Dubai is imposing stricter Covid-19 protocols for the month of February as it struggles to rein in a recent surge in coronavirus cases. The new measures follow a straight 17 days’ pressure on testing facilities and hospitals, and daily records of almost 4,000 new infections.
Responding to the recent hike in positive coronavirus cases, authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have imposed new regulations on social activities in the sheikdom. Restaurants and cafes are expected to close by 1 am while crowd limits have been placed on cinemas, hotels, shopping centres, and other tourist destinations.
Bars and pubs in Dubai will be shut all through this month. The Emirati government has also closed live entertainment at bars, halted nonessential surgeries, limited wedding sizes, and ordered gyms to increase space between those working out. It also now requires coronavirus testing for all those flying into its airport.
Despite the pandemic ravaging through the rest of the world with the borders of other countries and tourist nations closed, Dubai was the first to open for business in July 2020.
This, however, did not cause the current surge in coronavirus cases until now, especially after the New Year celebrations that attracted visitors from across the world. Up until last week, the sheikdom was confident that it had the situation under control.
Several countries such as the United Kingdom have suspended travels to Dubai, blaming it for the significant rise in the number of imported Covid cases due to the parties and activities over the festive season, which saw a lot of people breaking prevention guidelines. There are also concerns about coronavirus variants in the Arab city.
As has been the case since the Covid-19 broke out, the new restrictions will impact revenues generated from the vital tourism sector. Tourism forms a major part of the economy, representing 20% of the Emirati gross domestic product.
Stricter controls imposed by the government of Dubai means the freedom that has always brought foreigners to the city in the desert is now limited.
More so, the newly imposed ban on travel to Dubai from other countries will see it lose a large chunk of its visitors, particularly from the UK, which still stands as one of its major tourist sources.
Data from the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing shows that it attracted 16.73 million tourists in 2019 with Britain accounting for 1.2 million of those, the highest from any single country.
Hospitality and real estate ride the same train as tourism. In the first quarter of 2020, before the pandemic hit, the latter sector contributed 7.2% to GDP and added more than $8 billion to the economy, according to Dubai Land Department’s real estate performance report.
With these numbers, it came as no shock that the city was the first to open its borders to visitors considering the value that tourists and visitors bring with them.
As of Wednesday morning, more than 300,000 cases of the virus had been recorded in the UAE with less than 1,000 people dead.
Mass testing and free vaccinations are currently ongoing for all 9 million+ citizens and residents across the country. Abu Dhabi is distributing a Chinese vaccine by Sinopharm and Dubai is offering Pfizer-BioNTech’s inoculation. More than 3.4 million doses have been given so far, according to government figures.