Covid-19: UAE will not go back to full lockdown, says minister

UAE was the first country to reopen by applying strict safety, precautionary measures throughout the country


Waheed Abbas

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Published: Thu 13 Jan 2022, 3:49 PM

Last updated: Thu 13 Jan 2022, 10:44 PM

The UAE will not go back to complete lockdown due to the Omicron or any other variant of the coronavirus, a minister said on Thursday.

"Omicron is way less impactful than Delta. Even during Delta, we hadn't locked down the country (because) balance has been there (between economy and health sectors). Even with futurist variants when it comes to coronavirus, we will not go back to a full lockdown of the country," said Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade.

The UAE had announced lockdowns and travel restrictions after the pandemic broke out in early 2020. But it was also the first country to reopen by applying strict safety and precautionary measures throughout the country.

The minister said 2021 was critical, encouraging, and positive for the economy, and 2022 has also started with a robust forecast.

"We celebrated our Golden Jubilee in 2021 and welcomed the world to Expo 2020. We showed the world that it can't continue with the lockdowns. We have to come back to norms ASAP, and balance between health and economy has to be ensured," Al Zeyoudi told Bloomberg in an interview on Thursday.

He said the communities could come back to norms quickly and cope with global challenges such as the pandemic.

"Thus, we made significant changes in our regulatory system and the way we are running the businesses. During the last few months, we announced 100 per cent foreign ownership, changed the workweek to match with the rest of the world, upgraded the employment laws to create more flexibility and showed our commitments that we are welcoming the world to the UAE," he said.

The minister said that in 2022, the UAE is standing on a solid foundation, and it will maintain a balance between economic and health aspects. "We are continuing Covid-19 testing on a daily basis and encourage people to take the vaccine booster."


The benefit of new workweek

Replying to a query about the new workweek introduced by the UAE this year, Al Zeyoudi assured that this would benefit the economy and give communities more time, which means more consumption over the long weekends.

Starting January 1, 2022, the UAE changed its working week from Sunday-Thursday to Monday to mid-Friday in line with the other markets around the world.

"We've started seeing positive feedback from the businesses because consumption has been picking up throughout the end of the week. We started opening up and relaxing things based on the best global practices, and the changing weekend is no different. It ensures that our system is linked to the global system."

Deals with India, Israel soon

The minister stated that e-commerce and real estate are among the top sectors attracting huge foreign direct investment from Europe, Australia and other countries.

Al Zeyoudi revealed that the government is also working on comprehensive partnership agreements with some countries.

"India deal is almost done and we are going to announce it soon. It is going to have a huge impact – more than 1.7per cent on the GDP over the coming 10 years, boosting trade and creating more jobs. Israel deal is going to be finalised in two months," he said, adding that since the signing of the Abraham Accord, trade has reached more than $1 billion and it's going to exceed $5 billion in three years.

The minister expects trade with Turkey will also triple as the two countries' economic committees met recently to chart out closer cooperation.

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