After the World Health Organization deemed the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) a global “pandemic”, various disciplinary bodies across the UAE government began taking immediate action to ensure the safety of the local community and protect the public health of all its citizens. While many of these precautionary measures went into effect yesterday, March 15, and will be ongoing until the end of the month or until further notice, some have already been carried out for a few weeks now. Although this continuous stream of rapidly-changing information may seem intimidating, we’ve rounded up some of the most crucial initiatives the UAE has released in order to help curb any lingering feelings of fear and confusion.
From March 17 onwards, the UAE will temporarily halt the issuance of entry visas to all foreigners, except those with diplomatic passports, to help contain the spread of the virus from external locations.
Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai, launched an economic stimulus package worth AED 1.5 billion to safeguard residents and businesses—especially in tourism, trade, and retail—from these extraordinary circumstances beyond their control. These economic measures, including a 20 percent refund on Customs fees for imported products sold in Dubai and a 10 percent reduction to water and electricity bills, will be valid for the next three months before being reviewed once again.
Effective March 15, the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing has announced all events hosted by hospitality and entertainment destinations in Dubai to be suspended until the end of March to limit large public gatherings, from concerts and night clubs to wedding functions.
Various lifestyle and leisure locations across the UAE have also been temporarily closed, including public parks, beaches, cinemas, amusement and water parks, fitness gyms, electronic gaming centers, shisha cafés, museums, historical sites, and many tourist hot spots such as Global Village.
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The UAE Federal Authority for Government Human Resources (FAHR) has issued a series of guidelines for employees who are advised to work remotely, including pregnant women, people of determination, those who are 60 years old or above as well as any with chronic diseases and other health concerns. However, those who are working remotely must answer all calls and emails from the workplace and submit daily progress reports to their employers.
Private schools and universities across the UAE began a month-long closure on March 8, with classes set to be held on e-learning platforms in the meantime once spring break ends.
City-wide curfew and disinfection
To stop the spread of the virus through infected surfaces, trained cleaning crews have been dispatched to many high-traffic public areas for specialized disinfection, including cabins of the Dubai metro, which is sanitized after every trip according to the Roads and Transport Authority. Since March 26, the UAE has instated a national nightly curfew to fully sterilize public facilities, streets, and public transport from 8 pm until 6 am every day. While movement will continue as normal during the day, metros, taxis, and buses will be halted between those evening hours and residents are urged to #StayHome unless absolutely essential or risk facing possible imprisonment and/or fines up to AED 1 million. If you must go out during this curfew for a medical or equally valid reason, a registered permit is required.
In correlation with the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention advice to avoid traveling abroad to countries affected by Covid-19, UAE-based airlines Emirates and Etihad have suspended flights to such major destinations in countries across the world, including Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Italy, and Turkey, as well as offering fee waivers to those who want to change their bookings. The full list of locations and fare conditions can be found on the airline’s respective websites.
Airports have added thermal scanners to check for high body temperatures in arriving passengers and further medical assistance will be given if fever and other symptoms are found, including additional nasal swab tests or hospital transportation.
New medical assistance
The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention has released an online Coronavirus Assessment Tool for those to check their symptoms and receive virtual medical assistance while a new medical facility in Abu Dhabi is set to provide all the necessary medicines and doctors for patients who need to undergo treatment or quarantine. A drive-through Covid-19 Test Center also recently opened in the UAE capital, where up to 600 people can get tested per day in about five minutes from the safety of their vehicles. Located in Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City and open daily from 8 am-8 pm, appointments and pre-screenings must be made beforehand by calling Istijaba Centre on 8001717.
The two most important things to keep in mind during this period of uncertainty is the commitment to accurate information and supporting our fellow people. As Sheikh Hamdan aptly put it earlier this week, “The world is going through difficult times but we have the capability to navigate challenges successfully. As we have learned from Sheikh Mohammed, challenges enhance a society’s ability to develop and advance by generating innovative and creative solutions.”