Letter from… UAE

We will be providing regular reports regarding Coronavirus from our SEC Newgate colleagues around the world. Today we have the view from UAE by Newgate partner, Habib Bacha.

This time of year is peak season in the UAE, with beautiful sunshine and temperatures hovering in the late 20’s and low 30’s, the hotels, parks and beaches are normally packed with people. The UAE even had torrential rains last week and whilst its rare it’s not unheard of. What is out of the ordinary is that the country has implemented strict, ‘never seen before’ measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Offices, schools, restaurants, malls, places of worship and other spaces for public gatherings have been closed or strictly limited. Even Etihad and Emirates airlines have suspended all flights for two weeks.

Despite the relatively low infection rates compared to the rest of the world, the country learned valuable lessons from other outbreaks such as MERS. As a result, the UAE Government’s response has been swift and decisive – taking early action to get ahead of the curve, and with good reason. The UAE has some of the busiest airports in the world because of its position as a travel hub, added to which, the country sees very high volumes of inbound tourism from all corners of the world especially at this time of year.

The Government moved quickly to assure the resident population that food and medical supplies have been treated as a priority and that there is plenty to go around. As a result, we haven’t seen the panic buying that has happened in other parts of the world. People for the most part seem to be taking the threat seriously and there is a running joke that the whole country now smells of hand sanitizer and the usually traffic-heavy roads are now filled with delivery drivers who are rushed off their feet.  Etisalat and Du are offering free internet upgrades for non-business subscribers as well as opening up tv channels which are not including their monthly packages to encourage people to stay at home and work.

The UAE has an enormous expat population, many of whom miss home from time to time and the global crisis has intensified that. There is a sense that everything is under control in the UAE but people are worried for their families back home, made worse by the fact that travel home is difficult and risky and they may not be allowed back into the UAE for some time.

Despite this, the population is mostly young and there is a sense of optimism for the future when the crisis is over. Someone recently said to me that one nice thing to come out of the crisis is that it is a big unifying factor locally and globally, people are really talking to each other, putting aside differences, sharing experiences and governments are cooperating more closely…long may it continue in a post Corvid-19 world! 

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