Dubai becomes pandemic destination for those fleeing lockdown measures


Published: 2021-01-18 16:54

Last Updated: 2024-05-19 07:38

Photo: The National
Photo: The National

With the imposition of strict lockdown measures around the world to stop the outbreak of the coronavirus, the Emirate of Dubai has become a destination for many to spend their vacation, despite the significant rise in virus cases in the UAE.

Life seems normal in Dubai, as there are no closures or quarantines. Malls, beaches and restaurants are crowded with visitors.

At the same time, everyone must wear masks and maintain social distancing, with the emirate enacting penalties for violating these rules.

From soccer stars to singing stars and other influencers on social media, Dubai is buzzing with visitors who come to enjoy its fine winter weather.

And unlike the capital, Abu Dhabi, which requires tourists to quarantine themselves, Dubai does not apply quarantine.

Tourists are required to bring a negative result for a virus detection examination conducted four days before the trip at most, or to conduct the test in Dubai if they come from certain destinations, and they must then isolate themselves until they get the result, which is usually ready within twenty-four hours.

Staff wear protective clothing and traditional menus have been replaced by phone menus using a code.

"I am not afraid," said Dmitry Melinkov, a 30-year-old Russian tourist who came from Moscow.

"If you look around, everyone wears a mask. I think that's a good thing."

- 'More safety' -

And in the Al Fahidi tourist district in the city, tourists wander with masks in narrow alleys and take pictures.

And in the streets of the historic quarter, which is reminiscent of the traditional lifestyle in Dubai, sterilizers are available as well as stickers reminding people to abide by social distancing measures. 

Nasser Jumaa bin Sulaiman, director of the historic Al-Fahidi neighborhood, told AFP that all measures are being maintained to prevent the virus.

"The number of visitors has become twenty visitors per tour guide," he explains. "In the past, there were about 100 tourists in each group, and now we have set specific standards and criteria to determine the number of visitors on the site."

Bin Suleiman notes that "every tour guide must register via the electronic application with the number of visitors and others" before entering with his tour group to the neighborhood.

Andy Bateman came with her husband and children from the US state of Alabama to spend five weeks in Dubai, explaining that she is traveling for the first time since last March.

"Because of the virus, none of us have had the vaccine yet, but we have young children who have to go out and see the world. That is why we are ready to take the risk until we get the vaccine," the American woman says of her choice to go to Dubai.

But she explains, "I feel safer here than I did in the United States. I think people wear masks and commit to social distancing more than the United States."

Sophia Amouch, 24, came from France to spend a two-week vacation, and decided to extend it for an additional two weeks.

According to the young Frenchwoman who was walking around Al Fahidi neighborhood, "I heard there is an increase in the number of cases here because there are a lot of tourists who came to Dubai. But everything is better managed here."

"In Dubai there are a lot of procedures and people respect them," she said.

The UAE has so far recorded more than 253,000 infections, including 745 deaths.

- Growth strategy -

Tourism has always been the mainstay of the emirate, which received more than 16 million visitors in 2019. Before the pandemic disrupted global travel, the goal was to reach twenty million in 2020.

Dubai reopened its doors to tourism last July.

"It seems that Dubai presents itself as a preferred destination for those wishing to escape from the closures and spend a winter vacation, especially with the ski resorts in Europe largely closed. I think this is a growth strategy in its own right."