Gulf states ease virus lockdowns
DUBAI: Gulf states have begun to ease restrictions as the number of coronavirus cases doubled in less than a month to surpass 200,000 yesterday, according to a Reuters’ tally.
Coronavirus infections in the region, which crossed the 100,000 mark on May 11, had initially been linked to travel but then spread among low-income migrant workers in overcrowded quarters, prompting authorities to increase testing.
Saudi Arabia, which has the most infections, said restrictions would be lifted in three phases, culminating in a curfew completely ending from June 21, with the exception of the holy city of Mecca.
Saudi Arabian airlines will operate some domestic flights from Sunday. Government sector workplace attendance, suspended since March 16, will resume gradually on May 31 and state media said yesterday private sector employees could go to offices. The Haj and Umrah pilgrimages, which attract millions from around the world, remain suspended.
Oman will tomorrow end a lockdown of its Muscat governorate, including the capital. It said a state committee had also ordered government entities to ensure at least 50 per cent of employees are working from their offices from May 31.
In the UAE, business and trade hub Dubai removed restrictions on movement and business operations between 6am and 11pm. It allowed cinemas, gyms and some entertainment attractions to reopen after permitting malls and dine-in restaurants to do so last month. Workplace attendance in Dubai is now permitted at 50pc. It will allow 100pc of public sector employees to return to work from their offices by June 14.
The emirate is continuing its “gradual return to normal life with intensified precautionary measures,” Dubai’s Crown Prince Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed tweeted yesterday.
The UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi has so far maintained a nationwide curfew from 8pm to 6am, but has also allowed malls and dine-in restaurants to operate with limited capacity.
The UAE government would allow minimum 30pc of workplace attendance in all federal ministries, authorities and institutions, starting from May 31, state news agency WAM reported last night.
Qatar, which has the second highest infection count, halted all commercial activities from May 19 to May 30. Kuwait imposed a 24-hour curfew on May 10 but said it would return to a partial one at the end of May.