Eid Al-Fitr is upon us, but this year will be unlike any Eid before it.
In his fourth Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed, broadcast on Al Emarat Channel, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed gathered frontline workers and asked them about their experience working to combat Covid-19, praising them as role models for the rest of the nation.
The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces also reminded those watching that “There is no despair in our dictionary,” instead offering a message of hope and inspiration for the future.
“I want to say, God willing, come Eid-al-Fitr next year, we will all be blessed with good health and happiness, with you, our countries and the entire world better,” he said.
Sheikh Mohamed also reminded everyone of their collective responsibility over Eid-Al-Fitr, which starts on Saturday evening.
“So what I ask of our residents and citizens is to stay home during the last week of Ramadan and during Eid, especially for older people, children and people with special needs,” he said.
“I know it is hard but for us but it means saving lives. For us, it means keeping our loved ones safe.
“We do not want everything that we did in the past months to be in vain due to a simple mistake that would cost us too much.”
Residents are heading into Eid with a series of restrictions: family gatherings are banned, social distancing remains very much in place and the nightly sanitization program has been extended by two hours as of May 20, beginning now at 8pm instead of 10pm. For those living in labourers’ camps, it starts even earlier, at 6pm.
Families will be exchanging many of their greetings and good wishes with family and friends via Zoom and staying home for their meals.
Children especially look forward to receiving Eid gifts from relatives and no one is suggesting that they go without this year. The advice from Dr Mohammed Al Dhaferi, spokesman for the National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority is not hand out gifts personally but to transfer money online or set up pre-loaded debit cards for them. If it has to be cash, use new paper bills that have been thoroughly sanitized.
The same goes for charity donations: contribute by text or online.
Anyone caught violating the rules also faces tougher fines; Dh3,000 for venturing outside without a mask, Dh50,000 for anyone who ignores orders to go into quarantine, Dh10,000 for organizing a gathering (even if it’s for family) and Dh5,000 for anyone attending it.
The fact is that Ramadan has brought a spike in the number of infections, taking the total up to more than 26,000 by May 21. This is in part due to doubling the number of tests carried out daily, but not entirely.
“In Ramadan there has been an increase in cases as a result of some individuals who were reckless and didn’t take into account the precautionary measures,” said Dr Al Dhaferi.
Shopping malls are reverting to shorter hours during Eid and will be open from 9am to 7pm but the number of shoppers allowed in at any one time will be limited and shopping time is also limited to two hours per person. Supermarkets can operate outside those hours but for deliveries only.
In Dubai, where restrictions have been even stricter than in Abu Dhabi, residents can enjoy the great outdoors again as 70 parks reopened on May 18. But visitors must wear masks and gloves and show no symptoms of the virus.
The Covid-19 situation is fast-changing. For the most up-date-information, rely on the UAE government’s official social media channels and websites.
Anna Pukas has reported from all over the world as a foreign correspondent for British media. She is now an editor based in Abu Dhabi.