COVID-19: UAE imposes curfew for nationwide disinfection

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The United Arab Emirates has imposed overnight curfews to allow for a nationwide disinfection to combat the coronavirus as cases in the Gulf region have risen to over 2,600.

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, according to the official.

On Wednesday, Dubai directed the private sector to implement remote working for most staff, but exempted a broad spectrum of businesses. The next day, the UAE government ordered all federal ministries and establishments and the private sector to limit the number of staff in offices to 30 percent, exempting sectors providing what the government considers to be essential services.

The latest measures come as the country slowly followed other Gulf states in suspending passenger flights and closing public venues such as restaurants and malls.

On Thursday, the number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia passed 1,000 with 112 new infections reported, 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 had 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.

Among the countries, 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.

Kuwait on Thursday banned all taxis, directed the state supply company to cover any basic food shortages and said it would disburse a month’s salary to all Kuwaiti students abroad.

Meanwhile, 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.