Abu Dhabi: Residents living and working in Abu Dhabi have been adjusting their travel plans and working arrangements in order to comply with the new movement restrictions that came into force from June 2.
Many are working from home in order to avoid being held back at checkpoints in and out of the emirate and its three regions, while others completed necessary tasks before the restriction coming into effect so that they can avoid inter-emirate travel while the week-long restrictions are imposed.
“I work in an oil and gas firm in Dubai, and commute from Abu Dhabi every day,” F.T., a 40-year-old admin officer from Bangladesh, told Gulf News. “I am also in the 50 per cent of workers drafted to work back in the office, so I tried to obtain a movement permit last night. But there seemed to be a big demand, and I was unable to submit the request. So I spoke with my superiors and I am working from home today,” he added.
Others who tried to make their work commutes said they had been turned away from police checkpoints, which were seeing long queues on the first day of restrictions.
The restrictions were first announced on Sunday – two days ago, thus allowing residents a day in between to finish urgent tasks. In a social media post, Abdulla Al Hamed, chairman at the Abu Dhabi Department of Health, said they were aimed at improving the reach and effectiveness of the National Screening Programme, a mass testing initiative that aims to screen as many people for the virus as possible.
“Mass testing is a key pillar of Abu Dhabi’s strategy to contain the spread of COVID-19 With the expansion of the project to include high-density areas [in the emirate], and to ensure that the largest possible number of the emirate’s population are reached, we had to ban the movement between cities and reduce contact as much as possible,” Al Hamed said.
Commuters reported queues at the border checkpoints as they tried to get to work.
“I had a No Objection Certificate from my company, which is part of the oil and gas sector, so I set out for work in the morning,” a technician said. “I had to wait in a queue for two and a half hours at a checkpoint, but the police eventually said it was not sufficient for me to travel to Dubai,” he added.
Dr Bushra Ansari, 34, originally from Pakistan, said, “I left home in Jebel Ali at 9.45am, reaching the check point at 10.35am. Then I was stuck in traffic until 12.37pm and only reached my work at the hospital by 1.10pm. I was meant to start work at 12.30pm. I started to ask other motorists to give way because I’m a healthcare professional and I am late for work,” she added. “But they refused. It was too much rush and hassle.
“If you are coming into Abu Dhabi emirate, you have to allow for a delay, and it seemed like the traffic coming back the other way was the same. I think there needs to be a special lane or provision made for healthcare workers so they can get to work freely,” she added.
Residents have also been making arrangements to avoid travel to and from Abu Dhabi.
Mohammed Naeem, a digital marketer who works in Abu Dhabi but in currently living in Dubai with his family, said he drove down to the capital on Monday.
“I finished some work and made some arrangements to last me during the restrictions,” Naeem said.
Certain residents looking to get away for a while also reported cancelling plans, including hotel bookings in Dubai and Fujairah.
Meanwhile, despite the restrictions, traffic within the capital city remained free-flowing through the day. After a two-month closure as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, the emirate has also opened up hotel beaches, museums, sports venues and restaurants in order to allow residents to seek leisure activities outside the home.
Traffic smooth within capital city
Traffic has been smooth on the first day of movement restrictions in Abu Dhabi, except for a morning traffic jam at ICAD Roundabout near Musaffah that later cleared up.
Abu Dhabi Police also said it had witnessed smooth vehicular movement in Abu Dhabi on June 2 and that no traffic jams had been reported.
Gulf News rounded up a few highways at the entry and exit points to Abu Dhabi Island, including the Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed-Dubai motorway, Abu Dhabi- Dubai E11, Abu Dhabi-Sweihan road, Abu Dhabi-Ajban road and Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum highway E311. All of them had normal traffic movements without any tailgates or traffic jams.
Some heavy-duty truck drivers parked in Abu Dhabi were however unaware of movement restrictions, and were planning to restart their journey to Al Gharbia.
“I don’t know about any travel ban in Abu Dhabi and I plan to travel to Afshan in Al Gharbia,” said Qader Khan, a Pakistani truck driver.
Another truck driver, Barkatullah from Pakistan was also gearing to head to Madinat Zayed in Al Gharbia.
How to get a permit
- COVID-19: How you can apply for Abu Dhabi move permit
- Coronavirus: Abu Dhabi restrictions will help mass testing effort
- Abu Dhabi announces easing of some COVID-19 restrictions
- See tailbacks heading into Abu Dhabi as coronavirus movement restrictions get underway
- Coronavirus: Movement permits needed in Abu Dhabi from Tuesday
- Coronavirus: Abu Dhabi prevents movement to and from the emirate for one week from June 2
“I don’t know about any travel ban within emirate. I will start my journey in the evening today for Madinat Zayed and if the police stop us, we will not go and just park somewhere,” he said.
To support screening efforts, the Abu Dhabi Police urged the public on Tuesday afternoon to adhere to the instructions of the travel ban in and out of Abu Dhabi Emirate and between cities, to avoid traffic congestions at the checkpoints on the emirate’s roads.
Movement permits are available through Abu Dhabi Police website.
Twelve security points were activated in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi at the entrances of cities on the main roads of the Emirate on Tuesday, said Brigadier Salem Abdullah Bin Barak Al Dhaheri, Deputy Director of the Traffic and Patrols Directorate at Abu Dhabi Police.
All these entrances started working from today, he said.