Visitors to UAE malls are likely to face enhanced hygiene measures when they make their first shopping trip in weeks.
The proposed relaxation of strict rules, which have been in force for a month, means that businesses and retailers are preparing to bring back staff and open their doors again.
Shopping centres in Abu Dhabi and Dubai have outlined plans to prevent those over the age of 60 from entering, while children aged between three and 12 could not enter Dubai malls either.
Temperature checks would be mandatory as part of ongoing efforts to guard against the spread of Covid-19.
Over recent weeks, only supermarkets and chemists were able to remain open to visiting patrons, with many companies scrambling to offer delivery and online services as they fought to survive.
"We are pleased with the announcement by the government and the guidelines issued,” Saoud Khoory, executive director of retail at Aldar Properties, which operates shopping centres including Yas Mall and the World Trade Centre Mall in Abu Dhabi, said.
“We look forward to welcoming our guests soon, and we want to reassure them that we are doing everything we can to ensure their wellness.”
He said measures had already been put in place to ensure the safety of guests and workers, and further discussions were currently taking place about what more could be done.
“We are utilising this time to work closely with our retail partners to ensure the highest levels of protection and hygiene for all staff and visitors as soon as our malls resume operation," he said.
Mall operators said they were considering putting in place additional measures to ensure the safety of the public. Many have already been requiring customers to wear face masks and, in some cases, gloves, before entering to visit the few stores that have been able to stay open.
In Dubai, stores have been told to limit the number of visitors at any one time, while entertainment and tourist attractions inside malls will remain closed to prevent overcrowding.
Customers of some well-known companies received text messages on Thursday informing them that stores would soon be reopening.
At Yas Mall, visitors have noticed ‘disinfectant gates’ being installed at an entrance over recent days. Similar walk-through gates have already been installed at some transport hubs, including Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station.
It is understood that the Yas Mall gates, which is still being installed and tested, will initially only be for staff members.
However, there were claims that the similar apparatus could soon become widespread at locations including malls, schools, airports and labour camps.
A UAE firm, Guard ME, has said its ‘sanitisation gate’ kills 99.9 per cent of germs and viruses, and is also capable of detecting the temperatures of users and whether they are wearing face masks. Users who walk through the gates are sprayed with a disinfectant mist.
The company said it can build 30 of the machines a day in the UAE and already counts some government hospitals and Emirates Red Crescent among its clients. Sharjah Police and Sharjah Civil Defence have also placed orders.
“We have created a solution that will play a big role in helping businesses and residents return back to our daily lives as quickly as possible,” Husam Zammar, co-founder of the company, said.
“The Guard Sanitising Gate is a great product to be installed and used in malls, schools, offices, public transport locations, healthcare venues, airports, hotels, restaurants and more.
“The technology used in this product is first of its kind in the Middle East and we will offer a low-cost consumption compared to other products in market.”