Coronavirus: Gulf begins to re-open, return to ‘normal’, as cases surpass 200,000
The number of COVID-19 infections doubled within less than three weeks after the Gulf's total confirmed number of cases surpassed 100,000 on May 11.
As of Thursday, the numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases reported in Gulf countries were: 80,185 cases in Saudi Arabia, 50,914 cases in Qatar, 32,532 cases in UAE, 24,112 cases in Kuwait, 10,052 cases in Bahrain, and 9,009 cases in Oman.
Several Gulf countries said that the higher number of daily cases recently reported was due to increased testing, with the UAE having conducted more than two million COVID-19 tests and other GCC countries conducting hundreds of thousands of tests and implementing plans to ramp up screening.
Here are the Gulf countries’ measures to begin returning to “normalcy”:
Saudi Arabia started on Thursday shortening curfew hours and allowing the resumption of some economic activities.
From May 31, it will allow the resumption of Friday and group prayers in mosques, the return of public and private employees to work from their offices, the resumption of dine-in services in restaurants and cafes, and the operation of domestic flights.
Eventually, starting from June 21, Saudi Arabia will return to “normalcy,” except for Mecca, and restore conditions to how life was before implementing coronavirus curfews.
The UAE announced that 30 percent of employees in federal ministries and entities will return to working in their offices starting May 31.
In Dubai, the government re-opened four beaches and major parks to the public starting Friday.
All of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority's museums will re-open to the public starting from June 1, with a visitor capacity limit of 50 percent.
In Abu Dhabi, the government issued guidelines for the re-opening of hotels and their beaches, bars, restaurants, pools and gyms. The Department of Culture and Tourism in the emirate will approve the re-opening of each establishment after verifying compliance with the set COVID-19 instructions.
Ras Al Khaimah re-opened its shopping malls and public beaches, and barber shops and beauty salons were allowed to resume operations given they adhere to strict precautionary measures.
Kuwait will shorten the 24-hour curfew to 12 hours only starting from May 30 and assigned ministers to implement the first phase of the plan for the gradual return to “normalcy” starting from May 31.
However, it extended the holiday of the public sector until further notice, while giving ministers and heads of government entities the autonomy to decide to exclude some employees from the holiday and mandate that they continue working.
The country also imposed a full lockdown on new areas where a surge of coronavirus cases appeared, including: Hawallay, Nuqra, Maidan Hawally, Khaitan and Farwaniya.
Bahrain said it will allow the resumption of Friday prayers in mosques starting from June 5.
The country had allowed barbershops and women’s salons to reopen as of Wednesday, and outdoor cinemas, non-essential medical services, and professional sports exercises in outdoor spaces were all allowed to resume earlier in the week.
Meanwhile, all commercial gyms, fitness studios, swimming pools, and recreation centers remain closed. Restaurants, tourist facilities, and cafes are to remain limited to delivery and take-out only. Shisha (hookah) cafes, public halls and event centers remain closed.
Oman lifted the lockdown on Muscat starting from Friday, May 29.
It also allowed the return of 50 percent of all public sector employees to working from their offices starting from May 31.
Qatar has not announced any major decisions to ease coronavirus restrictions recently.
The Ministry of Health has been reporting a “significant rise” in the number of COVID-19 cases among citizens and residents, and most of the coronavirus cases announced daily are due to expatriate workers.
The country said also said that infections have “doubled” due to family gatherings and visits, and people ignoring the stay-at-home and social distancing instructions.
The ministry said that Qatar “is still in the peak phase of the virus outbreak.”
The country had tightened restrictions on commercial activities, ordering all shops to close until the end of May, in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
It also mandated that all citizens and residents install a coronavirus tracing app.