DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Dubai's tourism department Thursday announced an immediate halt to all live entertainment at hotels and restaurants, a day after suspending non-urgent surgeries at hospitals to deal with an influx of covid-19 patients.
Both decisions come after months of Dubai promoting itself as the ideal pandemic-friendly vacation spot while coronavirus infections skyrocketed. Now, the sheikhdom is showing signs of strain.
Even as cases surged to previously unseen heights in the United Arab Emirates, the city-state of Dubai had sought to be a glimmering desert oasis for tourists fleeing tough lockdowns back home. Since reopening in the spring, the commercial hub has resisted more restrictions that would pummel its economy, built largely on aviation, hospitality and retail.
Beyond the ubiquitous masks outdoors, a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy has prevailed in the city. Bands, dancers and DJs had been performing in bars and clubs for socially-distanced crowds. Hotel occupancy rates surged over 70% in December, nearing 2019 holiday levels. The city's airport welcomed more than 70,000 travelers for New Year's weekend alone.
Soon countries like the United Kingdom and Israel that had sent droves to Dubai over the winter holidays closed their travel corridors, citing alarm over the UAE's spike in infections. As late as Tuesday, the sheikhdom's government-run media office was insisting that things were under control.
Information for this article was contributed by Jon Gambrell of The Associated Press.