Influencers face scramble home from Dubai or being stranded by travel ban

29 January 2021, 10:38 | Updated: 29 January 2021, 11:13

People partying on a yacht in Dubai
People partying on a yacht in Dubai. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Social media influencers who said they were "working" in Dubai are among thousands of British travellers facing a race home to avoid being stuck out there when a travel ban comes into effect.

Travel from the United Arab Emirates is being banned from 1pm today, shutting down the world's busiest international airline route from Dubai to London.

British and Irish nationals, and UK residents can still come back - but they must self-isolate for 10 days at home.

The country has been added to the so-called "red list", along with Burundi and Rwanda.

Dubai is under intense criticism after opening up to New Year revellers and is now experiencing a record surge in Covid-19 cases.

Influencers faced an angry response after falling back on loopholes to claim their lockdown trips abroad are work-related and therefore essential travel.

Influencer and former Geordie Shore star Chloe Ferry, 25, is among those who have flocked to Dubai in recent weeks.

TOWIE's James Lock and Yazmin Oukhellou have also jetted to the UAE.

Others include Sophia Peschisolido, 23, the daughter of Tory peer Karren Brady, and Love Island's Laura Anderson flew there before the third national lockdown but has since flown back.

Travel expert Lisa Minot told LBC: “They [influencers] have come in for quite a bit of criticism over the last few weeks and months.

“I consider myself a key worker, i’m a journalist. I am in lockdown and that means I don’t leave the country.”

The Department for Transport said the ban was in response to new evidence showing the likely spread of a coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa.

Nasser al-Shaikh, Dubai's former finance minister, 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".

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, said "the number of cases (is) ever-rising", with over half its beds occupied by coronavirus patients.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted yesterday: "From tomorrow (Friday 29 Jan 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."