Covid-19 cases in UAE drop below 100 in boost to post-virus goals

The Gulf nation registered 99 new cases, down nearly 95 per cent since August.
The Gulf nation registered 99 new cases, down nearly 95 per cent since August.PHOTO: REUTERS

ABU DHABI (BLOOMBERG) - The United Arab Emirates reported fewer than 100 coronavirus cases on Sunday (Oct 17) for the first time since March 2020, days after its de facto ruler declared the crisis over.

The Gulf nation registered 99 new cases, down nearly 95 per cent since August. The dwindling daily infection rate, combined with one of the fastest vaccination programs, has helped burnish the country's credentials as a post-Covid haven. It moved up nine spots to sixth place on Bloomberg's latest Covid resilience rankings.

Travel restrictions to key markets, including Britain, the United Staes, Saudi Arabia and India have eased and the country is hosting an array of events over the next few months. Expo 2020, the biggest, is already underway in Dubai. The Cricket World Cup started on Sunday.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said this month the coronavirus is under control and "less dangerous than before".

The UAE has been trying to rebuild after Covid-19 hammered the economy and forced thousands of expatriates to leave. Events including Expo will boost tourism and analysts say they could encourage high-net worth individuals to either move to the country or establish a second base.

At their peak, infections soared to 4,000 a day as tourists escaped lockdowns across Europe for the UAE's sunny weather and beaches during the winter. A travel corridor with Britain brought in scores of holidaymakers, but it was shut as cases spiked.

To combat the surge, Dubai instituted curbs and the capital, Abu Dhabi, required visitors from other emirates to show a negative Covid-19 test. Still, the country has shunned lockdowns after emerging from one last summer. A high rate of testing - close to 3 per cent of the country's population of 10 million are tested daily - and an aggressive vaccination campaign underpinned that decision.

The UAE rolled out vaccines in December, initially with Sinopharm, but it later approved shots from Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as AstraZeneca and Sputnik V.

The open-city approach seems to be working for tourists. The first 10 days of Expo 2020 saw 411,768 ticketed visits. One in three visitors came from abroad, a proportion expected to increase as international travel ramps up.