United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Dubai)

Market overview

After a long period of lockdowns and tight restrictions in Dubai, most were lifted on 27 May, and the remaining rules in place to ensure social distancing were lifted on 3 June. More information on the Dubai situation is available here. Dubai's evening curfew is no longer in place. Cinemas, malls and gyms can now fully reopen, and 100 percent of staff can return to offices.

Dubai International Airport has also reopened to passengers, with strict hygiene measures in place including mandatory masks and temperature screening.

By contrast, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has extended its partial lockdown indefinitely. During this time, movement of people and goods is partially restricted, and although residents can leave Abu Dhabi, everyone needs a special permit and a negative COVID-19 test before they are permitted to return.

On 14 September the UAE Government announced that it has authorised the emergency use of a new COVID-19 vaccine, which will be made optionally available to frontline medical workers.

The United Arab Emirates is preparing to host Expo 2020 Dubai. Originally due to start in October 2020, the global mega-event was postponed for one year in early May, and is now confirmed to run from October 2021 to April 2022.

For more information on doing business in the United Arab Emirates, visit myNZTE - our free online portal for curated, in-depth information and guidance. 

Key links

Podcasts: COVID-19 updates for the United Arab Emirates

Export support
Last updated: 13 May 2020
COVID-19 update for UAE – recap and areas of opportunity, 14 May

NZTE Trade Commissioner Kevin McKenna recaps several weeks of change in the UAE & discusses areas of opportunity including agritech and food security.

Watch now
Export support
Last updated: 6 May 2020
COVID-19 – Construction in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, 7 May

Anirudh Sharma, NZTE Business Development Manager in Dubai, discusses short and medium-term COVID-19 impacts on the construction industry in the UAE.

Watch now

Economy and trade

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) initially forecasted that economic growth in the UAE during the COVID-19 pandemic would likely be constrained by various factors, including:

  • a decrease in oil exports

  • a weak fiscal position owing to low oil prices

  • massive decreases in travel and tourism

  • reduced capital spending over the next two years

  • weaker foreign direct investment (FDI) due to stress on global financial systems.

The IMF forecasted the UAE's GDP as likely to fall by 3.5 percent in 2020, followed by a recovery of 3.3 percent in 2021. See the IMF's country forecast for the UAE here.

The IMF's latest Regional Economic Outlook, released on 13 July, predicts an overall economic contraction of 7.3 percent across the GCC countries. The report noted the speed of official response in checking the spread of COVID-19 as the UAE's biggest economic positive.

Government support

The UAE Government has announced a doubled in value, enhanced Economic Support Scheme of AED 256 billion (NZ$116 billion) to support the national economy, ensure business continuity, and mitigate the coronavirus impact.

Financial risks therefore continue to be well mitigated through this Support Scheme. This package is being delivered through the major banks and government agencies.

This package will ensure there is plenty of liquidity in the financial system and NZTE is not aware, at this stage, of any delayed payment issues over the existing long payment cycles.

Supply chain, logistics and freight

Major ports such as Dubai's Jebel Ali continue to operate normally. Slower clearance times had been experienced due to on-site health protocols, but these have now all been overcome, and large New Zealand companies in the region are not reporting any major issues with sea freight.

Air freight capacity has heavily reduced across the Middle East and Africa due to the suspension or cancellation of passenger flights. This has had a significant impact on New Zealand businesses exporting goods to the region, with freight costs per kilogramme up to four times the normal level in some cases. Both Emirates and Etihad have converted passenger aircraft to freighters to increase their capacities.

To mitigate these issues, Emirates is now flying four return cargo flights per week between New Zealand and Dubai under the New Zealand Government's International Air Freight Capacity (IAFC) Scheme – three out of Auckland, and one from Christchurch. Visit this page for more information on the IAFC scheme and available flights.


As Dubai looks to repair the disruption the pandemic has caused to tourism and air travel, tourists have been allowed back into Dubai since 7 July, subject to flights being available. Travellers must show a negative COVID-19 PCR test before they can board any inbound flight.

After an earlier ban, UAE residents have been allowed back into the country since 23 June, but both UAE residents and citizens must show a negative COVID-19 PCR test before returning. In addition, residents and citizens of Dubai (but not other emirates) still require a special permit to board inbound flights.

Abu Dhabi International Airport has informed airlines that UAE residents stranded abroad are not required to get a mandatory ICA travel permit if they land in Abu Dhabi. The revised travel rules came into effect on 11 August.

Emirates has restarted flights to approximately 40 locations, subject to approvals from destination countries and cities. Further information can be obtained from the Emirates and Etihad websites.

Tradeshow and event information

Numerous international tradeshows and events are being postponed or cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Make sure you proactively check with organisers for any tradeshow or event you're scheduled to attend – conditions and regulations are changing rapidly, and events may be postponed or cancelled at short notice.

Below is the status of major tradeshows and events in the UAE that NZTE's teams are aware of.

If you have questions about an event not listed here, please contact the organisers in the first instance or get in touch with NZTE for further advice.


  • Dubai International Boat Show, 10 – 14 March – rescheduled to 24 – 28 November 2020

  • Taste of Dubai, March – postponed to December, dates TBC

  • International Exhibition for National Security and Resilience, 17– 19 March – postponed until further notice

  • Beverage and Tobacco Middle East, 8 – 9 April – postponed until further notice

  • Arabian Travel Market, 19 – 22 April – postponed until further notice

Abu Dhabi

  • Cityscape Abu Dhabi, 14 – 16 April – postponed until further notice

Sector insights

As is to be expected, numerous sectors have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you'll find information on any COVID-19 effects across important sectors and industries in the United Arab Emirates.

Food and beverage

Restaurants are now able to fully reopen as long as they are compliant with a number of health rules. Online ordering and deliveries are operating as normal.

With the UAE's borders now open to tourists, the hotel, restaurant and cafe (HORECA) industry has picked up again.

UAE authorities have removed a previous requirement for Arabic labelling on imported products, which will allow more food and beverage imports into the country.

Additional resources

Below you can find information and contact details for other New Zealand government and international agencies regarding their response to COVID-19.

New Zealand Government agencies

COVID-19 helpline for businesses
New Zealand Customs
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
New Zealand Export Credit (NZEC)
MFAT Export Helpline
MFAT Safetravel
Callaghan Innovation
Ministry of Health
WorkSafe New Zealand

Global agencies

World Health Organization (WHO)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Contact NZTE

We're available to talk to you about any issues your export business is facing due to COVID-19.

For existing NZTE customers, please contact your New Zealand-based Customer Manager.

If you're unsure who to contact or haven't worked with us before, you can call NZTE on 0800 555 888 or email below and one of our Customer Advisors will help you.