DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Abu Dhabi and Dubai have announced preparations to reopen malls and shopping centers, issuing guidelines on Thursday for business owners and shoppers on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The exact dates and timing of reopenings have yet to be announced, but are highly anticipated not only by customers, but by business owners who have been hit hard by the lockdowns aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the United Arab Emirates, which has reported more than 8,200 cases.
The guidelines, issued separately by Abu Dhabi's Department of Economic Development and the Government of Dubai, mandate limits on operating hours as well as limits on staff and customer capacity.
The malls in Abu Dhabi will only be open to the public between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m., and in Dubai, malls will be open for no more than 10 hours per day.
Visitor volume in both emirates will be limited to 30% of the mall's capacity, with visitors allowed a maximum of three hours inside the mall. All touch screens will be disabled, available parking spaces will be cut by 50% in Abu Dhabi and 75% in Dubai, and entry will be denied to visitors above the age of 60 in both emirates. In Dubai, entry will also be barred for children between the ages of 2 and 13.
Wearing masks will be mandatory for all visitors and staff, and malls will be required to have isolation rooms on site to isolate potential positive cases. In Abu Dhabi, gloves will also be provided for visitors, while the requirement for gloves in Dubai malls has not yet been made clear.
For both emirates, malls and shopping centers will require cleaning around the clock and sanitization of items that have been tried on, like clothing and jewelry, will also be sanitized. There will be entrance temperature checks, provision of masks and hand sanitizer, and physical distancing requirements of two meters between people at all times, with the exception of family members visiting together.
Restaurants and cafes will cut their available seating to 30% and place seating and tables at least six feet apart for all customers in Dubai, and at least eight feet apart in Abu Dhabi, with the latter emirate allowing no more than four people at one table.
Gyms, cinemas, prayer rooms, public seating areas, and other entertainment venues will remain closed.
"Once the reopening is announced, businesses can reopen after they have complied with the guidelines & protocols and ready to receive customers/resume operations," the circular released by the Government of Dubai read, adding: "All businesses must be on standby for official announcements on the date of reopening and timings (to be announced shortly)."
All businesses except those deemed essential have been closed across the UAE since late March, along with mosques, gyms, parks, beaches and other public venues. Abu Dhabi has a curfew that runs between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., while Dubai's curfew is 24 hours. The UAE in March announced several billion dollars' worth of stimulus funding, including fee exemptions and subsidies and support for banks and private businesses to support the economy as commerce and tourism evaporated.
Dubai, the UAE's commercial capital and most populous emirate, is currently under one of the strictest lockdown regimes in the world, with no movement outside the home permitted without a police permit. Permits are only granted for essential trips — medical emergencies, the pharmacy, the grocery store or withdrawing cash — and the latter can only be applied for once every three days at most. Permit approvals are staggered and delayed so as to limit the number of people in grocery stores at any one time.