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Dubai shuts bars; Emirates eyes daily vaccine deliveries

DUBAI: This picture taken on Monday shows a view of the Museum of the Future. – AFP

DUBAI: Dubai on Monday ordered bars and pubs to close until the end of the month to suppress a spike in coronavirus cases, after tourists flocked to the emirate over the holiday period. The closures, effective from yesterday, are among a raft of steps “taken in response to rising violations of preventive measures,” authorities said in a statement.

Indoor venues, including cinemas and sports venues, will have their capacity cut by half. Dubai’s vast shopping malls, as well as hotels, swimming pools and private beaches, must operate at 70 percent of capacity. Restaurants and cafes are required to close by 1.00 am. “Penalties will be strictly imposed on anyone found posing a risk to public health by deliberately disregarding preventive measures or not observing them properly,” the Crisis and Disaster Management committee said.

Dubai has sought to manage the pandemic without closing its doors, and in July reopened to tourism – an economic mainstay which has been badly battered during the pandemic. The United Arab Emirates is also racing to roll out vaccines – administering some 3.4 million doses of vaccine to its population of about 10 million, for the second-fastest delivery after Israel.

But while masks and social distancing are mandatory, it has not prevented a sharp increase in cases in the new year after Dubai branded itself as an open, sunny and quarantine-free winter escape. Neighboring Abu Dhabi, which has large oil reserves and is less dependent on tourism, has taken a more conservative approach, generally requiring quarantine on arrival.

Images of sports and media celebrities at Dubai’s multitude of beach clubs and cocktail bars flooded social media over Christmas and New Year. However, guidelines for the city-state have been gradually tightened over recent weeks, with an earlier clampdown on the entertainment scene, and non-essential surgery in hospitals has been suspended.

Britain last week announced a travel ban on non-citizens arriving from the UAE, and severe quarantine measures for citizens arriving from the country, hitting Dubai holidaymakers and expatriates. Direct flights from the UAE to Britain were also cancelled until further notice, although Dubai-based carrier Emirates said Monday it would resume some one-way services between Britain and Dubai.

Deputy head of Emirates’ cargo division Nabil Al-Morr.

Meanwhile, Emirates airline said Monday it would make daily deliveries of coronavirus vaccines to countries with low storage capacities as part of an initiative to accelerate global jab distribution. The Dubai-based company, the Middle East’s largest carrier, will use both its cargo and passenger fleets to deliver vaccines to countries without the means to stockpile vaccines, said deputy head of Emirates’ cargo division Nabil Al-Morr.

“The majority of these countries have storage problems, while we have the capacity,” he told AFP, adding that the initiative involves most developing countries in the Middle East, Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Dubai, a key transport hub, announced the initiative on Sunday to accelerate the delivery of coronavirus vaccines, particularly to developing nations, after the World Health Organization warned against abandoning the world’s poor.

The Vaccine Logistics Alliance includes Emirates airline and DP World, making use of the global logistics giant’s network of ports and the city state’s airports, according to Dubai authorities. The alliance will “support” the WHO’s Covax initiative – the globally-pooled vaccine procurement and distribution effort – to disburse two billion vaccine doses, the Dubai Media Office said in a statement on Sunday.

Dubai said the alliance will work with pharmaceutical manufacturers, forwarders, and government agencies to transport vaccines, some of which have to be kept at very cold temperatures. Since the start of the pandemic, the wealthy United Arab Emirates, which has sought to expand its diplomatic influence, has highlighted its international humanitarian assistance efforts. – AFP


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