Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 30 May 2020

Coronavirus: Deserted streets across UAE as residents heed calls to stay home during sterilisation drive

Few stepped out even during the day and cars kept off the roads

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Motorways were nearly empty, supermarkets deserted and shops shuttered as residents in cities across the Emirates stayed home to slow the spread of the coronavirus on Friday.

People heeded the UAE government’s call to stay indoors at the start of a massive sterilisation campaign that will continue until Sunday morning.

Few stepped out to buy essentials from the grocery stores and pharmacies allowed to remain open after authorities announced a daily disinfection drive from 8pm until 6am until April 4.

The souks were deserted with plastic sheets pulled over goods and restaurants closed for business.

Residents spoke of an unusual Friday with not many cars on the roads and few people on the streets.

"The roads are emptier than I have ever seen," said Alison Rego, 37, a single parent who lives near the Sharjah corniche.

“Today is not a usual Friday. No one is walking around and there are less than 10 cars on the road.”

Ms Rego hoped residents would continue to stay home.

"People need to understand that there are chemicals being used for sterilisation, and need to take the stay at home initiative more seriously,” she said.

The streets grew quiet from Thursday night when workers in protective gear sprayed chemicals on roads and public spaces across the country.

Municipal staff filled canisters with chemicals and vehicles directed large pipes that hosed down alleys, pavements, shop entrances, parks and bus stops.

Clementina Kongslund, 42, a Romanian living in Dubai, has ensured her daughters, aged seven and nine, have not ventured outdoors this week.

She cycled with her children and walked the dog outdoors during the first few days of the government’s stay home advisory.

But the family has stopped going out except for limited visits to the supermarket.

"Even Sheikh Zayed Road has been empty compared to the usual traffic,” she said.

"The streets are more empty than usual. Earlier people would be out and about in the community, but now there are not many people around.”

Public transport has been suspended during the sterilisation but permitted during the day.

Buses and taxis have been allowed on specific routes to private and government hospitals in Dubai and the Metro service has been halted when the intensive measures are carried out.

Residents of Dubai who require to leave their home in an emergency, for groceries or medicines can apply for permits from a website launched by the emirate's Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management.

People working in essential services including the medical profession, police, electricity, water, airport, banking, communication were allowed to leave home during the restrictions.

Supermarkets remained open but people have been advised to leave home only when absolutely necessary and use delivery services instead.

Local and federal government authorities have used social media platforms to drive home the need for people to maintain social distancing.

Transport authorities such as the Roads and Transport Authority have released videos to explain the distance people should keep to guard against infection.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention reiterated the importance of the #StayHome initiative and explained that by not going outdoors residents will help relieve pressure on the medical services.

Dozens of people had been arrested earlier for breaking mandatory self-quarantine in the UAE.

The Ministry of Interior said 64 people were arrested for breaking mandatory self-quarantine when they ignored orders to stay home.

They flouted warning despite being cautioned by authorities to isolate themselves for 14 days because they had come into contact with coronavirus patients.

Updated: March 29, 2020 08:22 AM

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