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Glitzy Dubai limits entertainment activity as virus cases spike

Dubai clamped down on its entertainment scene Thursday and suspended non-essential surgery in hospitals after a spike in coronavirus cases in the UAE as the glitzy emirate stays open to tourists.

One of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, Dubai has branded itself this winter as an open, sunny and quarantine-free escape.

But Covid-19 infections have surged since the New Year and the UAE registered a daily record of 3,529 new cases on Thursday, a new high for the 10th consecutive day.

“To ensure public health and safety, all entertainment permits issued will be on hold effective immediately,” Dubai Media Office tweeted.

“Dubai Tourism will continue to evaluate the progress with the health authorities.”

It said more than 200 cases of non-compliance with coronavirus guidelines had been recorded and around 20 establishments closed in the past three weeks.

Authorities have also instructed hospitals to suspend all non-essential surgery until February 19.

While mask-wearing and social distancing have been in force, restaurants, hotels and mega-malls have remained open in tourism-reliant Dubai.

Businesses contacted by AFP on Thursday said they will continue to serve customers but without live entertainment such as disc jockeys and dancers.

According to Emirati health officials, the UAE has already inoculated over two million of its approximately 10 million population.

Dubai reopened its doors for tourism in July last year.

Posts of sports and media celebrities at Dubai’s multitude of beach clubs and cocktail bars have flooded social media over Christmas and New Year.

Fellow emirate Abu Dhabi, which has large oil reserves and so is less dependent on tourism, has taken a more conservative approach, generally requiring quarantine on arrival.

But tourists can freely enter Dubai with a negative PCR test in their home countries — and possibly another upon arrival, depending on the place of departure.

Its airline Emirates offers free travel insurance with every ticket purchased, including hospitalisation and repatriation costs for coronavirus.

Tourism has long been an economic mainstay of Dubai, which welcomed more than 16 million visitors in 2019 before the pandemic struck.

The UAE has recorded a total of more than 263,000 cases, including 762 deaths.

Britain has dropped the UAE from its “travel corridor” list of quarantine-exempted countries because of its rising cases.