A well being employee checks a person’s temperature earlier than receiving a dose of vaccine towards the coronavirus at a vaccination middle arrange on the Dubai International Financial Center within the Gulf emirate of Dubai, on February 3, 2021. The United Arab Emirates has suffered a spike in circumstances after the vacation interval.
Photo by KARIM SAHIB | AFP by way of Getty Images
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Dubai has enacted strict new measures to curb the unfold of Covid-19 and is defending its pandemic response technique after a surge in circumstances.
Record breaking an infection charges in current weeks have compelled Dubai to introduce new venue capability cuts and an evening curfew, after opening itself to vacationers. Authorities blamed “a marked increase in the number of violations of precautionary measures” for the brand new guidelines.
In the final week, the U.Ok. has suspended all UAE flights — the world’s busiest worldwide route. Meanwhile, Dubai on Wednesday banned its fashionable brunches, closing pubs and bars.
“The approach in the UAE and in Dubai in particular has always been underpinned by science, and science informed common sense,” Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, deputy director of the Dubai Health Authority advised CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Thursday.
“The numbers have surged but the health system has managed to keep up with the numbers and take care of the sick, and there has been more restrictions now in terms of activities in the Emirate and the UAE in response to that,” he added.
But as photographs of busy seashores and Instagram celebrities on social media spark anger and envy within the worldwide press, some are questioning the knowledge of Dubai’s technique.
“What has happened in Dubai did not need to happen,” Erin Bromage, a professor of biology on the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, who makes a speciality of an infection and immunology, advised CNBC.
“They have brought the virus in, including the new variants, in waves of new tourists and allowed it to spread through the community as well as spread to uninfected tourists,” Bromage mentioned. “The tourists return home and seeded infections there, possibly with the new variants.”
Figures from the U.Ok. Civil Aviation Authority present nearly 300,000 folks traveled between the U.Ok. and UAE throughout November and December final yr alone, with hundreds flocking to Dubai’s hotspots for an escape from lockdowns.
In the essential month of December — when a brand new and extremely transmissible variant of the virus was spreading within the U.Ok. — 211,115 folks traveled between the U.Ok. and the UAE. The knowledge solely reveals site visitors to and from the U.Ok. and not different countries, that means the whole variety of vacationers is probably going a lot larger. Testing was required for passengers earlier than boarding or on arrival.
“We’ve been following the numbers very carefully, and we’re very concerned by the rise in numbers and the emergence of new variants about two months ago,” Alsheikh-Ali mentioned.
Cases have tripled since November, however UAE authorities deny the neighborhood has been put in danger and reject the concept that the town has grow to be a hotspot for spreading the virus overseas.
“We’ve seen variants … reported now in more than 70 different countries,” Alsheikh-Ali mentioned. “I don’t think it’s helpful to identify a particular country as a particular source for a certain variant,” he added.
Dubai’s enterprise neighborhood, who benefited from the open door coverage, can also be pushing again.
“The infection rates are much higher in the U.K. than they currently are in the UAE, so making the case that somehow the UAE is causing issues or is a superspreader country is clearly not the case,” Chris Payne, chief economist of Dubai-based Peninsula Real Estate, advised CNBC.
“The UAE have taken a different track, Dubai specifically, and I don’t blame them for that,” Payne added. “They’ve taken the view that the economy of Dubai needed to open, and it couldn’t withstand the kind of prolonged closures that we’ve seen elsewhere in the world.”
The have been 3,310 new coronavirus circumstances recorded within the UAE on Wednesday, up from 2,730 on Tuesday, in line with official knowledge from Johns Hopkins University. The UAE seven day-average case rely stands at 3,500.
As debate rages over Dubai’s virus technique, at the least two countries have raised concern about passenger flows in current weeks.
Danish Transport Minister Benny Engelbrecht mentioned at the least “one citizen” introduced the South African variant of the virus “back from Dubai.” Denmark has quickly banned flights from the UAE amid criticism over Emirati testing services.
A mask-clad Israeli vacationer within the historic al-Fahidi neighborhood of Dubai on January 11, 2021. As a lot of the world tightens lockdowns amid COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Dubai stays open for tourism, branding itself as a sunny, quarantine-free escape — regardless of a pointy rise in circumstances.
KARIM SAHIB | AFP by way of Getty Images
The UAE has one of many highest per capita testing charges on this planet, with the whole variety of exams exceeding 26 million so far. Authorities mentioned testing facilities function by worldwide requirements and are inspected usually.
Concern has additionally come from Israel, the place greater than 900 vacationers coming back from Dubai have been contaminated with coronavirus, in line with a report within the Associated Press citing the Israeli navy. It mentioned returnees “created a chain of infections numbering more than 4,000 people.”
CNBC was not capable of independently confirm the report and has contacted the Israeli navy for remark.
Despite the claims, UAE authorities insist they’re taking efficient motion to guard the protection of these residing in and visiting the UAE. That additionally contains frontline well being care staff coping with the rising circumstances.
“It’s not a good idea, but life must go on,” one medical employee who was conducting PCR exams within the monetary space advised CNBC when requested if Dubai ought to keep open to vacationers. “We just need to be responsible and take care. I’ve taken my vaccine,” the employee, who most popular to stay nameless as they weren’t assured talking publicly with out employer authorization, mentioned.
People wait their flip to get vaccinated towards the coronavirus at a vaccination middle arrange on the Dubai International Financial Center within the Gulf emirate of Dubai, on February 3, 2021. The UAE has administered at the least three million doses to greater than 1 / 4 of its inhabitants.
Authorities additionally dismissed options of a scarcity of hospital beds in Dubai.
“The health system here in Dubai has been able to stay ahead of the curve with surge capacity. Every patient who needs a hospital bed is able to get it today in Dubai,” Alsheikh-Ali mentioned.
The UAE is on the forefront of a world vaccination drive. Using the Chinese Sinopharm and BioNTech-Pfizer jabs, it has already delivered greater than 2.7 million doses and is heading in the right direction to immunize half of its 10 million residents in the course of the first quarter.
“We currently have three different vaccines available for people in Dubai, with more than 120 access points for vaccines including home vaccinations for the elderly who cannot make it to the vaccination centers,” Alsheikh-Ali mentioned, when requested how authorities deliberate to ease the latest spherical of restrictions.
“Vaccinations are our exit strategy.”