The United Kingdom has banned direct passenger flights to and from the United Arab Emirates from Friday, closing the world’s busiest international airline route from Dubai to London.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority, the United Arab Emirates was the most popular destination for long-haul flights in November 2020, with 84,500 passengers traveling to and from the country.

The measure, aimed at stopping the spread of the South African variant, came into force on Friday at 13:00 GMT.

However, British and Irish citizens, as well as British residents will be allowed to enter the country, but must self-isolate for 10 days at home.

“This means people who have been in or transited through these countries will be denied entry, except British, Irish and third country nationals with residence rights who must self-isolate for ten days at home,” said UK Transport Minister, Grant Shapps.

Passengers allowed to enter the United Kingdom will need a negative Covid-19 test result and a completed passenger locator form prior to arrival, or could face two £500 fines.

The UK transport department has advised UK nationals currently in the United Arab Emirates to use indirect commercial airline routes if they wish to return to the country.