The chief executive of Dubai Airports has predicted that bilateral agreements between “trusted countries” will be needed to enable a resumption of services until a vaccine or treatment is developed for Covid-19.

Paul Griffiths said that “We will gradually start to see some confidence build between trusted countries where the governments have acted significantly enough and early enough to get the spread of the virus under control”.

“As the UAE government took significant and early steps to get the virus under control, we are optimistic that there will be opportunities to pair with other governments that have been similarly effective to get air services going between them,” Griffiths added.

Referring to the pandemic as “a monster”, Griffiths said that “With millions across the world in lockdown and eager for a change of scenery or to visit friends and relatives, travel has become one of the most desirable commodities. However, the current inability to safely travel is diminishing that demand.”

Griffiths said that Dubai Airports would ensure “a safe and healthy airport environment” through social distancing, thermal screening, Covid-19 testing and robust deep-cleaning and sanitisation, but warned that “the idea of social distancing as a permanent part of society would be so socially and economically destructive it would simply not be sustainable”.

Striking a positive note, Griffiths said that “With the human ingenuity in the medical field and technology now, it’s quite possible a combination of the two will bring us a primary solution to get back to the social norms we’ve enjoyed for centuries”.

This week Emirates added scheduled services from Dubai to nine destinations including London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Chicago, Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne.

Meanwhile low-cost carrier Flydubai has announced plans to resume flights from June 4.

Hotels in Dubai have also started to reopen their private beaches, providing social distancing can be adhered to.

Dubai Airport recently reported a total of 17.8 million customers for the first quarter of 2020, just under 20 per cent down year-on-year, and Griffiths said that “While we’re certainly ready to ramp up for the resumption of travel, it’s virtually impossible to forecast with any reliability as to how rapidly air services will be re-established on a regularly scheduled basis and how long it will take to get back to previous traffic levels”.

“We’re looking at an 18 month to two-year time frame but that is highly dependent upon the development of an effective treatment or vaccine and the establishment of bilateral arrangements between countries,” said Griffiths.

“So, while we can’t predict how quickly or when this will happen, I am optimistic that the innate demand when people realise it is once again safe to travel will be huge. There will come a point where the world will open up again and the desire to travel will be even stronger than it has been in the past and Dubai Airports and the entire aviation community will be ready.”