DUBAI, March 31 (Reuters) – Dubai enforced the UAE’s first full lockdown on a district housing the emirate’s famous gold and spice markets on Tuesday, to disinfect the normally bustling tourist and trade area as part of efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The United Arab Emirates has extended a daily overnight curfew for a nationwide disinfection drive to April 5, but Dubai announced late on Monday that a 24-hour curfew would be imposed on Al Ras district for two weeks starting Tuesday.
“I am glad they are doing this because it is for our protection,” said one rice trader who works in Al Ras but resides in Sharjah emirate. The trader, who declined to be named, told Reuters he is now conducting his business online.
Dubai closed the main road entrances to Al Ras and halted public transport to the area, which abuts Dubai Creek, where dhow have been banned from transporting goods between Dubai and Iran, a regional epicentre for the virus.
Dubai Health Authority will provide essential supplies to Al Ras residents, Dubai Media Office tweeted.
The UAE has confirmed 611 coronavirus cases, with five deaths. The total number of infections in the six Gulf Arab states stands at more than 3,700, with 18 deaths.
The UAE plans to open drive-thru testing centres across the country, the region’s business and tourism hub, after first was opened last week in the capital, Abu Dhabi.
“We will never hesitate to take any measures against any potential threat to people’s life. At the same time, we won’t let the development grind to a halt,” Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nayhan, the country’s de facto ruler, said in comments carried on state media.
In Kuwait, Health Minister Basil al-Sabah was quoted on Tuesday as saying a clearer picture would emerge by early June on the success of containment efforts. Kuwait was the first Gulf state to halt passenger flights and impose a partial curfew.
“If infection numbers stabilise, there may be a gradual easing of current measures,” he told Al Rai newspaper. “But if the average rate of transmission increases then … I do not rule out the cabinet enforcing a full curfew.”
Kuwait has recorded 266 infections. Its larger neighbour, Saudi Arabia, has passed 1,400, with eight deaths.
Saudi media posted a video showing security forces deployed in a sealed-off district in Mecca. The kingdom has extended its first lockdown, in the eastern Qatif region, to several districts in some main cities and imposed a partial nationwide curfew. (Reporting by Alexander Cornwell, Maha El Dahan, Ghaida Ghantous and Marwa Rashad; writing by Ghaida Ghantous; editing by Larry King)