DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Dubai police has fined more than 100 people visiting its newly-reopened public beaches in recent days for failing to adhere to coronavirus safety rules, as excitement over eased lockdown measures led residents to pour into waterfront areas in droves.
Those not wearing masks while on the beach and not adhering to the country's social distancing requirements of 2 meters were fined on the spot, police said.
"People were not adhering to precautionary measures and during the first three days of reopening beaches, around 100 fines were issued against offenders," Lt. Col. Ahmad Al Marzouqi, from the Dubai Police beaches security section, told local media. "But when we started implementing fines, people began to adhere to rules."
And the fines are hefty. The laws outlined by the UAE in May put a penalty of 3,000 dirhams ($817) for anyone not wearing a mask in public or failing to maintain social distancing. Groups of more than five people are forbidden.
Public beaches in Dubai reopened on May 30, after more than two months of closure. The reopening followed several weeks of gradual lockdown easing which followed a three-week period in April of some of the strictest lockdown measures in the world, during which residents could not leave their homes without applying for a police permit.
Now, nearly every public venue — including gyms, movie theaters, leisure attractions, malls and restaurants — has reopened, though at limited capacity and bound by strict safety and sanitation requirements.
Beaches over the weekend were packed, with patchwork compliance to safety measures, despite ubiquitous signs and notices reminding people of the ongoing safety regulations.
"It's like people forgot Covid existed," one Dubai resident said. "The roads are just like they were before lockdown," a taxi driver told CNBC, while stuck in thick traffic leaving the beach area around sunset on Saturday.
The UAE has registered more than 36,300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 270 deaths and more than 19,000 recoveries.
Still, as long as people abide by the rules — and the fines appear to have helped that — the fact that so many people are willing to venture out of their homes may be a promising sign for economic activity, which have plunged during the lockdown in Dubai, as in the rest of the world.
Enforcement of the rules has intensified, with increased patrols, the use of drones on the beaches to catch offenders, and visits by Dubai Municipality inspectors.