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Is Dubai’s party over? Record Covid circumstances, countries raising barriers spark fears of new lockdown


Fireworks emanate from the Burj Khalifah tower in Dubai through the Dec. 31, 2020 New Year’s Eve celebrations, which attracted hundreds of vacationers and noticed relaxed restrictions on social gatherings, permitting as much as 30 folks to assemble per family. AFP by way of Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — On the floor, Dubai’s party scene feels as vibrant as ever — bustling eating places and bars, seashores and lodge swimming pools occupied by relaxed residents and vacationers taking within the winter solar. 

But every day record-hitting Covid-19 infections within the Middle East’s industrial and vacation hub have made chatter of a possible new lockdown unavoidable.  

“It’s getting really bad. How long did they think they could get away with this?” Farah S., a lawyer working in Dubai, advised CNBC.  

New circumstances recorded on Monday reached an all-time every day excessive for the nation at 3,591, based on the UAE’s Ministry of Health. When the nation imposed its strictest lockdown in March and April that noticed stay-at-home orders and whole border closures, every day circumstances had been lower than one-tenth of that determine. 

Just final week, the desert emirate of 3.Three million — whose financial system depends closely on tourism and hospitality — had begun making modifications that belie the federal government’s messaging that every little thing is underneath management. 

On Jan. 21, authorities directed all Dubai hospitals to droop non-essential surgical procedures for a month. Around the identical time, a directive went out suspending all “entertainment activities” in eating places and bars. The cap on weddings, social occasions and personal events has been minimize to 10 folks from 30. Restaurants and cafes, from Jan. 27 onward, would require elevated area between tables and fewer folks per desk.  

Customers and tools in gyms should now be spaced Three meters aside versus the prior 2 meters, although that 2-meter requirement was usually not very judiciously utilized within the first place.   

Dubai on Sunday fired the pinnacle of its well being division, changing Humaid al-Qutami, who had held the publish since 2018, with a new appointee. Authorities didn’t give a motive for the alternative and didn’t reply to CNBC’s request for remark.  

Some Dubai residents have claimed that hospitals are working out of ICU beds, although this might not be confirmed as hospitals and well being authorities didn’t reply to CNBC’s requests for remark.  

But over the weekend, the UAE’s well being ministry printed a publish on its Instagram story headed with the phrases “URGENT HIRING”, providing non permanent contracts for ICU nurses in Dubai in addition to the emirates of Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah. This got here simply days after the order to halt non-essential surgical procedures. 

To date, the UAE’s whole confirmed circumstances depend at 281,546, with 798 deaths, based on knowledge compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Its demise price of 0.3% is considerably beneath the worldwide common.  

A 2020 ‘protected journey’ haven 

After maintaining its circumstances nicely beneath 2,000 per day for all of 2020, Dubai emirate — which adopted a technique of openness in distinction to the UAE’s extra conservative capital Abu Dhabi — billed itself as a pandemic success story.  

It was licensed as a “Safe Travel” vacation spot by the World Tourism Council final summer season, drawing celebrities and influencers. Hotels and theme parks noticed jumps in occupancy and vacationers from all around the world flocked to Dubai for a way of much-missed normality. Mask-wearing remained ubiquitous and testing is broadly out there.  

Just previously two months town has hosted golf and polo tournaments, purchasing and movie festivals, and concert events, selling its picture as protected and welcoming forward of its long-anticipated World Expo 2020, which was postponed to October 2021 as a result of of the pandemic.

But the new and highly-transmissible coronavirus variant first recognized within the U.Ok. is suspected to have triggered the current case spike as hundreds of British vacationers poured in over the vacations to flee harsh U.Ok. lockdown. Daily tallies have greater than tripled inside the span of a month since Dec. 30.  

Woman sunbathers sit alongside a seaside within the Gulf emirate of Dubai on July 24, 2020, whereas behind is seen the Burj al-Arab lodge. After a painful four-month tourism shutdown that ended earlier in July, Dubai is billing itself as a protected vacation spot with the assets to beat back coronavirus.

KARIM SAHIB | AFP by way of Getty Images

Andy Pearson, a British engineer residing in Dubai, blames the massive volumes of vacationers he believes aren’t following native security necessities. 

“The police should do more checks in the party areas to make sure people are sticking to the rules,” he mentioned. “Tourists don’t care because they can just go home — they’re ruining it for the rest of us.”

The Dubai Media Office didn’t reply to a number of requests for touch upon whether or not a lockdown was coming or what additional modifications can be made to fight the rise in circumstances. 

Countries put up barriers over UAE case and take a look at considerations 

Another warning sign got here final Thursday when Denmark introduced a five-day suspension on flights from the UAE over suspicions that the Covid checks administered to vacationers earlier than leaving Dubai weren’t dependable. 

“We can’t ignore such a suspicion,” Denmark’s transport minister mentioned, including that not less than one citizen returned from Dubai with the variant lately found in South Africa, out of a number of extra who he mentioned examined constructive for Covid.  

The UAE’s well being ministry pushed again on the announcement, asserting that each one accredited UAE testing facilities function by worldwide requirements and are inspected repeatedly. Talks are underway between the 2 countries, UAE authorities mentioned. 

Earlier within the month, the U.Ok. and Israel imposed necessary quarantine necessities for vacationers coming from the UAE. The UAE had beforehand been on the U.Ok.’s safe-travel hall, which had voided the necessity for arrival quarantine intervals.    

The Covid-19 case figures embody the entire nation and don’t specify the place infections are concentrated. But whereas is Dubai welcoming vacationers — some requiring damaging PCR take a look at outcomes earlier than boarding and others receiving checks on arrival — Abu Dhabi nonetheless requires anybody flying into the emirate to quarantine for 2 weeks upon arrival. Entrants to Abu Dhabi from Dubai should additionally present a sequence of damaging PCR take a look at outcomes.      

Nationwide vaccination push 

Still, the UAE intends to fulfill its goal to inoculate half its inhabitants by the tip of March. Last week, it introduced emergency use approval for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, for which Phase Three trials are nonetheless underway in Abu Dhabi. 

Certain industries are actually mandating weekly PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) checks for unvaccinated workers, half of what some residents really feel is a stress marketing campaign to encourage vaccination. For many residing in Dubai, this transfer — and broader restrictions — are welcome. 

“I think they should lockdown for two weeks,” mentioned Sara El Dallal, an training advisor residing in Dubai. “Restrictions have been put (in place) since last week and still the numbers did not decrease.” She famous that authorities faculties have held their courses on-line since early January.  

Melissa Webb, a Dubai-based yoga trainer, caught the virus herself after coming back from a household go to to the U.Ok. over Christmas. But she examined damaging upon arrival in Dubai, solely to check constructive three days later when attempting to enter Abu Dhabi. She shared her story as a cautionary story. 

“Obviously I’ve been glad for some six months of normality, but since Christmas I feel very on edge again,” she mentioned. “But I recognize the need for the economy to stay open, otherwise we won’t be able to live here much longer anyway.”



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