Africa and Brazil.
What were the existing rules for arrivals to the UK?
Direct flights to the UK from South Africa, Brazil and Portugal are suspended but British residents are permitted to return through indirect routes and then self-isolate at home. More widely, anyone entering the country from abroad, including UK nationals returning home, must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test result taken up to three days before departure. Travellers must also self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival even if they tested negative. In England, travellers may be able to end self-isolation early if they pay for a private coronavirus test.
How long would new quarantine hotels be in place for?
This is as yet unknown. Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said measures should be about ‘buying us enough time’, adding: ‘We don’t know which countries these variants are arising in.’
In Israel, more than 900 travellers returning from Dubai have been infected with the coronavirus, according to the military, which conducts contact tracing.
The returnees created a chain of infections numbering more than 4,000 people, the Israeli military said.
Tens of thousands of Israelis had flocked to the UAE since the two countries normalised relations in September.
Israeli health ministry expert Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis was quoted by Channel 13 TV as complaining in a call with other officials that a few weeks of travel had been more deadly than decades of no relations with the Arab nation.
Since late December, Israel has required those coming from the UAE to go into a two-week quarantine. Israel later shut down its main international airport until through the end of the month over rising cases.
Denmark already discovered one traveller coming from Dubai who tested positive for the South African variant, the first such discovery there.
In the Philippines, health authorities say they discovered a British strain infecting a Filipino who made a business trip to Dubai on December 27. He returned to the Philippines on January 7 and tested positive.
He ‘had no exposure to a confirmed case prior to their departure to Dubai’, the Philippines department of health said.
In the time since, Filipino authorities have discovered at least 16 other cases, including two coming from Lebanon.
As daily reported coronavirus cases near 4,000, Dubai has sacked the head of its government health agency without explanation.
It stopped live entertainment at bars, halted non-essential surgeries, limited wedding sizes and ordered gyms to increase space between those working out.
It also now requires coronavirus testing for all those flying into its airport.
The UAE had pinned its hopes on mass vaccinations, with Abu Dhabi distributing a Chinese vaccine by Sinopharm and Dubai offering Pfizer-BioNTech’s inoculation.
The UAE says it has given 2.8 million doses so far, ranking it among the top countries in the world.
Dr Santosh Kumar Sharma, the medical director of Dubai’s NMC Royal Hospital, told the AP ‘the number of cases (is) ever-rising’, with over half its beds occupied by coronavirus patients.
The World Health Organisation said that before the pandemic, the UAE had nearly 13,250 hospital beds for a country of more than nine million people.
It said Dubai and the UAE’s northern emirates built field hospitals amid the pandemic with some 5,000 beds, with Abu Dhabi building more.
But Dubai closed its 3,000-bed field hospital in July – the same day it reopened for tourism. Both Dubai and the UAE’s health ministry now advertises for nurses on Instagram.
‘The sad thing is that great efforts have been made since January 2020 for us to come and undermine them with our own hands,’ former finance minister Mr al-Shaikh wrote.
‘What makes things worse is the lack of transparency.’
Earlier this week, the UAE’s autocratic government told those who are worried to ‘refrain from questioning the efforts of all those who have worked to contain this pandemic’.