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Street view: COVID-19 chronicles in The Gulf

Naeem Kola

by Naeem Kola
Dubai

Street view: COVID-19 chronicles in The Gulf Image

UAE: Public health warning poster deployed on a street by Sharjah Municipality

COVID-19 has spread across the Gulf region. As Governments around the globe grapple with stopping the spread of the virus, GCC states have closed borders, restricted travel and locked down populations.

This includes closing places of worship and cancelling some highly sensitive and religious events creating high emotions in the Gulf and throughout the world. In addition to battling the disease, most GCC states are dealing with a significant drop in the oil price, with huge hits to Government revenues and funding challenges.

Looking at some of on the ground statistics and actions by key GCC States:

KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), as of late April have >4,500 cases, increasing by 5-6% per day. The Government has implemented a full lockdown except for essential services and a complete curfew from 8pm to 6am each day. Holy sites in Mecca and Medina have been closed with highly restricted access, this resulting in a significant impact on Islamic holy tourism, estimated to be approximately five million arrivals a year.

To combat the impact the Government has provided interest free funding to banks to allow for payment and interest holidays, KSA nationals have been assured salary for any companies unable to pay salaries, Government fees and rental reductions.

The shutdown is severely impacting all sectors, including the consumer sector, and our investee company Kudu (leading QSR chain) is having to navigate a very difficult environment and earn its revenues exclusively from home delivery and take away (during restricted operating hours). 

UAE (United Arab Emirates), to date has >5,000 cases, increasing by 7-8% per day. This virus impact has been significant especially in the busy hub of Dubai, which thrives on tourism and retail footfall. UAE as a whole is exposed to Oil & Gas revenue, tourism and real estate, all of which are under significant pressure.

The feelings of many are of high concern and worry due to job security and delays in business resumption. The Government has implemented a full lockdown from 1 April 2020, stopped all airlines operations and a number of hotels have shut down until tourism opens again. 

The shutdown is severely impacting all sectors, including the consumer sector, and our investee company Kudu (leading QSR chain) is having to navigate a very difficult environment and earn its revenues exclusively from home delivery and take away (during restricted operating hours). 

The Government has undertaken a major city disinfection drive and has restricted access in certain areas that are identified as high risk. There is a major drive to move all services online and that is incentivised by the Government. The target for businesses to slowly resume is expected from 1 May 2020 onwards.

Qatar and Bahrain, have similar numbers to date of >4,000 cases, increasing by 3-5% per day. Kuwait and Bahrain, which are much smaller populations have >1,000 cases and increasing by 5% per day. Similar restrictions as in UAE and KSA are being applied as well.

Families are having to adjust to the new norm with children studying from home, this is expected to continue for the rest of the academic year until end of June 2020. Lifestyles are restricted to apartments or villas with restricted ability to conduct any outside sporting activities. Socialising is now entirely virtual.

As GCC, braces for the sweltering summer temperatures in next few weeks people continue to live hoping and praying for life back to normal.