Abu Dhabi's oldest social club closes after almost 30 Covid cases among staff

The Club told members it would remain shut until at least February 23

The Club in Abu Dhabi has only closed three times since opening 59 years ago. Ravindranath K / The National
The Club in Abu Dhabi has only closed three times since opening 59 years ago. Ravindranath K / The National

Abu Dhabi’s oldest social club has closed temporarily after almost 30 staff members tested positive for Covid-19.

The Club, a non-profit private members’ club in the city’s Al Mina district, notified members on Saturday it would remain shut until at least February 23, or until the extent of the outbreak became clear.

A routine round of testing on Thursday revealed 28 cases among staff, compelling 21 others, considered close contacts, to self-isolate.

“It is therefore probable that the number of staff with the virus will grow in the coming days,” an email from the venue stated.

“In light of this, and out of concern for everyone’s physical and emotional wellbeing, I have consulted with the main committee and recommended to impose a ‘circuit breaker’ during which time, club members will not be entitled to enter The Club. The main committee has supported this.

“Therefore, with effect from the close of business today (Saturday 13th February), The Club will remain temporarily closed at least until Tuesday 23rd February (10 days) by which time we will have a better understanding of the scale of the outbreak.”

The number of infections has since grown to 29, with the detection of another case over the weekend. Three confirmed infections were reported earlier this month.

The Club performs weekly testing of its 250 members of staff, about two thirds of whom live on-site.

About half of them have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, Mike McGrath, The Club’s general manager, told The National.

The decision, which was taken by management and not mandated by the authorities, was made to protect the health of staff and members, he said.

Abdul Hakeem, the gatehouse supervisor, has worked at the Club for 11 years. He is pictured in 2012. Lee Hoagland / The National
Abdul Hakeem, the gatehouse supervisor, has worked at the Club for 11 years. He is pictured in 2012. Lee Hoagland / The National

“We thought it was the right decision in the interest of club members, staff, but also the wider community in Abu Dhabi,” he said.

“The support we have had from the membership since announcing it has been excellent. Members have come back with a very strong level of support, which is typical of club members.

“All throughout the pandemic we have been extremely proud of what we have achieved.

“Prior to this we only had three or four cases, throughout the whole pandemic.”

The Club was founded 59 years ago by residents from the UK, when it became known as the British Club.

Its first event, a pirate-themed party held in the desert, took place in 1962.

The Club was initially based in a building called Henderson’s Folly, a tiny house on the beach. There was no electricity, so light was supplied by candles, until someone donated a generator. There were no roads at the time.

It moved to its current site, which was donated by Sheikh Zayed for the purpose, in 1968.

The closure is only the third time the club has shut during its 59-year history, the first being after the death of UAE’s Founding Father Sheikh Zayed in 2004.

It also closed during the lockdown last March as Covid-19 spread around the world.

Updated: February 14, 2021 05:59 PM

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