Coronavirus: residents in travel limbo as UAE embassies in Europe warn against staying

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - UAE residents continue to face uncertainty amid the coronavirus crisis, with some embassies warning against remaining abroad as the disease continues to wreak havoc across the globe.

On Monday, the national emergency agency and the General Civil Aviation Authority suspended all inbound and outbound passenger flights for 48 hours.

The situation was set to be reassessed at the end of the two days.

The authority's announcement followed the decision to suspend entry for all but Emirati citizens from midday on March 19 for two weeks.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation has set up a hotline for stranded residents who can also seek help from embassies or consulates.

As countries around the world close their borders and impose travel restrictions, UAE embassies in the EU, now the centre of the world’s Covid-19 crisis, warned against staying.

Italian police officers carry out document permit checks and self-certifications against citizens walking down in Torino street, Milan. EPA

A man wearing a protective mask walks in the deserted Piazza Duomo (Cathedral Square), the symbol of the city. EPA

Medical workers stretch a patient from an Italian Red Cross ambulance into an intensive care unit set up in a sports center outside the San Raffaele hospital in Milan. AFP

Members of the Logistics Brigade of the Spanish Army work to convert a Fira pavilion into a shelter center for homeless people in Barcelona. Reuters

Relatives react next to a coffin of a person who died of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the crematorium of La Almudena cemetery during partial lockdown to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madrid, Spain, March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Juan Medina

A woman wears a face mask as she carries a pack of toilet paper in Berlin's Kreuzberg district. AFP

Medical personnel demonstrate taking nose and throat mucous samples for coronavirus testing in Munich, Germany. Getty Images

People walk their dogs in London. Reuters

The deserted escalators inside Leicester Square underground station in central London. AFP

Banners showing support for NHS staff are displayed at Stepping Hill Hospital in Manchester. Reuters

French Gendarmes control a man near the Eiffel tower in Paris. Reuters

Tents with intensive care units installed by French Army are seen at a miitary field hospital near Mulhouse hospital. Reuters

French rescue team wearing protective suits carry a patient on a stretcher from Mulhouse hospital. Reuters

In a tweet on Saturday, the UAE embassy in Berlin warned citizens to depart before the last direct flight left the country.

The embassy in Paris urged citizens to leave on the last flight out of Charles de Gaulle International Airport on March 22.

Europeans stranded from their homes in the UAE now face difficult decisions.

French national Rachid El Gomri, a language teacher at the Emirates International School Jumeirah, , told The National he hoped to return to the UAE as soon as possible.

Mr El Gomri booked a trip to Ethiopia when the school holidays were brought forward as part of the preventive measures against Covid-19 at the beginning of March.

His flight back to Dubai departed on March 20 but was only open to Emiratis and those with connecting flights.

“I have my life in Dubai," Mr El Gomri said. "I have my flat. I work there.

“I just want to be back there and do what I do best, which is teaching and helping the students as they go through this difficult time, hopefully minimising the disruption.”

He is continuing to teach remotely from Addis Ababa where he is staying in a hotel, but this is difficult with regular power cuts.

Ultimately, he knows the situation is not likely to be resolved soon but he is holding out on the chance that he will be allowed to return to the UAE and isolate himself there.

“I am happy to go to the UAE and be put under quarantine there,” Mr El Gomli said. "I have hope I will not be left stranded here."

Neli Brown, 39, a Romanian songwriter, was on a work trip to Cairo when she found out that she was unlikely to return to the UAE soon.

Ms Brown's British husband and child, 8, are still at home in Dubai.

For the past four years, she has travelled to Egypt from Dubai at least three times a year to record as part of her job. She is trying to keep a level head in a difficult situation.

“We have a plan in place,” Ms Brown said. “I am going to finish off my work and wait until the end of March, and hopefully things will happen.

“There are a lot of people in a similar situation with their kids stuck in a different country."

But she thought it was likely that she and her family would have to return to Europe before the crisis was over.

“If anything, they will fly back to England when the borders open or we will go back to Romania,” Ms Brown said.

"Whatever we do we are going to wait until the time is right.”

Updated: March 23, 2020 11:36 PM

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