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Thursday Mar 26 2020

UAE launches weekend nationwide disinfection campaign to curb coronavirus

 A view shows the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, mostly deserted, following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, March 23, 2020. — Reuters /Christopher Pike/Files 

The United Arab Emirates will halt all public transport and restrict people’s movements in the evening for a weekend nationwide disinfection campaign starting Thursday in a bid to curb spread of the new coronavirus.

The regional business hub, which has confirmed 333 cases of the virus with two deaths, has not announced an official curfew or work suspension but has increasingly clamped down on movement.

Authorities announced late on Wednesday that the UAE will restrict movement of traffic and people from 8pm (1600 GMT) Thursday to 6am Sunday as it disinfects public transport and public facilities.

The restrictions will be limited to those dates, a security forces spokesman clarified in a press conference on Thursday, adding that only essential service workers would be allowed out. Violators will face fines.

Public transport including trams and metro services will be suspended, while private cars, cabs and delivery vehicles can operate outside those hours.

Read more: Latest updates on coronavirus 

The UAE has slowly followed other Gulf states in suspending passenger flights and closing public venues such as restaurants and malls. Dubai on Wednesday directed the private sector to implement remote working for most staff but exempted a broad spectrum of businesses.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have taken the most drastic steps, including imposing partial nationwide curfews and suspending work at most public and private sector establishments.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council has recorded nearly 2,500 coronavirus cases, with eight deaths. Saudi Arabia has the highest tally of infections at 900.

Bahrainis evacuated

Meanwhile, Bahrain continued to evacuate several hundred Bahraini pilgrims stranded in Iran, which is an epicentre for the disease in the region.

A second repatriation flight of around 60 Bahrainis arrived overnight from the holy Iranian city of Mashhad, operated by Iranian airline Kish, families and a Bahraini official told Reuters.

Bahrain earlier this month repatriated 165 people, but a number of subsequent scheduled flights were cancelled. At least 85 of the first batch of evacuees tested positive for the virus.

The island state, which has reported 419 coronavirus cases and 4 deaths, most of them linked to travel to Iran, has longstanding differences with Iran and has criticized the Islamic Republic for not stamping Bahraini citizens’ passports.