People wearing protective face masks ski at Ski Dubai during the reopening of malls, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai
DUBAI (Reuters) – Adnan Mayasi’s first move after Dubai lifted coronavirus restrictions on leisure activities was to hit the emirate’s indoor ski slope – with the added protection of surgical mask and plastic gloves.
Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, on Wednesday allowed recreation spots such as cinemas, gyms, ice rinks and the ski slope to re-open after weeks of closure.
Strict social distancing and cleaning measures must be implemented to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus.
“The fear might be there,” said Mayasi, but added that the safety procedures made him feel “very comfortable.”
Skiers said the face masks got wet as breath condensed in the cold air, but that it was great to be doing sport again.
Dubai implemented a month-long 24-hour curfew in April and has gradually eased restrictions since then, including allowing malls and restaurants to open at limited capacities.
As of Wednesday, there are no restrictions on movement or business operations between 6.00 am and 11.00 pm, when a nightly curfew comes into force.
As a business and tourism hub with the world’s busiest international airport, the pandemic has hit its economy hard. The UAE has recorded 32,532 coronavirus infections and 258 deaths.
Nearby, in the malls’ cinema, there are no paper tickets. Drinks and snacks are pre-ordered online and collected using bar codes.
“We (went) through every stage of our customer journey and put procedures and sanitisation plans together so people would feel comfortable to come back to our cinemas,” said Michelle Walsh, chief marketing officer for leisure activities at mall operator Majid Al Futtaim.
Jude Okafor, eating in a mall restaurant, thinks the economy has to re-open, while protecting lives.
“The virus is not going away any time soon. As long as we take precautions I think we should be fine,” said the 28-year-old who works in real estate.
Dubai’s sun-drenched beaches remain closed unless part of a hotel complex and tourists cannot yet enter the country.
(Reporting by Tarek Fahmy; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Janet Lawrence)