Abu Dhabi now offers free Covid-19 jabs to tourists — but no clarity on SA's status

23 June 2021 - 09:52 By Reuters and Khanyisile Ngcobo
The UAE is offering free vaccines to travellers. File photo.
The UAE is offering free vaccines to travellers. File photo.
Image: 123RF/S Silver

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is offering tourists free Covid-19 vaccinations that were previously restricted to UAE citizens and residency visa holders.

There is no indication that the change applies to Dubai, the most populous emirate, or the other five emirates that make up the UAE.

Visitors with visas issued by Abu Dhabi and passport holders eligible for tourist visas when they arrive in the UAE through Abu Dhabi can book free vaccines, according to information provided by the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), which operates the emirate's public health infrastructure.

Holders of expired residency or entry visas are also eligible for free vaccinations, Abu Dhabi Media Office said on June 11.

Job losses and travel restrictions during the pandemic mean some people's residency visas have expired or have been cancelled when they were made redundant.

UAE health authorities said this month that nearly 85% of the eligible population had received at least one vaccine dose, but did not say how many have had two doses.

Infections have risen in the UAE in the past month, and Abu Dhabi still has restrictions on entry, including home quarantine and PCR testing at intervals after arrival. People driving from other emirates are tested to show they are not infected.

Travellers from 27 countries including China, Germany and the US can enter without quarantine on arrival. It remains unclear whether travellers from SA are permitted to enter the UAE at this stage, after several contradictory messages were shared with Dubai Media Office and airline Emirates in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, Dubai announced relaxed restrictions on travellers from SA, Nigeria and India. Dubai Media Office, in a statement shared on Twitter, said travellers from these three countries would be allowed to enter the region under certain conditions, including having received a double dose of a UAE-approved vaccine and presenting a negative test result for a PCR test taken within 48 hours before departure. 

Emirates soon confirmed the resumption of flights from the three countries but quickly backtracked — saying flights remained suspended “until July 6 2021, in line with government directives that restrict the entry of travellers originating from SA into the UAE”. 

SEHA offers Covid-19 vaccines by China's state-owned drug maker Sinopharm and by Pfizer/BioNTech in Abu Dhabi.

Dubai Media Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether eligibility criteria was to change. Dubai Health Authority information says vaccines are given only to citizens and holders of valid Dubai residency visas.