The United Arab Emirates announced it will resume issuing visas to all tourists fully vaccinated against COVID from Monday, a month before Dubai hosts the delayed Expo 2020 trade fair.
The move comes amid a drop in coronavirus infections in the oil-rich Gulf country, after it reported less than 1,000 cases per day last week for the first time in months.
The UAE's decision to reopen its doors to tourists from all countries was taken in order "to achieve sustainable recovery and economic growth", the official WAM news agency reported on Saturday.
Those eligible would have to be fully inoculated with one of the COVID-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, which include AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm and Sinovac.
"The decision applies to citizens of all countries, including those arriving from previously banned countries," WAM said.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"Passengers arriving on tourist visas must take a mandatory PCR test at the airport," it added.
The UAE is made up of seven emirates including the capital Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
While life in the country has largely returned to normal amid the COVID pandemic, it continues to enforce strict rules on wearing masks and social distancing.
Dubai was last year counting on the six-month Dubai Expo 2020 -- delayed a year by the health crisis and now set to open in October -- to attract millions of visitors and boost the economy.
Heavily reliant on tourism, the emirate was one of the first destinations to open its doors to travellers, accepting tourists in July last year, just a few months after the pandemic took hold.
Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, has been more cautious, opening up to some visitors only in December.
The UAE as so far recorded more than 715,000 cases of COVID-19 infection, including 2,036 deaths.
Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.