An Israeli tourist wears masks in Dubai’s historic Al Fahidi neighborhood on January 11, 2021. With much of the world tightening lockdown amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Dubai remains open to tourism, describing itself as a sunny and quarantined-free escape-despite The sharp rise in the number of cases.
Karim Sahib | AFP via Getty Images
Dubai, United Arab Emirates – The United Arab Emirates has scrapped mandatory mask requirements in nearly all indoor public places after two and a half years.
The National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) announced the change in a televised statement, saying it will come into effect on September 1. 28. The long-standing mask rule has been a pillar of the measures taken by the UAE against Covid-19, as well as the near-universal vaccinations and the rapidly available polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
The ruling officially applies only to the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi, but it is expected that the other six emirates in the country, including Dubai, will follow suit. The authority said that masks will now only be required in hospitals, on public transport and in places of worship.
Abu Dhabi has been one of the strictest in terms of requiring and enforcing the wearing of masks. In Dubai, the wearing of masks was required in public enclosed spaces but it is allowed to take them off while sitting, eating, drinking and performing physical exercise.
By the summer months, law enforcement had relaxed in many other emirates and it was common to see people in public not wearing masks.
An Emirati man wearing a protective mask walks past Al Barsha Health Center in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on December 24, 2020.
Giuseppe Cax | AFP via Getty Images
The UAE will also stop publishing its daily tally of Covid-19 cases, which it first started publishing in March 2020.
Several other changes have been announced – schools will not require teachers or students to wear masks, airlines in the country can decide for themselves whether to require the wearing of masks, social distancing is no longer required in places of worship, only people who have tested positive for the virus for Covid-19, they will have to be quarantined, not those who have been in contact with them.
Quarantine for positive cases has been reduced from ten days to five.
In addition, vaccinated Abu Dhabi residents – who previously had to provide evidence, via the local Al Hosn app, of a negative PCR test every 14 days to enter public institutions – will be required to show this evidence every 30 days instead. Those who have not been vaccinated are still required to test negative every seven days. This rule does not apply in other emirates.
Dubai has received praise over the past two years for its handling of the pandemic, as strict mask-wearing rules and early access to a vaccine allowed it to reopen to business and visitors within a few months of the initial lockdown period from March to April 2020. Subsequent years saw few periods of rising numbers cases, but real estate boomed in Dubai as many expat workers flocked to the emirate for a semblance of normalcy.
Cases of Covid-19 have fallen steadily in recent months to an average of between 300 and 400 per day, according to NCEMA, which cites the total number of cases in the UAE since the pandemic began at more than one million, with 2,343 deaths.