UAE: Covid-19 restrictions eased; cinema-goers, business owners hail new norms


Residents, business owners, event and wedding planners hope that better days are not too far

UAE back to normal

It’s official: Normal, or rather near-normal, is the new normal.

With the UAE easing capacity and social distancing restrictions imposed during the darkest days of the Covid-19 outbreak, hotels, restaurants, malls, cinemas are ready to open their doors to happier times once again after two extremely challenging years.

On February 9, 2022, the NCEMA had announced that restrictions on the capacity of people in entertainment venues, shopping centres, restaurants and cafes, worship places and various means of transportation would be lifted from February 15.

UAE today (February 15 ) recorded 930 cases, and a decline in virus infection has been recorded in the past couple of days.

As the first day of eased restrictions kicked in, Khaleej Times went around town speaking to event organizers, cinema goers, restaurant owners/patrons etc how it feels to be back to normal, or near-normal.

Many believe these are sure fire signs that things are returning to normalcy.

Weddings and Events

Wedding planners and events management companies are quite optimistic about the authority’s decision. They believe that residents will soon be able to attend events of their interests and weddings of their friends and families.

“We have organised a wedding with a smaller number of guests as per the safety protocol and with the change in the measure,” said Nadia Siddiqui, owner of Box office events.

“There is an excitement with the things becoming normal and at some point, of time it will. We are still in a phase to take necessary precautions,” Nadia added.

Nadia also spoke on the job opportunities it will create. “Weddings and many other events require a lot of freelance executives for many tasks- which will eventually create more jobs and opportunities,” she said.

Wedding planner and Owner of Bandhan by BOE, Faizal Mussa, said that their clients want many people in the weddings. “My clients are waiting for the things to get back to normal so that they can plan up an occasion and now that the authorities have permitted maximum capacity at the events which will help our industry revive,” he said.

No reason to take a break from fitness

Yasir Khan, the celebrity trainer and founder of TYB transformation, said that normalcy is the need of the hour.

“When the pandemic struck, I had a lot of clients who, out of fear, didn’t want to resume their training & gym journey. However, once the rules relaxed, I had a sudden influx in the number of people wanting to join the gym because at the end of the day people realised that the true way to fight covid was to look after their health & well-being,”

“With the rules being lifted again, I am sure more people would aim at making health their priority & be back at the gym,” said Khan.

He also highlighted that accommodating people in the gym became quite challenging with limited capacity.

“With restricted machines to ensure distance was maintained, it became hard for people to get in a quick run as required, especially during the peak hours of the early morning. While it was important to ensure it was done, it is a breath of fresh air knowing the rules will be relaxed now,” Khan added.

Not to miss out on a movie

Cinemas in the UAE will begin operating at maximum capacity after several months, bringing joy to movie lovers.

Many residents complained about the cinema halls operating at reduced capacity, which led to long waits to get a ticket.

“The one movie I was eagerly waiting for was the Bollywood movie 83. I still did not watch it due to busy schedule and unavailability of tickets last month,” said Raman Deep Kaur, a sales executive at a private real estate firm.

“With the easing of restrictions, the tickets will be easily available, and the movie is still running in theatres. I am hoping to watch it soon,”

Another Bollywood movie lover, Mohammed Althegahani, a Sudani Expat working as an accountant, said that he had missed a lot of movies in the last three years. “What I missed all the while is watching movies on the big screen due to reduced capacity. And now I will be able to watch the awaited movies in the theatre at a cheaper price may be,”

“Lal Singh Chadda, KGF 2, RRR and many more movies I am waiting for,” added Altheghani.

Hospitality sector to regain momentum

The hospitality sector believes that ease of restrictions will bring business and keep the cafes, restaurants, and other hangout places buzzing with people.

Many said that customers have wanted to host celebrations, but the unpredictability of the situation and the subsequent government regulations limited them.

“The move will give us the reassurance that it is safer now so I am sure the number of events will rise and will positively impact our revenues,” said Sanjay Vazirani, CMD, Foodlink Global Restaurants & Catering Services LLC.

Piyush Maloo, Partner at Sagar Ratna, is expecting a hike in their catering business as well as dine in. “we can have a 100% capacity now compared to 50%, so we should be getting a good number of dine-in customers on the weekends compared to before,”

“We are expecting to cater to more private villa and beach parties. More residents are expected to host private parties now; earlier, they were scared of restrictions and refrained from hosting large gatherings,” said Maloo.

Hari Kaimal, CEO of Goldmead Hospitality services (High Note Pool and Sky Lounge Aloft Mina), said that the move goes a long way in instilling further confidence amongst the public.

“People have lived with this fear for far too long now, and it’s high time we returned to some form of normalcy going about our lives, connecting with loved ones and celebrating moments. The most important part about permitting full capacity for social events will prompt more people to do exactly this – foster further live engagement within the community.”

Masjids to have more worshippers

“It makes me truly delighted to lead a greater number of worshippers in the masjid,” said Mohammed Al Hassan Khan, the Imam of a masjid in Port Saeed.

“Many worshippers can be accommodated in the masjids with the distancing between the worshipper reducing to one metre from 1.5 metres,” added the Imam.

The religious institution heads believe that it had been difficult to offer Zohar prayer due to a change in weather. “Worshippers are often seen praying outside the masjid. Due to change in weather, it is a bit difficult during Zohar prayer, and it will be solved now,” he added.

Dr Abdul Hameed, the Imam of a masjid in International City, said that this move was a crucial step in return to normalcy:

“As the distance between the worshipper is reduced, now a greater number of residents will get the opportunity to pray in masjids,”

He also explained that the social distance for ablutions (Wudhu) would remain the same since the authorities currently have no directive to address this.

“Wudhu, or ablution, can be done at home before coming to the masjid, which also contributes to one’s good deeds. If you are on the move, then a worshipper can do Wudhu at the masjids.”

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