Two months ago, during the festival of Eid Al Fitr, the UAE had issued comprehensive guidelines for people to avoid large gatherings. In normal times – that is, when a pandemic is not raging – loved ones meet and, as is the norm, celebrate together. Like Eid Al Fitr, next week's Eid Al Adha is also much anticipated and usually planned for in advance among family and friends.
But given the continued threat of coronavirus and the uncertain period that globally we are all still living through, safety measures for the long-term public health must precede the joy of meeting in person. As Abu Dhabi announced new protocols for Eid Al Adha, it is evident that the UAE is emphasising a model of safety and precaution.
Last week, the World Health Organisation warned of "catastrophic consequences" to the Middle East after a new spike in Covid-19 infections. Following an eight-week respite, there were significant numbers of new cases in Libya, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia – where the UAE sent half a million vaccines this month.
The unfolding global scenario is a lesson in the need to not drop the guard, given how the Delta variant has caused governments across Europe to reassess the easing of restrictions.
In the UK, daily cases have been rising for more than a month. There is also the worrying week-on-week increase in new cases among 20 to 29-year-olds to note. England’s chief medical officer illustrated a sobering reality, of further surges and the probability this year of a difficult winter.
In the Netherlands, too, there was an alarming increase in cases leading to the Dutch Prime Minister's apology for lifting restrictions too soon.
Considering the wider context, authorities in the UAE capital are not taking any chances. To protect public health and keep people safe, a number of measures will be enforced to coincide with Eid.
The new rules issued by Abu Dhabi's National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority are a response also to the evolving global situation. Remaining alert is essential to prevent the further spread of Covid-19, even as the UAE's vaccination drive maintains a determined pace and nearly two-thirds of the UAE population is already fully vaccinated.
Over Eid, people have been advised to share virtual greetings and opt for more prudent ways to keep up tradition and a sense of community by, for example, giving online presents such as eidyah to children.
Across the world, social distancing is still a crucial step to limit infections. In keeping with the best health practices, gatherings are restricted for Eid prayers at mosques. It is also advised to not shake hands before and after prayers or when meeting well-wishers.
Such constant vigilance is necessary to keep the spread of the virus and its mutating forms under control. These measures reinforce the UAE's priority on public health and, in turn, strengthen the trust that people have in the nation's leadership.
The spirit of Eid involves wishing loved ones a good, healthy life. In the prevailing context, good health starts with all of us summoning that much-touted word – resilience – and doing our best to make sure our communities stay healthy and safe.