Are you unsure what to do in the light of the current Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak? It is a situation that is developing daily so we have pulled together for you this informative list of resources to best help you plan or assess your future travels to (and passing through) the Middle East Region.
Note we are not health care experts in any way. This page is for informational purposes only guiding you to authoritative resources so you can do your own research on this topic. Last updated 25 March 2020
What is Coronavirus COVID-19?
The most recent outbreak of the Coronavirus disease is believed to have started in Wuhan, China has been gradually spreading around the world since December 2019.
Although recovery rates are high, nonetheless it’s not something you want to contract and in an attempt to stem the spread of the disease worldwide, Governments and health authorities around the world are actively looking to test travellers and quarantine outbreaks of the disease.
Due to the diseases long incubation period of 14 days, and many of the symptoms mimicking that of the common cold and other diseases, early intervention without mass screening can be challenging for many countries.
How is Middle East travel currently affected by Coronavirus COVID-19?
Please note that the current outbreak is very different from MERS-CoV which was first reported in 2012. You can read more about Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and it’s current status here.
The COVID-19 situation is constantly moving, but until the last week of February 2020 there were only isolated cases reported in the Middle East after travellers had been or flown in from China or South East Asia. The situation rapidly expanded for the Middle East in late February, particularly for those who had travelled to the Holy Shia shrines in the cities of Qom and Mashhad in Iran.
The worldwide response has now been significantly elevated. Most countries in the Middle East now have entry restrictions on tourists and have closed schools and cancelled public events to varying extents for the foreseeable future.
Airlines and Airport Hubs in the Middle East
There have been significant changes since we first published this article in early March. Whilst the major transit airport hubs of the Middle East, including Dubai Airport DXB, Abu Dhabi Airport AUH and Doha Airport DOH remained open, gradually this was reduced to transit passengers only, and now the UAE has been closed to all but Cargo flights from 25 March 2020 until further notice.
UPDATE: on 15 March 2020 Qatar has temporarily suspended entry by foreign visitors. You may transit through DOH only.
You can check for updates with individual Middle East airlines here:
Local authority & News Information Pages for the Middle East
- UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (EN)
- Kingdom of Bahrain Ministry of Health (EN)
- Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health (EN)
- State of Qatar Ministry of Public Health (EN)
- Ministry of Health – Kuwait (EN)
- Ministry of Health Oman (EN)
- Republic of Lebanon Ministry of Public Health (EN)
- State of Israel Ministry of Health (EN)
- The National UAE Live Updates – English language news publication
Should I cancel my upcoming travel?
If non-essential, yes.
However, the general international consensus and advice from WHO is to avoid all but absolutely essential travel anywhere in the world at this time.
Remember, there’s not only the risk of catching this particular disease but the carry on implications if you are later quarantined or denied further travel because of where you’ve been.
Most importantly, do not panic or spread panic. Look to authoritative resources, not hearsay when making your decision.
If you’d like to know any specifics from parents living in the Middle East what is happening on the ground day-by-day you are welcome to ask in our Family Travel in the Middle East Facebook Group.
Will my travel insurance cover cancellation?
Whilst we’ve heard of many airlines and travel agencies honouring refunds or issuing credits, DO NOT rely on your insurance covering a refund, most have fine print clauses that do not cover a pandemic or international medical emergency. (Being neither medical or insurance experts ourselves, you will need to contact your insurer to see what they classify as an event that cannot be controlled).
Many airlines and hotel chains ARE, however, changing their stance on waiving move date fees, credit notes and some are waiving cancellation fees. If you are not using a travel agency you should contact each individual service provider yourself. Please be patient and kind to those handling your calls and concerns at this immensely difficult time.
Will I be quarantined if I am sick?
This will entirely depend on the airport and country you are flying from and to what screening they will have in place. It’s best to prepare for all likely outcomes before you travel. Common practise at present seems to be 14 days of self-quarantine after travel. This advice is subject to change and personal to YOUR situation.
What can I do to help prevent the spread of the disease?
Basic hygiene is always essential when travelling but please be extra mindful, especially when travelling with young children.
We hope this answers some of your questions on what is currently happening with travel in the Middle East. We have no crystal ball at this point to say how long the situation will last. We will do our best to keep news sources and public announcements on this page up to date so you can make the best decisions for YOU and your family’s travel needs.
Disclosures: This is not a health advisory page, it is a family travel blog based in the Middle East. Please seek your own independent advice on any medical or safety matters when travelling internationally. The information on this page is being updated as we become aware but please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you believe there are any factual inaccuracies or out of date links.