UAE orders overnight curfew for deep clean, Gulf coronavirus cases rise

DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates will impose overnight curfews as a temporary measure this weekend, when it will carry out a nationwide disinfection campaign starting Thursday to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: A view shows the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, mostly deserted, following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Christopher Pike

The regional business hub, which has confirmed 333 cases of the virus and two deaths, has not announced an official curfew or work suspension but has increasingly clamped down on movement.

Authorities announced that the UAE will restrict movement of traffic and people overnight from Thursday until Sunday. The restrictions will last from 8 p.m. (1600 GMT) to 6 a.m.

Only essential service workers would be allowed out and violators will face fines, a security forces spokesman said in a press conference on Thursday.

Public transport including trams and metro services will be suspended, while private cars, cabs and delivery vehicles can operate outside those hours.

The UAE has slowly followed other Gulf states in suspending passenger flights and closing public venues such as restaurants and malls. Dubai emirate on Wednesday directed the private sector to implement remote working for most staff but exempted a broad spectrum of businesses.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have taken the most drastic steps, including imposing partial nationwide curfews and suspending work at most public and private sector establishments.

VIRUS SPREAD

The number of cases in Saudi Arabia passed 1,000 after authorities on Thursday announced 112 new infections, most of them in the capital Riyadh and the holy city of Mecca.

They also reported a third death from the virus, a resident in Medina who suffered from chronic diseases.

Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar also saw more cases, taking the total in the six Gulf states to over 2,600, with nine deaths.

Saudi Arabia has released 250 foreign detainees held on non-violent immigration and residency offences as part of efforts to contain the spread of the disease, the state-backed Human Rights Commission said on Thursday.

Bahrain and Kuwait have also announced prisoner releases.

Bahrain continued to evacuate several hundred Bahraini pilgrims stranded in Iran, which is an epicenter for the disease in the region.

A second repatriation flight of around 60 Bahrainis arrived overnight from the holy Shi’ite Iranian city of Mashhad, operated by Iranian airline Kish, families and a Bahraini official told Reuters.

Bahrain earlier this month repatriated 165 people, but a number of subsequent scheduled flights were canceled. At least 85 of the first batch of evacuees tested positive for the virus.

The island state, which has reported 419 coronavirus cases and 4 deaths, most of them linked to travel to Iran, has longstanding differences with Iran and has criticized the Islamic Republic for not stamping Bahraini citizens’ passports.

Reporting by Alaa Swilam, Lisa Barrington, Aziz El Yaakoubi, Yousef Saba, Stephen Kalin and Maher Chmaytelli; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous, Raissa Kasolowsky and Mike Collett-White

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