The UAE is fast returning to normalcy with almost all the key economic and social sectors reaching close to pre-pandemic levels, helped by the massive campaigns by the authorities to promote the administration of vaccination as well as ensuring strict implementation of restrictions and social distance norms.
After peaking on January 30, 2021, the number of daily cases dropped to below 50 in the first week of December. But the after the outbreak of the Omicron variant, the number of daily cases began to rise after mid-December last year. The Omicron-driven cases peaked on January 20 and since then, they’ve been on the decline, reaching 622 on February 28, 2022.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the UAE adopted a practical and scientific approach that helped the country to combat the pandemic effectively by implementing smart lockdowns and restrictions at the peak of the pandemic. On the other hand, the aggressive vaccine drive led UAE to rank first in the world. Currently, more than 95 per cent of the country’s population has received two doses and over 100 per cent has received one jab of the vaccine.
Importantly, authorities have made wearing masks optional outdoors and mandatory in closed areas in a significant step since the outbreak of the pandemic. In addition, the UAE also scrapped the requirement to seek approval from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs-Dubai and or Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP/ICA) for all residents.
Of late, some of the key sectors that have reached almost pre-pandemic level include food and beverages, healthcare, education, aviation, labour and immigration, aviation and Meeting, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition (MICE) sectors.
The UAE authorities have allowed vaccinated residents and tourists to enter the country without a negative PCR test prior to departure for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic. The UAE airlines now operate at more than 90 per cent of their pre-pandemic capacity as the restrictions ease around the world. Dubai International airport returned to 100 per cent capacity on December 20, 2021, proving that the UAE is strongly bouncing back after the pandemic. Importantly, Dubai International airport on Tuesday announced that it’s currently connected to 198 destinations across 93 countries through 84 international carriers – significantly more than the pre-pandemic level of 2019.
Starting February 15, the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) of UAE eased capacity and social distance restrictions for restaurants and cafes, allowing food and beverages outlets to operate at 100 per cent capacity.
Shopping centres in the UAE have also been allowed to operate at 100 per cent capacity, reflecting the confidence that the pandemic is under control in the UAE.
Restrictions on various means of public and private transport were also lifted from February 15, 2022. Public transport was allowed to operate at full capacity while restriction to carry a maximum of three non-family members in a car was also abolished from the middle of this month.
Places of worship:
Starting February 15, authorities in the UAE reduced social distance from three metres to one metre in mosques, churches and other worship places across the country.
The Media Regulatory Office of the Ministry of Culture and Youth allowed all cinemas in the UAE to begin operating at 100 per cent capacity from February 15 in line with the NCEMA announcement. All other entertainment venues were also permitted to operate at full capacity.
The NCEMA also allowed 100 per cent capacity for social events such as weddings, events and funerals. However, each Emirate of the UAE can decide about the percentage for operating capacity for different social events. To prove the point, recently a few big budget Bollywood-style weddings took place in Dubai that reflected the confidence among the residents.
The UAE also abolished restrictions on the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition) to allow venues to operate business events at full capacity. Of late, a number of major exhibitions such as Gitex and Gulfood successfully held with full capacity, showing the UAE is back with full swing.
In November 2021, health authorities in the UAE announced that schools, universities and other educational institutes can operate at 100 per cent capacity from January 2022. This allowed thousands of students to return to their classrooms for in-person learning. However, all teachers and students were asked to take Covid-19 booster shots to further improve protection.
Labour and Immigration:
After the outbreak of the pandemic, immigration authorities in Dubai and UAE stopped issuing visas for a short time. But later they resumed it and tourists around the world visit the UAE, akin to the pre-pandemic level.
Official news agency Wam said the number of workers in private sector establishments registered at the end of 2021 reached 4,903,612 employees, an increase of 124,416 employees compared to 2020.
Helped by the opening of the country, the UAE’s economy is poised for strong growth in 2022 as compared to last year with UAE Central Bank forecasting 4.2 per cent growth. While the number of private-sector establishments registered at the end of the last year 2021, excluding companies registered in the free zones, increased to 373,966, an increase of 22,999 compared to 2020, reflecting life has returned to normalcy in the country’s economic sectors.