Coronavirus: Thousands of Dubai government workers return to offices

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Thousands of Dubai government workers were set to return to their offices on Sunday - with many private sector businesses expected to follow suit.

Half of the public sector workforce will be back in the workplace for the next two weeks, after which 100 per cent will return.

Many private sector companies in Dubai have chosen Sunday to ramp up after almost three months of working from home. As of last week, they are allowed to have 50 per cent of the workforce in the office, up from 30 per cent.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, last week said the move was part of "our gradual return to normal life", but with strict precautionary measures such as the wearing of masks and physical distancing.

Nationwide, 30 per cent of federal ministry employees will return to offices on Sunday.

On Saturday, the UAE's Ministry of Health confirmed 726 new cases taking the total to 33,896. There were two further deaths taking the toll to 262.

Today we are all responsible for recovery, and we are responsible for the decline of the virus, and our commitment will reduce its spread

Dr Farida Al Hosani

And 447 patients recovered, taking the total to 17,546. To date, officials said 16,088 are classed as active cases.

Dr Farida Al Hosani, the government's health spokeswoman, reiterated the need for all residents to take responsibility.

"We are passing through a very critical stage," she said at a televised briefing.

She said the country may see cases rises again, particularly if people do not take individual responsibility.

"We have recently observed a relative moderation in the number of cases in the country, as well as a significant improvement in recoveries, but it is difficult to say at the moment that we are in the process of declining," Dr Al Hosani said.

"Today we are all responsible for recovery, and we are responsible for the decline of the virus, and our commitment will reduce its spread."

On Friday and Saturday, residents flocked to public beaches, despite high temperatures. Many cafes and restaurants opened up and hundreds of hotels ramped up staycation offers.

A mass testing campaign aims to screen all workers living in Abu Dhabi’s Mussaffah area. All photos by Victor Besa / The National

The testing is free of cost, said the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi.

Free transportation is provided to take workers from their accommodation to testing centres.

The initiative announced by the Abu Dhabi Media Office, said no legal action will be taken against those who are living in the emirate on expired visas.

There are currently three massive testing centres in Mussaffah where more than 120,000 workers have been tested so far.

“Testing campaign and sanitisation [are] to be conducted in gradual phases, and in coordination with targeted blocks,” said the Abu Dhabi Media Office.

The main medical registration area at the Seha facility in Mussaffah.

Another queue sends visitors to a line where they are processed by handing over their Emirates ID card and phone number.

A staff member of the center directs a workers to the next area at the screening centre.

A high body temperature of 38°C could indicate signs of fever, a common coronavirus symptom.

Visitors must complete a brief questionnaire to help nurses understand the health status of those waiting in line.

On arrival in Mussaffah, workers walk through a sanitisation mist shower before entering the tented clinic.

Workers and residents queue in front of the sanitising gate before they can enter the main tent screening centre.

Diya Khuruj, 38, from Mauritius, was relieved to be back at work.

She had spent most of the past two months on unpaid leave, watching TV, movies and cooking new dishes. She was enjoying a visit to Jumeirah Beach on Saturday and was glad to be back at work and earning again.

“For one month, it was a holiday,” she said, but the second month less so.

"I felt excited to go back to work," she said.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia altered restrictions on gatherings and workplaces to allow larger meet-ups, but instituted heavy fines for rule-breakers.

All areas of Saudi Arabia except Makkah have begun a three-stage lifting of the nationwide stay-at-home order imposed in late March to contain the kingdom’s coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus outbreak

Up to 50 people will be allowed to attend gatherings in homes, farms, or at social events such as mourning and parties, the Ministry of the Interior said. Earlier this month, the kingdom banned gatherings of more than five people.

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health confirmed 1,618 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, taking the country's total number of cases to 83,384. A further 1,870 people have recovered, taking the total number of recoveries to 58,883.

The Kingdom's death toll has reached 480, after 22 new deaths were recorded.

As restaurants and businesses prepare to reopen following a government announcement on Friday, new penalties have been set for those flouting the rules.

Businesses that allow entry of customers not wearing masks or don’t provide appropriate hand washing or sterilising facilities risk fines of up to 10,000 riyals. People who refuse to wear a mask or adhere to social distancing guidelines will be fined 1,000 riyals, the statement said.

In other developments, the European Union called on the United States to "reconsider" the decision to sever ties with the World Health Organisation over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States was the largest contributor to the WHO budget, providing at least $400 million in annual funding.

"The WHO needs to continue being able to lead the international response to pandemics, current and future," Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a joint statement.

"For this, the participation and support of all is required and very much needed."

Updated: May 31, 2020 07:46 AM

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