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Influencers' lockdown travels to Dubai: health vs wealth?

It’s already been a year since the coronavirus pandemic began in the UK and many of us have faced the lowest of lows… well, some more than others. British celebrities and influencers have been receiving a lot of backlash in the last two lockdowns, because many of them - contrary to government travel restrictions - have continued their travels to luxury destinations such as Dubai, UAE. The BBC even reported that social media platforms like TikTok ‘have been filled with people mocking the number of reality stars visiting Dubai’.

What’s all the fuss about?

Let’s be real, an escape to any foreign country is better than being stuck in the UK. I’m pretty sure that all Brits are experiencing a strong sense of wanderlust right now. However, the reason why these celebrities have been able to get away with their fancy escapades in spite of the travel restrictions is because they are traveling for “essential work trips” (or so they claim). Concerns about the level of truth behind these claims is where the backlash arose from. From the glimpses of enjoyment that social media users have been given by these influencers, it hardly looks like they are working. In an Instagram post back in January, reality TV star and influencer Chloe Ferry from Geordie Shore posted a cute bikini picture on a beach in Dubai promoting her bikini brand, with the caption ‘Dunno what it is with Dubai, but no one can seem to tan.’ But she isn’t alone in posting pictures like these; other influencers like Laura Anderson, Eve and Jess Gale from Love Island and even TOWIE star James Lock are among those who claimed to be in Dubai to fulfil their brand deals and partnerships, yet really just seem to be enjoying a holiday of fun in the sun. In addition to this, in November we even had what seemed like half of the UK rap scene abandon the UK’s cloudy climate and stringent Covid regulations in search of more sun and less restrictive performance venues such as the award-winning club White Dubai. Over just a few weeks, the lavish club venue reopened after having a more ‘social distancing-friendly makeover’ and hosted performances from the likes of Skepta, Tinie Tempah and Krept & Konan. Rappers Tion Wayne and Headie One were even caught on film being “held back by other passengers” during a brawl on a flight from London to Dubai. All of this chaos really makes you wonder how seriously these celebrities have been taking the pandemic.

Why Dubai?

With an alluring sky-scraper skyline and a tropical climate to-die-for, Dubai has easily become the hotspot for the rich and famous. As well as having the sun, sea and sand, the city of Dubai is increasingly becoming a business capital for all. As such a luxurious, picture-perfect city, social media influencers are instantly drawn to it like moths to a flame. I mean, it is undoubtedly the trendiest holiday destination at the moment and afterall, being an influencer is all about creating and following trends. It’s no surprise that clothing brands like PrettyLittleThing and MissGuided aim to appeal to as many young people as possible by ensuring that influencers market their clothes in the most aesthetically-pleasing, Instgrammable settings. This generates more profit for the companies. It’s textbook capitalism: influencing the poor to spend more of their money by making the wealthy look even more desirable. This explains why a city like Dubai is such a popular destination for the affluent, and why so many big brands are obsessed with it.

What does this mean in today’s pandemic?

According to Worldometer, from the end of October to the end of December, the number of Dubai’s new COVID-19 cases fell in the low thousands. However, in January 2021, the city hit a peak of 3,966 new cases in one day. In fact, since the start of January until now, it has been experiencing new cases of 3000+ daily. These spikes in Covid-19 cases beg the question of why these influencers are still being allowed to take their luxury trips freely? On top of all this, influencers taking to Instagram to flaunt their extravagant stays in Dubai seems to be doing more harm than good. Sure, the influencers and the brands they work for are thriving financially but for your average Joe watching all of this from the confines of their cramped three-bedroom flat, it can be quite depressing. Most of the UK remain locked at home, reliving the same routine day in and day out.

‘Health’ versus ‘Wealth’

Ultimately, it seems like there are two key aspects of human life which are battling against each other here: health and wealth. Influencers are choosing to risk their health for their own monetary gain. Not only are they risking their own health, but they are also putting the health of others in danger by leaving the country, which is where the biggest issue here lies. It seems that even in a global pandemic, which apparently does not discriminate between the rich and the poor, the rich still come out on top. Or perhaps, we are being too naïve in hoping that money would come second to our physical and mental wellbeing. Has it ever?

Andreia is our Society & Politics Editor and a third year student studying BA French & Politics at the University of Leeds. She is currently on a year abroad in Toulouse, France. She is pursuing a career in government and policy and is interested in foreign languages and cultures, pop culture and politics. Her Instagram handle is @_.adcb._.

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