Coronavirus in the UAE: why you must stay home this weekend

Authorities are urging residents to adhere to strict social distancing practices


UAE residents are being urged to stay home and stay safe this weekend as a nationwide sterilisation drive is launched to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Public transport services will be suspended and roads sealed off so they can be sprayed while the comprehensive cleaning drive is carried out.

The safety scheme, which started on Thursday, will be held daily between 8pm to 6am until Sunday morning.

The UAE government has encouraged people to stay indoors and practice social distancing in recent days as it stepped up efforts to limit the spread of the disease.

A major clean-up operation will be carried out across the Emirates throughout the weekend. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak/The National
A major clean-up operation will be carried out across the Emirates throughout the weekend. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak/The National

The National has produced a guide to the raft of measures taken to boost public health and how they will impact on the lives of millions of people across the Emirates.

Can I use the Metro during this time?

Dubai Metro will be suspended during the cleaning process, so do not attempt to travel to a station during this time. Taxis will also be taken off the roads while the measures are in place.

When the Metro service is open, passengers will be told to wear face masks at all times and distance themselves from others on board.

The capacity of trains – when back up-and-running – is also to be reduced from 650 to about 170 to aid the social distancing effort.

Services will operate as frequently as every three minutes to compensate for the greatly reduced number allowed to travel at any one time.

People have been told not use their cars unless it is essential.

Can I go for a long walk or a run?

Only those who work in essential sectors, such as healthcare, supermarkets, security and the military can leave their homes.

It is advised to exercise at home at all times – making use of a variety of tutorial video available on the internet – rather than strolling or jogging outside.

Aysha Al Dhaheri, head of health promotion at the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, said if people want fresh air they may briefly step outside their front doors but must return to their homes immediately.

Can I head to the beach if on my own?

All beaches, parks, cinemas, sports centres and public and private swimming pools in the country closed temporarily from Sunday to combat Covid-19.

Dubai Police arrested a man for ignoring the nationwide ban on visiting public beaches and mocking measures to protect public safety amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The European man, believed to be a personal trainer, posted a video on Instagram of himself and a friend at Marina Beach in Jumeirah Beach Residence.

How will I get my shopping?

Supermarkets remain open but it is advised to only plan trips when absolutely necessary. Home delivery services are provided by major chains such as Spinneys, Carrefour, Lulu and Zoom.

Are restaurants open?

Restaurants are open only for home delivery. You cannot visit or dine in.

Many businesses – including pharmacies – deliver online and have increased their delivery teams.

I have a family party planned? Can it go ahead?

As hard as it can be to miss out on family events, safety is again paramount and such gatherings must be cancelled. Dr Al Dhaheri pleaded with the public to avoid holding such events – or any other social get-togethers – to limit the risk of infection.

Her message was echoed by Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health and Prevention.

“We understand that weekends are meant for family gathering and recreational activities but these are special circumstances that require us to keep our distance. Please call your families and friends instead,” said Dr Al Hosani.

Will all work be stopped during this period?

Key workers will be allowed to leave their homes to carry out urgent duties. Petrol stations will also remain open and construction work will continue.

“Workers in vital sectors are excluded [from staying home], and this will be verified by checking business or identity cards,” said Brig Abdulaziz Al Ahmed, from the Ministry of Interior.

What happens if I do go outside?

Leaving your home without a valid reason will have consequences. Brig Al Ahmed said anyone caught leaving their home would be stopped by police and asked to explain why they were outside. They will also be asked to provide their Emirates ID.

“Necessary deterrent measures will be taken against offenders, including fines and imprisonment, according to UAE law,” he said.

Why is it so vital we do stay at home?

Coronavirus is a highly contagious disease. Since it emerged in Wuhan, China, in December, there have been close to 500,000 cases across the globe with a death toll now standing at more than 22,000.

The harsh reality of just how rapidly the virus can spread was highlighted by the case of one traveller who arrived to the UAE and did not self-isolate and went on to infect 17 others with Covid-19, including his family and colleagues.

Avoiding contact with others is the best way to slow its spread, helping to save lives and easing the pressure on health services during unprecedented times. More info and photos

Chris Maxwell