Dubai has a very clear plan on how to deal with Covid-19 and will be ready to receive visitors for the world Expo exhibition this year, a government official said.
“We feel very confident,” Helal Al Marri, director general of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said in an interview with CNN. “We’re going to be ready to make sure that the growth starts this summer and by Expo in the fourth quarter, we look to welcome the world.”
The Expo, which Dubai has been preparing for a decade, is meant to be one of the biggest events globally this year and generate billions of dollars for the government. The resurgence of the virus in recent months has complicated the planning.
Daily cases in the United Arab Emirates have quadrupled since November as the country opened up for travel and eased movement restrictions. The surge forced Dubai to reintroduce curbs on hotels and air travel, and the emirate replaced its top health official last month.
Al Marri blamed the spike on lack of compliance. “When we had a 98 per cent to 99 per cent compliance, we didn’t see any spike. When that dropped by four to five percentage points, we saw numbers go up,” he said.
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While cases have jumped in recent months, the country has also rolled out an aggressive inoculation programme. It has administered almost 3.7 million vaccine doses in a population of about 10 million, one of the highest rates of inoculations per 100 people globally.
Al Marri also pushed back against criticism over Dubai’s open-city approach towards the end of last year and said the emirate had about 560,000 visitors in December – a third of the usual numbers.
Tourism typically peaks during the end of the year and scores of visitors flew into the city last December to escape lockdowns backs home. Hotels were 71 per cent full in the last month of the year – the highest figure since February – research firm STR said, citing preliminary data.
“We approach things at a very measured fashion but it is our philosophy that we should work through this pandemic, keep open, keep everybody safe and make sure we work closely with the industry to make sure that compliance happens in a credible way,” Al Marri said.