The international city of Dubai, where people from across the globe visit daily, seems unaffected by the novel coronavirus which has now affected more than 100,000 people worldwide.
The Sunday Guardian visited several places in Dubai, including tourist attractions in the city that receive heavy footfall from various countries, but saw no sign to indicate that coronavirus has had an impact in Dubai.
Walking around the downtown area of Dubai along the most famous Sheikh Zayed Road, which is also known as the new city of Dubai or the Business District of Dubai having multiple high rises, five star hotels and offices of all the world’s renowned companies, none here were seen to be wearing either a mask or taking any precautions necessary to avoid the coronavirus.
This correspondent also visited the world famous Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) which sees a regular footfall of more than 50,000 people and from almost every country in the world, but here, too, no-one was seen to be wearing a mask.
Lindey, a tourist from France who was visiting the Dubai Mall, told The Sunday Guardian, “Yes, coronavirus is a thing now. One should take precautions, but here in Dubai, everything seems normal and no one is wearing a mask as you can see, which shows there is nothing to worry here. We hope that we are all safe.”
The situation seemed similar in every tourist attraction in Dubai, where no-one seemed to be taking any precaution to prevent themselves from the virus which has now officially claimed more than 3,000 lives across the globe.
Tourists at the Palm Atlantis’ Aqua Venture and Lost Chamber tourist attraction said there is no need to panic in Dubai.
Even the staff at these tourist attractions, who interact with multiple tourists daily from every corner of the world, were not seen to be taking even the basic protection against the novel coronavirus.
Asked about the coronavirus scare and panic across the globe, Natan, an Israeli resident holidaying with his family at the Palm Atlantis, said: “Nothing to worry here in Dubai my friend. Everything is fine here. Enjoy your holidays.”
The situation was similar even at the Palm Jumeriah, the Marina walk, the Jumeriah Broadway—these places are the ones that receive the maximum footfall of foreign tourists and affluent foreign tourists.
Mohammed Nadeem Akhtar, a Pakistani tour guide, told The Sunday Guardian that nothing is wrong in Dubai, everything is fine here, “no one needs to worry, the government here is very strict and would not let something like this take hostage of Dubai”.
“Here the government is very strict; if anything would have happened, they would have shut down everything here.”
However, while travelling to some of the residential areas in Bur Dubai and the city centre of Deira Commerical city in Dubai, some, mostly residents and natives of the South East Asian nations, were seen wearing masks while walking down the streets, but shops and hotel staff who interact with hundreds of tourists from different nationalities seemed undettered by the impact of the virus.
Some shopkeepers at the Deira City Centre told this correspondent that they are not wearing masks for taking precautions so that they don’t scare away visitors who are coming to Dubai.
A Phillipino shop owner at the Dubai City centre told The Sunday Guardian, “The situation in my country is very bad. But here, no one is wearing a mask, nor taking precautions. I don’t know why, but I think no one wants to portray an image of Dubai being affected by the coronavirus. I just pray to God that soon this problem gets over. It is very scary.”
Asked why she is not taking precautions herself as she has been interacting with so many people daily, she said, “I think we are not allowed to. You see the government here depends a lot on tourism and if that stops, it would become a problem. The government doesn’t want a negative image of Dubai.”
Asked again, if shop owners here have been instructed by anyone not to wear masks, she said, “This is not a democracy, sir. Everyone is watching everybody. So unofficially, we all know what to do.”
The UAE has officially declared some 30 cases of coronavirus here, but here in Dubai over the last one week, some five cases have been detected with the latest being an Indian and an Emirati student which led to the shutdown of all schools in Dubai till further orders.
The Dubai government has, however, issued a statement. The Commander in Chief of Dubai Police and head of Dubai’s crisis and disaster management team Major General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri said that all the authorities concerned are working round-the-clock to implement precautionary measures against COVID-19 and ensure safety and protection for the public. Measures have also been taken to screen passengers at all airports and sea ports in a hassle-free manner.