Dubai: The NRI community in the Gulf region is in a dilemma with the new Covid-19 variant Omicron playing havoc with their travel plans. Thousands of NRIs who had planned to travel home are now adopting a wait-and-watch approach amid travel restrictions placed by India and some other countries following the outbreak of the new variant.
The development emerged just a day after India announced the resumption of international scheduled commercial flights effective December 15, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi directing officials to “review” plans for easing international travel restrictions and resumption of visas. Also, Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf nations are gradually relaxing direct travel ban.
Indian schools in the region close for winter holidays in the second week of December and most families plan their vacation during these holidays. Also, many employees avail their annual vacation at the end of the year. The news of the new variant has triggered alarm and is prompting NRIs including those from Telangana to reconsider their plans for travel as they scramble to avert an outbreak like last year.
Many NRIs are concerned that if the new variant aggregates in coming weeks, then Gulf countries along with the international community may tighten entry restrictions. Any disruption in travel will have adverse impact on the NRI workers in the region. “I had planned to go on vacation and was scheduled to fly on 3rd December but have cancelled it,” said Mohammed Fasiullah, who hails from Yaqutpura in Hyderabad. “I may be stranded at home if the new variant reaches India and the situation worsens,” he added.
“I was to fly out in the second week of December but I now weighing the options”, said T. Balaram of Warangal.
“Right now, there is no impact. If the new variant cases increase and more travel restrictions are brought in, then it will impact travel plans of many NRIs”, M. Swamy Reddy of Diamond Travels in Dubai said, adding that everyone was waiting for some clarity in the pandemic situation. If the new variant cases increase and more travel restrictions are introduced, then there will definitely be an impact on air traffic, he said.
Swamy Reddy said ticket rates on the Hyderabad-Dubai sector had more than doubled and any disruption would mean additional burden on average workers.
Exuding confidence in the effectiveness of preventive protocols in the Gulf countries, Ravi Kumar Kommaraju, an entrepreneur, said that past situations of border closure would not be repeated. Most NRIs in the region are now fully vaccinated and many eligible are taking a third jab as a booster also, he said.
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