Dubai in the UAE was one of the world's first destinations to open up for tourism since COVID-19 struck, in an effort to label itself as the ideal pandemic vacation destination.
Has that backfired? The peak tourism season is seeing a parallel peak surge in coronavirus infections in Dubai. There has been a change in the top at the Dubai Health Authority as well.
The unprecedented number of cases and deaths with daily cases nearly tripling in the past month forced Britain to close its travel corridor with Dubai last week.
This reality check comes on the heels of the desperate flight to Dubai of British Who’s-Who (sans COVID tests) and social media posts of frenetic partying (sans masks) once they got to the sandy beaches and yachts in the emirates.
Dubai kept its doors open to the British while most countries banned tourists from the U.K. over fears of a new virus variant found there.
And paid the price. The fast-spreading strain arrived in the emirates even as hotel occupancy rates surged in the first week of January and the London-Dubai air route was ranked as busiest in the world.
As the outbreak worsened Israleli tourists under a new bilateral agreement stopped their travel to Dubai as did the British once they were mandated a ten day quarantine on their return from Dubai.
More tourists escaping the cold winters in Europe helped COVID-19 grow in strength in Dubai with some analysts saying the cases had quadrupled.
Laws in Singapore that were termed draconian have proven to be sane ones that helped keep the island nation in a secure bubble and have prompted nations to rethink their COVID-19 measures.
Drop in compliance has been attributed to the noticeable rise in cases.
In January 2021 the UAE saw cases rise by 80,000 to more than 290,000, with more than 4,000 a day being reported, putting hospitals under strain with doctors complaining of a shortage of beds.
Not just tourists but also the close to 85 percent expat population who congregated and partied over Christmas and New year are to blame says social media reports.
This despite its vaccination drive speeding ahead with close to 1/5th of the populations inoculated through the delivery of more than 2.9 million doses of Chinese Sinopharm and BioNTech/Pfizer jabs.
Even as the authorities set a target to immunise half the 10m residents during the first quarter, they have introduced new restrictions and stricter penalties for violators.
This week, beach clubs, hotels and malls are limited to 70% capacity; cinemas down to 50%; bars and pubs are temporarily shut down with increasing testing on arrivals.
The arduous quarantine in their home country upon their return has slowed visitor arrivals in Dubai.
However Dubai continues to welcome tourists who present negative COVID tests and its businesses, bars, beaches and airlines have no intention of locking down.
Cover Photo: Unsplash.