Dubai residents enjoy the day out with friends and family at the Umm Suqeim park and beach. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: With a drop in the rate of infections and a rise in the number of recoveries from COVID-19, life is slowly finding its rhythm back in the UAE. Most people who are venturing out are cautious while following all the health protocols such as wearing masks, practising social distancing and hand sanitising.

‘It is possible to resume our social lives now’

The first person whom Hamza Khan, 27, visited after movement restrictions were relaxed was his barber. “I have known my barber for a long time and once I was assured he was following all the hygiene protocols, I was able to get a hair cut,” said Khan, an expatriate from the United Kingdom and owner of a start-up. “I have created this app called ‘Let’s work’ that encourages people to work from cafés, restaurants and hotel lobbies. In times of movement restrictions, many companies are downsizing and operating from these spaces that are vacant during the day. Places that offer strong WiFi connections and free parking are trending. My work takes me to all these places.”

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Khan has also resumed his social life. “I have begun eating out at restaurants and recently visited a spa at a five-star hotel where they followed all the necessary precautions, so I was reassured. I have also begun calling a couple of friends and family members at home. I think the UAE government has done a brilliant job in managing this pandemic and bringing down infection rates. If we follow the protocols and guidelines and do not abuse our new-found freedom, we can pretty much resume our normal social lives,” said Khan.

‘We must be cautious for the rest of our lives’

Filipino expatriate Josie Conlu, who is an entrepreneur, is still running her office from home. “We must remember that although the number of infections have declined, COVID-19 is still out there and in the absence of a vaccine or cure, it is better to be safe.” Being a businesswoman, Conlu completely understands the rationale behind opening up the community. “We have had a fairly long lockdown [movement restrictions] period and people have to go out and connect for work and business. What I don’t understand is people wanting to go out socially.”

Conlu, in her mid-40s and mother of one child, prefers to keep to her home on most occasions. “I am an online person, I order food and all other consumption items online. In the last three months, I have ventured out for a grocery visit twice or thrice. But the greatest lesson for me from this pandemic is that we cannot take our health for granted. I have been very careful about strengthening my immunity. I also realise that in the new scheme of things, we might have to wear masks and practise social distancing, not just until the end of the year, but might have to be cautious for the rest of our lives.”

‘Inviting a couple home made me feel human again’

Aida Laucbach, a US expatriate housewife in Dubai, balances going out with stay at home. “We as a family go on long drives outside Dubai, right up to Fujairah and other emirates, just for a change of scenery. Once we drove to Hatta and had lunch at the five-star hotel there, after verifying that they had à la carte and no buffets and were practising social distancing. We avoid going out on weekends to places that might be crowded. I walk in the malls, have invited one family over and had a meal together. It was so lovely to feel human again,” said Laubach, the mother of one teenage daughter.”

Laubach, who is a creative arts enthusiast and catches plays online these days, also tried going to some popular creative erstwhile hotspots in Dubai. “I visited the Jameel Arts Centre and the Al Serkal Avenue. Both were very deserted and I was able to soak up the atmosphere and feel like old times,” said Laubach who feels it is still too early to eat out at restaurants or visit beaches.

‘The precautions are a priority for the long-term’

Rachel Lynn, a US expatriate and author, thinks it is still too early to relax all rules and resume all social life. “My husband, our dog and I do go out for long drives occasionally. But when it comes to walking, we have limited ourselves to the spaces in our gated community. I am still very cautious and have barely invited one couple at a time into our homes, following all protocols. I find it strange when people send out social invitations. We have family here, but we have been very careful not to put them at any health risk through unnecessary exposure. So we do not visit them, but maintain contact over the phone,” said Lynn, who has limited her shopping and eating out to ordering stuff online.

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Lynn said she and her husband were comfortable with limiting their social engagements. “I guess each person must do what he or she believes in. During these difficult times, both my husband’s relatives in Asia and mine in the US had medical emergencies. We were unable to travel to visit them. We would like to visit them, but at the moment are protecting our health and theirs. I think this [staying safe and infection free] is our long-term priority,” added Lynn.

Adil Firoze, 27, a businessman and personal trainer, is yet to resume physical training of his clients or visit a commercial gym. “Me venturing out is limited to my ship-chandling business when I have to go to the port to deliver orders or meet clients. I work out at the gym in our gated community because I am assured of all hygiene protocols being followed and I go there early to avoid any crowds. The UAE government has done a very good job in managing this pandemic, but we must be cautious and not let down our guard as one can never be too sure. I prefer not meeting people socially for now.”