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Covid-19: Dubai airport sees 70% fall in passenger numbers

DUBAI (AFP): Dubai International Airport reported a 70 percent drop in traffic last year amid global closures and travel restrictions due to the coronavirus.

The number of travellers that passed through the major transit hub fell from more than 86 million in 2019 to 25.9 million in 2020, according a statement from the Dubai Media Office.

“In the past year we have witnessed the most difficult circumstances the travel industry has ever faced,” Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said in the statement. “The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been felt not only in our sector, but across the entire world.”

The emirate of Dubai — one of the seven that make up the United Arab Emirates — temporarily closed its airport and suspended flights in early 2020 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), global air passenger traffic plunged by an unprecedented 66 percent last year owing to travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic.

India accounted for the largest number of passengers at the Dubai airport last year, with 4.3 million Indians travelling through the hub.

The United Kingdom came in second, with 1.89 million people entering the airport, narrowly ahead of Pakistan’s 1.86 million.

Dubai International Airport had seen its first dip in traffic in 20 years in 2019, when the number of travellers fell by 3.1 percent, but the hub remained the world’s busiest for international passengers.

The emirate, one of the first destinations to reopen to tourism last year, became a magnet for visitors escaping dreary winter weather and stringent Covid-19 restrictions.

But the open door policy has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, as some 500,000 tourists flocked to its luxury resorts and sunny beaches over the end-of-year holiday period, triggering a sharp spike in cases.

The UAE launched a vaccination campaign in December and has administered some five million doses among its population of nearly 10 million.