Dubai Cancels Surgeries as Coronavirus Surges

A picture taken on July 19, 2020 shows Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure and building in the world since 2009 (total heigh with antenna of 829.8 metres), ahead of the expected launch of the United Arab Emirates "Hope" Mars probe. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP) (Photo by GIUSEPPE …
GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

The government of Dubai on Wednesday sent an order to every hospital and private clinic in the country instructing them to cancel all procedures except those with “medical urgency” so resources can go to combat a fast-growing coronavirus outbreak.

The Associated Press noted that nine consecutive days of record-breaking coronavirus infections is bad news for an economy that relies heavily on tourism and imported labor:

Dubai, its economy built largely on aviation, hospitality and retail, has remained open for tourism and business throughout weeks of skyrocketing cases. The capital of Abu Dhabi has retained tighter restrictions, requiring all who travel through to present a negative COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] test.

Daily infections in the country have nearly tripled since November. Tens of thousands of tourists flooded Dubai to celebrate New Year’s Eve and the holidays in recent weeks. The emirate mandates social distancing inside and masks outside, but otherwise a sense of normalcy prevails.

Overall, the outbreak in the UAE has infected over 260,000 people and killed 762 amid an aggressive testing campaign. The country’s population, fewer than 10 million, is mostly comprised of young expatriate workers.

CNN Travel observed that the UAE was seen as doing “a very good job of containing the virus throughout 2020,” but cases began spiking sharply in January 2021.

The AP said this week Dubai was “built on the promise of globalization” and was among the first international tourist destinations to fully open for business during the Chinese coronavirus crisis, promoting itself as “the ideal pandemic vacation spot.”

“Now reality is catching up to the big-dreaming emirate. With peak tourism season in full swing, coronavirus infections are surging to unprecedented heights. Daily case counts have nearly tripled in the past month, forcing Britain to slam shut its travel corridor with Dubai last week. But in the face of a growing economic crisis, the city won’t lock down,” the AP wrote.

The earlier article suggested Dubai’s holiday influx of British tourists, who were weary of lockdowns and hopeful about vaccines, led directly to a surge of coronavirus cases. Among other measures intended to goose tourism, Emirates Airlines offered to contribute $1,800 to the funeral expenses of travelers who died of the coronavirus during their holiday. 

In a less grim vein, the government touted the speed of its vaccination program, which it said was second only to Israel’s. Unfortunately, as the AP noted, Dubai is heavily reliant upon the relatively ineffective Chinese coronavirus vaccine candidate and has long waiting lists for alternatives like the vaccine from Pfizer. 

On Thursday, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) approved the use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine candidate, deeming it effective and safe for use.

In addition to suspending non-essential surgeries at hospitals and clinics, Dubai’s tourism department on Wednesday ordered live entertainment at hotels and restaurants halted until further notice.

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