The UAE's return to normality after Covid-19

Comprehensive testing and near-complete vaccinations have helped the UAE curb the pandemic

Horses with jockeys race into the first turn in Group 2 UAE Derby over 1900m (9. 5 furlongs) at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, on March 26. AP

At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, much like the rest of the world, the UAE has had to somewhat quell its appetite for events and large gatherings that in ordinary years would be a staple on the country's eclectic official social and cultural calendar.

The annual time for horse races and showy hats, for example, has had to be on hold. The 2020 race was cancelled and the 2021 event was staged behind closed doors due to the pandemic. But people's desire for normality was illustrated, in part, this weekend. After a two-year hiatus, the 26th Dubai World Cup pulled in large crowds at the Meydan Racecourse, putting to use much of its capacity to seat 80,000 people.

The event of the season though, now in its final days, is seeing a surge in the number of people turning up to, presumably, make the most of a landmark event in a country's history. The crowds at the Expo 2020 Dubai, 1.8 million in a particular week this month, may have far surpassed numbers at every other event in the country.

People's confidence in stepping out, however, and being among a sea of others, has been on display for much of the past few weeks, including enthusiasts who lined up in malls on Saturday in the hundreds for a chance to buy a classic watch. The long-absent comfort of being among large groups corresponds with the dip in the number of Covid-positive cases in the UAE, and with nearly three weeks now of no Covid-19 caused fatalities.

The sequence of events then that follow from these facts are heartening for the country just as Ramadan begins and gatherings for iftar, which have been low-key for the two previous Ramadans, are likely to return to normal, as they were in the days before disruptions caused by the coronavirus. This week, the World Government Summit is back in full force.

The variety of events that have been held in the UAE this month after being pushed back, including this week's walkathon and the past fortnight's World Art Dubai, have signalled how the country clearly has come to grips with the pandemic. This is no surprise.

The UAE's vaccination rates are enviably high. And given the systemised PCR testing – more than 146 million tests carried out – and due processes adhered to, whether pertaining to travel rules or with regards to UAE citizens and residents keeping their Al Hosn app updated, the country is, by all indicators, successfully resurfacing from a Covid-19-induced hibernation.

In keeping with this new recovery phase, the rules have evolved, such as the big one announced in the UAE last month, of not having to wear masks in outside areas. All of these are definite milestones of a country's progress in combatting the virus. As has been said previously in these pages, comprehensive testing and near-complete vaccinations have helped the Emirates curb the pandemic.

With good reason then, the country has announced that Tuesday onwards, even a negative PCR test result is no longer required to enter the country through its land borders from neighbouring countries. Screening with EDE scanners will be the norm for those coming into the Emirates. Other guidelines have been updated too, with regards to close contact with Covid-positive people.

Even as the world battles rising prices of commodities, the outcome of a war in its second month, there are safe and evident silver linings within the borders of the UAE that its inhabitants must acknowledge.

Published: March 28, 2022, 2:00 AM