UAE's Chinese residents expect quiet New Year after coronavirus outbreak

Celebrations, parties, vacations cancelled after government orders transport lockdown in Wuhan

epa08153861 Children wearing protective masks queue at a check-in counter at the Changi Airport in Singapore, 23 January 2020. Budget carrier Scoot has cancelled its daily flight to Wuhan, China after the city was locked down by Chinese authorities following the coronavirus outbreak. As of 23 January, there have been nearly 600 cases and a total of 17 reported deaths in China. Passengers arriving from China in Singapore are subject to temperature screening and will isolate pneumonia patients who have a history of recent travel to China.  EPA/WALLACE WOON
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Chinese residents in the UAE say their relatives in Wuhan have had to cancel their holidays following a transport lock down of the city to control the outbreak of coronavirus.

They said celebrations for Chinese New Year on Saturday will be muted with gala dinners and large family gatherings cancelled.

After the government shut down the public transport system and advised citizens not to leave the city, UAE residents immediately phoned their families in Wuhan to check on their well-being.

It will be a quiet Chinese New Year with dinner at home this year instead of big parties

Airport, trains, buses, the subway and ferry operations are temporarily suspended as China takes action to contain the spread of the new flu-like virus that has killed at least 17 people.

Cheng Shengping said his father, Changgeng, planned to extend his stay in Dubai after news of the shutdown in his home town.

Changgeng has been in the UAE for two months to visit his wife, who lives here to help care for their young grandson.

He was scheduled to leave on Monday after celebrating Chinese New Year with the family but will now remain in the UAE.

“When people hear that my father is from Wuhan they get worried until we explain that he has been in Dubai for two months,” said Shengping, who works in luxury watch business.

The family had a health scare when eight members of his sister’s relatives, who live in Wuhan, fell ill a few weeks ago.

“We talk daily and I was very worried when she said some students had fever, cough and cold,” Shengping said about his sister, a primary schoolteacher.

“Then the whole family fell ill. I was relieved when they went to the hospital for a check-up and doctors told them it was a normal flu virus.”

Like other Chinese residents, Shengping said he was in daily contact with relatives back home to ensure they were well.

“They understand that they need to stay home to make the world a safer place,” he said.

“People usually go out and celebrate New Year with their family but now they understand that they must stay at home.”

Huafei Li, who practices acupuncture in Dubai, posted advice online and in mobile chats to tour guides in the Emirates, who handle groups from China.

“Dubai is very safe and there is no need to worry or spread panic, but I just remind them to be careful since they handle large numbers of people,” he said.

“They should be observant, watch out for any symptoms of fever and report to authorities here. This is the best prevention.”

On Thursday, Dubai Airports and Abu Dhabi International Airport said they would screen passengers arriving on direct flights from China.

UAE health authorities said the country is “completely free” of the coronavirus, adding there were procedures in place to deal with any outbreak.

A long-time Dubai resident from Wuhan said she was concerned about her family back home but knew they were taking the required precautions.

“I’m worried but they say they are OK,” said the resident, who declined to give her name.

“It will be a quiet Chinese New Year with dinner at home this year instead of big parties. They know they must wear masks and if anyone gets a fever or cough, they must go to the hospital.”