Coronavirus: Public transport shutdown this weekend as three-day cleaning campaign begins
Residents were urged to stay indoors during three-day procedure - and must carry their Emirates ID if leaving home for essentials
Emiratis and residents across the UAE must stay home this weekend while a nationwide cleaning and sterilisation drive is carried out.
The campaign will be held daily between 8pm to 6am, starting Thursday and Sunday morning.
During that time, public transport across the country will halt and roads will be closed so they can be extensively sprayed.
Movement of traffic and people will go on as usual during the day, but will be restricted during the disinfection period, the Ministry of Interior later clarified on Thursday.
"All retail food outlets such as co-operative societies, supermarkets, grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open 24/7. The public will continue to have access to them even during the period of movement restrictions during the disinfection," the ministry said.
Public transport services, including taxis, will be restricted at the weekend. Motorists were also told not to use their cars on the streets unless absolutely essential. Anyone leaving their homes for any reason must carry their Emirates ID and should expect to be stopped by police.
Only those who work in essential sectors including supermarkets, healthcare, security and the military can leave their homes.
"We understand that weekends are meant for family gathering and recreational activities but these are special circumstances that require us to keep our distance. Please call your families and friends instead," said Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokeswoman for the UAE health sector.
"Social distancing is very important right now. People must avoid going camping, to farms or to a majlis and should not go any internal trips this weekend."
During a television broadcast, Brig Abdulaziz Al Ahmed, from the Ministry of Interior, said key sectors would remain open "around the clock" for urgent needs.
"Workers in vital sectors are excluded [from staying home], and this will be verified by checking business or identity cards," he said.
Petrol stations will remain open and construction work will be unaffected by the operation, carried out by the Ministry of Health and Prevention and the Ministry of Interior will carry out the operation.
Brig Al Ahmed said anyone caught leaving their home during the disinfection period would be stopped by police and must provide a valid reason.
"Necessary deterrent measures will be taken against offenders, including fines and imprisonment, according to UAE law," he said.
On Thursday, Abu Dhabi's Department of Municipalities and Transport said it would add 36 buses and 122 trips to its network on high demand routes during peak hours.
The department previously added five services during morning peak hours and four services during evening rush hours, in Abu Dhabi City, in an effort to reduce crowding.
The move dropped average bus capacity from 90 per cent to 60 per cent.
The new additions announced on Thursday will also help commuters maintain social distancing.
"Passengers are requested to exercise caution while using public buses and to ensure leaving a distance from others," the department said.
Commuters must cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze and anyone who suspects that they are unwell should not use the bus at all.
When the Dubai Metro does reopen, passengers will be urged to wear masks at all times and distance themselves from other passengers, ensuring they are not stood or sat next to anyone.
The number of people allowed on each train is also understood to have been reduced to about 170, down from a capacity of about 650.
Services will run as frequently as every three minutes on the Red Line to compensate.
Large queues of commuters were seen outside stations in recent days as security carefully worked to distance passengers and limit crowds.
The UAE has introduced increasingly strict measures over recent weeks to slow the rate of the coronavirus, of which there were 333 cases as of Thursday, March 26.
Businesses that can continue trading were told to limit the number of customers in their stores at any time.
Shoppers must maintain a distance of at least 2 metres apart from each other.
International flights were restricted to cargo operations and repatriation flights to bring Emiratis overseas back home.
*This story is being updated as details become available to us from relevant authorities
Updated: March 26, 2020 09:51 PM