The UAE scraps its Covid masks necessities after 2½ years

A mask-clad Israeli tourist in Dubai’s historic al-Fahidi district January 11, 2021. As much of the world tightens lockdowns amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Dubai remains open to tourism and bills itself as sunny, quarantine-free Country flight – despite a sharp rise in cases.

KARIM SAHIB | AFP via Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – After 2½ years, the UAE abolishes its mandatory mask requirement in almost all indoor public spaces.

The National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) announced the change in a televised statement, saying it would go into effect on September 28. The long-established mask rule has been a pillar of the UAE’s measures against Covid-19, as well as near-universal vaccinations and rapidly available PCR tests.

The ruling only officially applies to the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, but the country’s six other emirates, including Dubai, are expected to follow. Masks are now only required in hospitals, public transport and places of worship, NCEMA said.

Abu Dhabi has been one of the strictest emirates in the UAE in terms of requiring and enforcing the wearing of masks. In Dubai, wearing masks was mandatory in indoor public places, but could be removed while sitting, eating, drinking and exercising.

Enforcement had eased in many other emirates over the summer months and it was common to see people in public places not wearing masks.

An Emirati man wearing a protective mask walks at Al Barsha Health Center in the Gulf Emirate of Dubai, December 24, 2020.

GIUSEPPE CACACE | AFP via Getty Images

The UAE will also stop publishing its daily list of Covid-19 cases, which it first began publishing in March 2020.

Several other changes have been announced — schools won’t require teachers or students to wear masks, the country’s airlines can choose for themselves whether to require mask-wearing, social distancing will no longer be required in places of worship, and only people who have tested positive have been isolated for Covid-19, not those who have been in contact with them.

The quarantine for positive cases has been reduced from 10 to five days.

In addition, vaccinated Abu Dhabi residents who were previously required to provide a negative PCR test every 14 days to enter public facilities via the local Al Hosn app every 14 days will instead be required to provide such evidence every 30 days. Anyone who has not been vaccinated must still submit a negative test every seven days. This rule does not apply in other emirates.

Dubai has been lauded for its handling of the pandemic over the past two years, in which strict mask-wearing rules and early access to vaccines have allowed it to resume operations and visitors within months of its original March-April 2020 lockdown period to open. The ensuing years saw some periods of case growth, but real estate in Dubai boomed as many expatriate workers flocked to the emirate to find some semblance of normal life.

Covid-19 cases have fallen steadily in recent months to an average of 300 to 400 a day, according to NCEMA, which puts the total number of cases in the UAE at more than a million since the pandemic began, with 2,343 deaths.

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