Coronavirus: Dubai's expanded travel restrictions explained

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - New travel restrictions were imposed in Dubai on Saturday as the country works to tackle a rising number of coronavirus cases.

They will significantly reduce the number of people leaving home at any one time.

“Extensive testing” of densely populated communities will also begin soon, the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management said.

The new measures will last for two weeks and may be extended. As of Sunday, there were 1,505 confirmed cases in UAE – three times the figure last week. Ten people have died and 125 recovered.

Here’s what we know so far:

What changed on Saturday night?

Only one member of a household can now leave home for essential shopping in supermarkets and pharmacies. The only other journeys that are allowed are to hospital or a doctor’s appointment.

You must wear a mask and gloves at all times once outside – not only when you arrive at the shop.

How effective a mask is can vary considerably. Some allow you to breathe without inhaling germs, while basic models simply stop you from sneezing or coughing from others. Roy Cooper / The National
How effective a mask is can vary considerably. Roy Cooper / The National

Officials gave the sternest warning yet that anyone found outside without good reason would be fined or even prosecuted in court.

In addition, “extensive testing” will be rolled out in densely populated areas to identify cases of Covid-19.

Can I walk or jog outside?

No – and nothing has changed in this regard. If you left the house in the past two weeks, it should have been for essential shopping at a supermarket, pharmacy or for a medical appointment.

But the authorities have clearly given residents leeway until now, given the number of joggers and walkers seen on the streets.

That seems likely to change.

Police also told local media they will use CCTV street cameras to check on people who are out of their homes for no reason.

Can I still go shopping?

Yes – but only one member of your household can go. That would mean children should not be taken to the supermarket and anyone in a group should expect to be stopped and penalised.

There should only be one person in each vehicle.

“These measures have been put in place to ensure people undertake trips outside the home in a planned and organised way,” Dubai Media Office said on Saturday.

Do I need a permit to leave the house?

No – permits were initially in place for people who had to leave during the original 8pm-to-6am travel ban, during which streets and public places were cleaned.

That system is no longer in effect.

But, to reiterate, you should be leaving home at night only if you are an essential worker or going to the hospital in an emergency.

Cars used at night were flashed by speed cameras if on the roads after 8pm and that appears likely to continue.

How can I get around Dubai?

Private vehicles can be used for essential journeys – but only one person should be in the car.

Dubai shut both Metro lines on Saturday along with the tram line in the Marina.

A construction worker crosses the street with a mask on at Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi. Face masks should be worn at all times when outside the home. Victor Besa / The National

A lone Zomato delivery man crosses the Al Bandar overpass at Khalifa City. Victor Besa / The National

The temporarily closed Warner Brothers theme park on Yas Island. Victor Besa / The National

Barriers in place at Sunset Beach near Jumeirah Beach Hotel, which is usually packed with tourists this time of year. Antonie Robertson / The National

A cleaner drives a street sweeper in Jumeirah, Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National

Pharmacies across the country have seen a spike in sales of face masks. Antonie Robertson / The National

A man prays alone in a car park in Sharjah. Mosques, churches and temples have been closed since last month. Antonie Robertson / The National

Lines of taxis sit outside Global Village in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

A healthcare worker on her way to work on a gloomy Monday morning at the Al Mushrif area of Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National

The RTA closed entrances leading to Al Ras area of Dubai from three main roads and interchanges: Al Musalla, Al Khaleej, and Baniyas Streets. Reem Mohammed / The National

An empty Sunset Beach located between the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Kite Beach in Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National

A man walks, while wearing a mask, to get to work in Dubai during the ongoing stay home policy in the UAE. Antonie Robertson / The National .

A man cleans the Barsha Heights welcome sign at the entrance to the neighbourhood in Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National

Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management announced increased restrictions on movement in Al Ras area of Dubai for two weeks to facilitate intensified sterilisation procedures. Reem Mohammed / The National

A sign at Global Village thanking Dubai's heroes. Chris Whiteoak / The National

A man waits on the street with a face mask on outside a restaurant in Barsha Heights in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

A delivery driver stacks water to provide to residents in an extremely quiet Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National


But public buses continue to run and are free, and the publicly owned taxi fleet cut fares by 50 per cent.

If you work in an essential industry – there is a list here – you can use the options above to get to work. Many hospitals and supermarkets are already transporting their own staff to and from work each day.

Where can I find a mask and gloves?

Some pharmacies and supermarkets still have supplies of masks, mostly thin surgical masks that are made to be used once.

A box of 50 masks is usually about Dh100 and a packet of gloves about Dh45.

Masks that block tiny particles and germs – such as N95 and the FFP2 “duckbill” – are more difficult to find locally and in many countries.

Masks are still available online but delivery times vary considerably. Here is a round-up of what we could find from local online retailers.

A woman wears a protective mask, following the outbreak of the coronavirus, at the shopping mall in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Satish Kumar
Surgical masks typically offer three layers of basic protection from germs and dust but must be regularly changed. Satish Kumar / Reuters

Officials said they were aware of shortages and urged residents to make homemade cotton masks if necessary. Basic Japanese-style “pitta” dust masks and so-called fashion masks offer extremely limited protection, but could at least limit the distance of a sneeze, and prevent you from getting into trouble.

Dr Farida Al Hosani, the government’s health spokeswoman, said something was better than nothing.

“Use home-made masks made of cotton or mixed cotton, making sure to re-wash them,” she said.

“When I wear a mask I’m protecting you and when you wear it, you’re protecting me.”

Can I still order food online?

Yes – food outlets and restaurants can still prepare food for home deliveries round the clock. Delivery drivers are on the list of essential workers who can move around the city.

Drivers for apps such as Careem and Deliveroo can leave food outside a customer’s door to minimise contact between the two.

Read our interview with delivery drivers, who have continued to work diligently throughout the crisis.

What happens next?

For the majority of the population work will continue from home where possible and schools will press ahead with e-learning.

For pupils leaving school this year, coursework is now more crucial given that it may be judged in university applications in place of cancelled exams.

Last week, Abu Dhabi began using drive-through labs to test people and this will be extended across the country. Initially this was for elderly residents and people who were unwell but had not been tested.

The entrance to the famous gold souq was barricaded on Tuesday. Shopkeepers and residents must remain in their homes for two weeks. All photos by Reem Mohammed / The National

Police close off Baniyas Road, which runs along the Creek on the Deira side

Police use barricades to seal off the souq district

A man stands on his balcony in the Baniyas neighbourhood. Metro stations including Baniyas Square on the Green Line have closed and services will run through the underground station without stopping

Police officers patrol barricades preventing access to the gold souq and buildings inside the quarantine zone

The quarantine is in place to prevent the spread of the virus and ensure anyone who develops symptoms is easily identified

A man tosses bread to a customer on the locked down side of the barrier

The underpass near the dhow docks is usually packed with shoppers and passengers from the nearby cruise terminal

Dubai Health Authority said it would provide essential goods for everyone inside the quarantine zone. Most businesses appeared to be shut on Tuesday

Residents were warned to avoid the area so even businesses on the safe side have closed due to lack of demand

Residents on their balconies inside the lockdown area on Tuesday. They began 14 days of isolation on Tuesday

Police said once someone enters the area, they cannot come out for two weeks

The streets of the old town are normally packed with shoppers and guests from the nearby cruise terminal, which closed last month until further notice

The Al Ras area of Deira is one of the most densely populated parts of the city

Police officers turn traffic away from the area on Tuesday afternoon

Police said anyone who enters the district, for any reason, will not be allowed to leave

Streets along the Creek were deserted

Every narrow alleyway was blocked and guarded by officers

Hundreds of personnel will be used to sanitise streets, buildings and public areas


In Dubai, the government spoke of “extensive testing” to rule out large numbers of people and it is expected that will come next.

Officials fully expect cases to rise before there is a decline, Dr Al Hosani said, as a result of “early, intensive tests on a big scale to identify cases and who they were in contact with”.

There has been no suggestion that a complete lockdown – such as that seen in Al Ras in Deira, one of the most densely populated areas – would be rolled out more widely.

What is the situation in Abu Dhabi?

Much the same. Residents should only leave home for essential shopping and you should be ready to be stopped and asked where you are going.

Police have patrolled the streets in recent weeks and will order anyone who is not travelling to or from a supermarket to return home immediately.

What is the situation in the Northern Emirates?

Residents cannot leave their homes from 8pm to 6am as street cleaning continues – but could change at any time.

Federal authorities have already told residents they should leave home only for essentials.

Several private hospital groups were brought in to test about 200,000 labourers last week.

Key ports remain open and crucial industries such as fishing continue operate to bring fresh food into local markets.

Updated: April 5, 2020 02:54 PM

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