DUBAI — Dubai announced a large-scale reopening of commercial establishments amid deep concerns over the economic impact of weeks of lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement by Crown Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed late on Monday comes after Saudi Arabia and Kuwait also announced an easing of restrictions following the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
The moves come, however, as the tide of new cases across the gulf region shows little sign of slackening with the United Arab Emirates alone recording more than 800 new cases a day for a total of over 30,000.
In his statement Mohammed said the decision, which includes moving the curfew start from 8 p,m. to 11 p.m., followed “a comprehensive analysis of health and socio-economic factors of the situation.”
Unlike the oil-dependent economies of neighboring emirate Abu Dhabi and countries around the region, Dubai has a diversified economy that relies heavily on tourism, real estate and the service sector — all of which have been devastated by the lockdown measures that have closed restaurants, hotels, malls and stopped all international visitors.
In a survey published by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, 70 percent of business executives interviewed expected their companies to go bankrupt within the next six months.
The Dubai Media Center, a government information office, later pushed back against the survey noting it was only a small sample of the 250,000 companies registered in the city and occurred in April during the period of harshest restrictions, including a three-week, 24-hour lockdown. The report was then declared confidential and removed from the website.
The opening set for Wednesday is wider than anything else in the region with cinemas, gyms, and health clubs all allowed to operate once more.
Entertainment venues like the Dubai Mall Ice Rink and the Dolphinarium will also allowed to reopen, though the standing rule that children under 12 will not be allowed into shopping centers or other facilities, will remain in place.
Currently only Emirati citizens are allowed to enter the country, though the government has said eventually residents stranded abroad will be allowed to return.