Latest Covid-19 rules in Dubai and Abu Dhabi: what you need to know

From the number of people who can gather in a home to what travellers must do before a flight, each week, 'The National' sets out what the current rules are across the emirates

As cases of Covid-19 rise around the globe, the UAE is working to keep pace with developments and adjust regulations accordingly to ensure people are kept safe while economic activity resumes.

Rules can vary slightly in each emirate. Here is The National's weekly update on regulations.

As of March 26, here are the Covid-19 rules in Dubai:

  • Vaccines are available to all again, free of charge, following a six-week campaign to prioritise vulnerable groups
  • Brunches are suspended to prevent social gatherings
  • Capacity limits in malls, hotels, beaches and pools are reduced to 70 per cent
  • Capacity at indoor seated venues, such as cinemas, is capped at 50 per cent
  • Restaurants and cafes must close at 1am
  • The number of people who can sit at one table is down from 10 to seven for restaurants and four at cafes
  • Any licensed venue classed as a “pub or bar” but that is not a restaurant is closed
  • Live music and entertainment are suspended across the emirate
  • Face masks are mandatory in public and in private gatherings and people are required to maintain physical distance from others
  • Private gatherings are limited to first-degree relatives – a person’s parents, siblings and children will be allowed – and no more than 10 people can attend
  • These measures are in place until at least the start of Ramadan in mid-April, when suhoor and iftar tents will not be allowed

Read more: UAE Covid-19: How the Emirates fares on a global scale in five charts

Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk through the La Mer development, operated by Meraas Holding LLC, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Dubai replaced its top health official on Sunday after coronavirus cases in the United Arab Emirates, of which it is part, spiked in recent weeks. Photographer: Christopher Pike/Bloomberg
Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk through the La Mer development, operated by Meraas Holding LLC, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Dubai replaced its top health official on Sunday after coronavirus cases in the United Arab Emirates, of which it is part, spiked in recent weeks. Photographer: Christopher Pike/Bloomberg

As of March 26, here are the Covid-19 rules in Abu Dhabi:

  • Vaccines are available to all again, free of charge, following a six-week campaign to prioritise vulnerable groups
  • Diners are limited to just four per table, even for family members living in the same home
  • Malls are limited to 40 per cent capacity
  • Restaurants, cafes, hotels and public beaches and parks cannot have more than 60 per cent of their typical visitors to avoid crowding
  • Gyms as well as private beaches and swimming pools cannot be more than half full
  • Cinemas reopened, after briefly closing in February, but with a 30 per cent capacity cap
  • Private sector employees in vital sectors and service industries must undergo a compulsory, free PCR test every two weeks
  • Government and semi-government offices in Abu Dhabi cannot be more than 30 per cent full of staff while the remaining employees should work from home
  • Public transport, such as taxis and buses, have been limited to 45 per cent and 75 per cent capacity, respectively
  • Up to 10 family members can gather together but they must wear face masks and remain at least two metres apart
  • Parties and other social gatherings have been banned
  • Entry to Abu Dhabi requires either a DPI or PCR test taken within a certain time of travel to the emirate from another part of the country
  • A DPI test result is valid for 24 hours to enter Abu Dhabi but cannot be used to enter Abu Dhabi on two consecutive occasions. If the individual stays in Abu Dhabi for more than 48 hours will have to take PCR test on day 3 of entry, and a second PCR on day seven, if they remain in the emirate for a week or more. The day of entry to Abu Dhabi is considered day one
  • A PCR test result must be received within 48 hours of entry into the capital. If the person stays in Abu Dhabi for four days or more, they must take another PCR test on day four and day eight

How many people can sit at a single table in a restaurant?

In Abu Dhabi, only four people can sit at a single table at a restaurant. The only exception is for children, who can sit at the same table as their family. Larger groups will be split into tables of four, spaced two metres apart.

In Dubai, seven people can sit together at a restaurant. This is reduced from 10 last week. The number of people that can sit together in a cafe is now four. The emirate's Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management said restaurants and cafes must now close by 1am and cannot organise any entertainment activities.

What are the rules at a beach club or swimming pool?

Swimming pools and beach clubs opened across the Emirates over the summer. Loungers are spaced two metres apart and capacity limits are in place to prevent crowding.

Visitors must wear face masks at all times except when swimming. Masks must be put back on to walk around.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, November 24, 2020. New destination Cove Beach on Reem Island is getting ready to open– this will be a first look preview (it opens Nov 27) Victor Besa/The National Reporter: Evelyn Lau Section: LS For: Standalone/Stock
Cove Beach on Reem Island. Victor Besa / The National

Have all brunches been cancelled?

Brunches in Dubai have been suspended as authorities further tighten the rules on social gatherings.

Dubai Tourism singled out brunches – which typically have all-you-can-eat-and-drink deals and entertainment – in an email to hotels and restaurants.

The authority told managers to “postpone any activity that leads to large gatherings such as weekend brunches”.

Although “brunches” are now off the menu, special offers and set fees for meals and alcoholic drinks were not specifically ruled out.

On Wednesday, hotels and bars told The National they were still taking orders for scaled back “set deals” this weekend, and would have various distancing measures in place to ensure compliance.

Are boat parties legal?

Last week, tours or parties on yachts in Dubai were restricted to 10 people. Previously, vessels were allowed to sail with 50 per cent capacity.

Boat operators and those on board must follow precautionary measures in place to limit the spread of the virus. Random inspections will be carried out to ensure operators follow guidelines.

Jet ski use is limited to just one individual at a time.

Are entertainment venues like amusement parks open? What are the rules there?

Water parks and other amusement parks have all reopened. All have reduced capacity to prevent crowding on rides. Hand sanitiser stations and face masks are mandatory.

Visitors must pass through a thermal scanner on entry and sanitising stations are set up across the venue.

At regular theme parks, visitors must wear a face mask at all times, regularly sanitise their hands and avoid gathering in groups. Fabric masks, rather than disposable masks, are recommended because some rides do not allow disposable masks.

At water parks in Abu Dhabi, a quick-dry mask is handed out free for use between rides.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, July 28, 2020. Visitors arrive on the first day of the reopening of Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National Section: NA Reporter:
Visitors at Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National

What are the rules at hotels?

Some hotels were briefly closed last year amid a global halt on international travel.

They have since reopened with safety measures in place. These include mandatory use of face masks, physical distancing and reduced capacities.

Buffets and brunches, which were briefly ceased, have since resumed, apart from in Dubai, but with partitions in place and staff on hand to serve food to prevent potential contamination.

Restaurants require reservations, more so than before the pandemic, because space is limited with tables kept two metres apart.

In Dubai, the minimum distance between tables was increased from two to three metres. Occupancy at hotels in Dubai cannot exceed 70 per cent of their total capacity.

The facilities are frequently sanitised to ensure the safety of guests.

Are public parks still open? What about gyms?

Public parks and beaches remain open but, in Abu Dhabi, have been capped to 60 per cent capacity.

Gyms in Abu Dhabi have had their capacities reduced to half to ensure visitors are correctly distanced from others.

In Dubai, gyms and fitness centres have brought in new safety measures in a bid to cut the chance of coronavirus spreading among clients. Exercise classes have reduced capacity, equipment has been removed and some managers have made mask-wearing was mandatory, even when undertaking strenuous exercise.

The new rules govern entertainment and serving hours in bars and restaurants. Pawan Singh / The National
The new rules govern entertainment and serving hours in bars and restaurants. Pawan Singh / The National

Is live entertainment allowed?

Hotels and restaurants in Dubai have halted all live entertainment in their venues because of a surge in Covid-19 cases. The directive from Dubai Tourism, which affects performances by DJs, dancers and bands, came after a rise in the number of breaches found during inspections.

This does not mean that licensed restaurants must close or stop serving diners, rather they must just cease any live entertainment.

When can someone remove their face mask?

Wearing face masks in public is mandatory throughout the UAE with Dh3,000 fines for anyone who does not comply.

People should keep their face masks on while in public whenever possible to protect themselves against infection. However, there are occasions when you can take it off without risk of being fined, for example, when at a restaurant or at the pool. You are expected to put your mask on when walking around a restaurant or a beach club but can, of course, take it off to eat or go swimming.

In Dubai, people are allowed to remove their mask when exercising alone outdoors. In Abu Dhabi, people have to wear their masks while exercising, but can lower them if feeling unwell at any point to catch their breath.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, February 16, 2021. A healthcare worker crosses the street during foggy weather at central Abu Dhabi on a Tuesday morning. Victor Besa/The National Section: NA/Weather/Big Picture
A healthcare worker crosses the street during foggy weather in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National

How many of people are allowed to gather in a house?

In Abu Dhabi, up to 10 family members are allowed to gather but they must adhere to specific health and safety measures. These include wearing face masks and remaining at least two metres apart. Parties and other social gatherings have been banned.

A fine of Dh10,000 will be imposed on anyone who hosts, invites or organises social gatherings, meetings, private and public celebrations that exceed this number. Participants also face fines of Dh5,000 each.

Up to 20 people can attend funerals and mourning services while up to 10 can attend marriage ceremonies.

In Dubai, attendance at social events, including weddings and private parties, is limited to only first-degree relatives – a person’s parents, siblings and children will be allowed – and no more than 10 people can attend.

The ruling, which started on January 27, applies to events in hotels as well as gatherings in homes and comes after a high number of incidents of non-compliance with precautionary and preventive measures.

Worshippers attend a service at St Paul’s church in Mussafah, Abu Dhabi. Service has been limited to once daily and five on Friday to limit intake during the coronavirus pandemic with strict social distancing norms in force as places of worship reopen in industrial areas. Reem Mohammed / The National
Worshippers attend a service at St Paul’s church in Mussafah, Abu Dhabi. Reem Mohammed / The National

Are places of worship open?

Yes. All places of worship have reopened, including mosques, temples and churches.

Mosques can open at 50 per cent capacity for all but Friday prayers, which are capped at 30 per cent.

Churches are also open with a capacity limit of 30 per cent and worshippers can book their visits online to prevent crowding.

Hindu temples can receive up to 30 per cent of their maximum capacity, though entry times are restricted.

Strict safety measures are enforced at all places of worship to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

What are the rules during Ramadan?

With the holy month approaching, authorities have called on residents and Emiratis to do their 'national duty' by complying with Covid-19 rules during Ramadan.

These include restricting having iftar and suhoor with individuals in their own household, rather than gather with extended relatives or groups of friends.

Wider family meet-ups should not be held, and food must not be exchanged between households.

Mosques will be open this year but with safety measures in place and extended tarawih prayers will be limited to 30 minutes.

Ramadan tents will not be allowed this year to prevent gatherings.

How many people are allowed in a car?

Only three people can travel in the same car, including the driver, if they are not from the same family.

If they are from the same family, you can have more than three people in one car.

As soon as more than one person is in a vehicle, face masks must be worn.

Rules on public transport are a little different. Face masks must be worn at all times and some seats will be blocked off to ensure physical distancing.

No more than three people are allowed in regular taxis but up to four are allowed to travel in a Dubai Taxi van, which can be booked through the Careem app.

Eighteen new 24-hour DPI testing stations have been opened on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi border. Chris Whiteoak/The National
Eighteen new 24-hour DPI testing stations have been opened on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi border. Chris Whiteoak/The National

What tests are needed if travelling between Abu Dhabi and another emirate?

People require either a negative PCR of DPI test to enter the capital.

The PCR test result must be received within 48 hours of entry into Abu Dhabi. If the individual stays in the emirate for four days or more, they must take another PCR test on day 4 and day 8.

Entry is allowed into the emirate within 24 hours of receiving a negative DPI test result. DPI tests results are available within minutes but cannot be used to enter Abu Dhabi on two consecutive occasions.

People who enter the capital after showing a negative DPI test and stay for more than 48 hours will have to take PCR test on day 3 of entry, and a second one on day 7, if they remain in the emirate for a week or more.

Anyone who has been fully vaccinated and has an activated E or star on their Al Hosn app can enter the emirate without need for another test. Entry to Abu Dhabi is granted without a new test so long as the icons are visible. To activate these icons, a vaccinated person must undergo a PCR test at least once a week.

Can I take a bus or taxi between Abu Dhabi and Dubai?

Yes, intercity buses have resumed services and taxi drivers can travel between emirates. Passengers will need to undergo the appropriate testing to enter Abu Dhabi.

In Abu Dhabi, buses can carry 75 per cent of their typical passenger capacity while taxis have been limited to 45 per cent.

What happens if someone comes into contact with another person who tested positive for Covid-19?

Rules vary slightly from emirate to emirate. Typically, health authorities will call you in for testing and then advise you to self-isolate for 10 days. In Abu Dhabi, you are required to wear a tracking bracelet and must test again on day eight before it can be removed.

In Dubai, authorities said anyone who is in contact for 15 minutes with someone who has Covid-19 must quarantine at home for 10 days.

Government workers have been told that if they are not vaccinated and must isolate for any reason, and cannot work from home, that their annual leave days will be used.

An electronic wristband is fitted to a patient at the coronavirus centre at Adnec in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National 
An electronic wristband is fitted to a patient at the coronavirus centre at Adnec in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National 

What do I do if I test positive for Covid-19?

If the individual is in Abu Dhabi, they will receive a text message directing them to report to Mafraq Hospital, near Baniyas, to undergo another PCR test. If that result is also positive, they must return to the hospital the next day to be fitted with a tracker watch to ensure they quarantine at home for at least 10 days. If the person has mild symptoms, they will quarantine normally at home, undergo a PCR test on day eight at home and have their tracker removed on the tenth day.

People with stronger symptoms will under a medical check up and be seen by a doctor.

In Dubai, people with mild cases of Covid-19 must isolate at home for 10 days. If a patient develops stronger symptoms, they must contact the Dubai Health Authority (800 342) for advice.

Across the UAE, people with Covid-19 must report their infection to the Ministry of Health and Prevention (800 11111), if they have not already received a message from authorities indicating they are aware.

Those who do not will face a prison sentence and a fine of between Dh10,000 and Dh50,000.

Which vaccines are available in the UAE?

Four vaccines are available in the UAE. Sinopharm and Sputnik V are available across the UAE, although the latter is only for emergency use.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca are available in Dubai.

All are free and administered on a voluntary basis.

In February and March, the UAE carried out a six-week campaign to vaccinate priority groups, including the elderly and people with chronic diseases or a disability.

As of March 21, this was expanded and vaccines are now available to all with authorities encouraging residents and Emiratis to book appointments at any of the 205 vaccination locations nationwide.

If someone is fully vaccinated, what exemptions are they eligible for?

People who received their second dose of a vaccine at least 28 days ago are considered "fully vaccinated". To activate eligibility for exemptions, a PCR test is needed. This will prompt a circled E to appear on an individual's Al Hosn app.

Once this appears, the carrier no longer needs a DPI or PCR test result to enter Abu Dhabi. They will not need to quarantine after travelling to Abu Dhabi from a green country and need quarantine for only five days if exposed to someone with Covid-19.

What needs to be done if travelling abroad?

If travelling from the UAE, passengers must check the requirements of the country they are travelling to because these change frequently.

When travelling from Dubai with Emirates, a PCR test prior to departure is not needed, unless the destination requires it.

When travelling from Abu Dhabi with Etihad, a PCR test is mandatory before departure, regardless of the destination. This will need to be carried out between 48, 72 or 96 hours ahead of flight departure time depending on the destination. The test result should be in the language mandated by the government of the destination country.

The result must be printed out and presented at check-in. A medical certificate or other relevant document, clearly stating the type of test and the result, must also be presented at check-in.

An Emirates staff member assists a passenger at Dubai International Airport. 
An Emirates staff member assists a passenger at Dubai International Airport.

Are tourists allowed in the UAE?

Yes. Dubai was among the first global destinations to reopen in July, with stringent safety measures in place.

A negative PCR test result, received within 72 hours from the scheduled flight departure time, is required to enter Dubai for tourists from all countries. Visitors from some countries will be tested again on arrival.

Abu Dhabi is also welcoming international tourists to the capital. Travellers will need to present a negative PCR test result received within 96 hours of their scheduled departure, as previously stated. They must undergo a second PCR test on landing in Abu Dhabi.

Travellers from green countries must self-isolate until they receive a negative result from the PCR test taken on landing.

Travellers from non-green-list countries will be tested on landing and must self-isolate with a tracker bracelet for 10 days. They must undergo another PCR test on day eight before the tracker is removed.

A travel ban between the UK and UAE is currently in place.

Travellers who have been in South Africa or Nigeria in the preceding 14 days are currently not allowed to enter Dubai. This measure, to protect the emirate from a highly-infectious strain of Covid-19, is in place until March 10.

In a travel advisory, Emirates Airline said the decision covered any UAE resident, tourist or transit passenger who had been in either country.

Updated: March 26, 2021 02:01 PM

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