UAE imposes curfew for deep cleaning as coronavirus cases rise

Infections in the Gulf region passed 2,600 on Thursday, as Saudi Arabia’s cases passed 1,000.

uae coronavirus
The United Arab Emirates has announced an overnight curfew to deep clean public areas [Christopher Pike/Reuters]

The United Arab Emirates has imposed overnight curfews to allow for a nationwide disinfection to combat the coronavirus as cases in the Gulf region have risen to over 2,600.  

Authorities said restrictions on movement of traffic and people in the UAE will start overnight from Thursday until Sunday and will last from 8pm (16:00 GMT) to 6am (02:00 GMT).

Only essential service workers would be allowed out and violators will face fines, a security forces spokesman said in a press conference on Thursday. Public transport including trams and metro services will be suspended, while private cars, cabs and delivery vehicles can operate outside those hours, according to the official. 

On Wednesday, Dubai directed the private sector to implement remote working for most staff, but exempted a broad spectrum of businesses. The next day, the UAE government ordered all federal ministries and establishments and the private sector to limit the number of staff in offices to 30 percent, exempting sectors providing what the government considers to be essential services.

The latest measures come as the country slowly followed other Gulf states in suspending passenger flights and closing public venues such as restaurants and malls.

Virus spreads in the Gulf

On Thursday, the number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia passed 1,000 with 112 new infections reported, most of them in the capital Riyadh and the holy city of Mecca.

They also reported a third death from the virus, a resident in Medina who had suffered from chronic diseases.

Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar also saw more cases, taking the total in the six Gulf states to over 2,600, with nine deaths.

Coronavirus: How’s life under lockdown?

Among the countries, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have taken the most drastic steps, including imposing partial nationwide curfews and suspending work at most public and private sector establishments.

Kuwait on Thursday banned all taxis, directed the state supply company to cover any basic food shortages and said it would disburse a month’s salary to all Kuwaiti students abroad.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has released 250 foreign detainees held on non-violent immigration and residency offences as part of efforts to contain the spread of the disease, the state-backed Human Rights Commission said on Thursday. Bahrain and Kuwait have also announced prisoner releases.

Citizen evacuations

The island nation of Bahrain has continued to evacuate several hundred Bahraini pilgrims stranded in Iran, which is an epicentre for the disease in the region, with over 29,000 cases reported and 2,400 deaths. 

A second repatriation flight of around 60 Bahrainis arrived overnight Thursday from the holy Shia Iranian city of Mashhad, operated by Iranian airline Kish, families and a Bahraini official told Reuters news agency.

Bahrain earlier this month repatriated 165 people, but a number of subsequent scheduled flights were cancelled. At least 85 of the first batch of evacuees tested positive for the virus.

A woman wearing protective mask walks in West Bay area in Doha, Qatar, March 25, 2020. Qatar has imposed a series of measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, including closing of parks and public
A woman wearing a protective mask walks in the West Bay area in Doha. Qatar has imposed a series of measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, including closing parks and public areas, and banning social gatherings [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

In Qatar, the government’s crisis committee ordered the closure of all non-vital shops, and cafes and entertainment outlets, and restricted the working hours of all other shops to 6am to 7pm.

Pharmacies, grocery stores and delivery services are excluded from these restrictions, the committee said in a press conference on Saturday.

Qatar recorded 12 new cases of the virus on Thursday, taking its total to 549. 

Source: News Agencies