DUBAI, UAE - The Dubai government is to relax restrictions on wearing face masks in public.
Until Sunday, everyone regardless of age or wherever they were, or whatever they were or doing, even if driving alone, or exercising - masks were mandatory.
Now in a bid to help the emirate return to a normal way of life many of those restrictions have been lifted.
From now on, children under the age of 6 will not be required to wear a mask at all. Similarly drivers, when alone, will not need to don a mask.
Masks will also now not be required when exercising.
This move comes after a warning by doctors in the UAE that while masks may be useful in slowing the spreading of the cornavirus, they do pose other health risks, particularly when exercising.
"The real problem is with the tight fitting N95 masks and as per Dubai Health Authority (DHA) guidelines, these are to be used only by health care professionals in hospitals. People are asked to wear surgical masks which allow for flow of air. What happens in tight fitting masks is that when we inhale and exhale, because there is little space for the air exhaled to escape as it has multi-layers of filters. A dead space is created and we end up re-breathing that same exhaled air which is high in Co2," Dr Arshad Altaf, consultant Pulmonologist at Prime Hospital was quoted as saying by the UAE daily Gulf News on Friday.
Exercising while wearing a mask, exacerbates the problem, he said. "When we exercise the breaths per minute go up and as we exhale more, more Co2 is trapped in the dead space and we end up taking that in which can result in the individual exercising, gasping for breath," Dr Altaf said.
The new guidelines announced on Sunday by Dubai's Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management, will allow masks to be removed:
- When eating or drinking in indoor or outdoor settings
- Driving alone or with family members (which is still limited to 3 people including the driver per vehicle)
- Engaging in strenuous exercise
- When alone
- Swimming or skydiving
- Undergoing specific medical treatment
Children under the age of six are exempted at all times as are people with cognitive, intellectual or sensory disorders that hamper ability to breathe or communicate, and individuals who require supplemental oxygen or have severe respiratory conditions.
People with chronic illnesses, children below the age of 12, and older people aged 60 and above, and anyone pregnant are not allowed to leave their homes.
Masks are also now not required when eating or drinking indoors or outdoors, including at restaurants and cafes.
"We have entered a new stage, the stage for gradual return to economic life," Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Ruler of Dubai, said in a tweet.
"Every person is responsible. All institutions and sectors are involved in protecting their staff. Health will remain a priority and a responsibility. Returning the wheel of the economy is strategic and necessary."
"We say to everyone: life is continuing, achievements are ongoing and this experience has made us stronger," Sheikh Mohammed added.
While Dubai was announcing the relaxation in the wearing of face masks, nearby Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, was closing its borders. From Tuesday movements between other emirates and Abu Dhabi will cease, as will intra-emirate movements. Residents will be restricted to their own areas and will not be allowed to move to other areas. The restriction has been imposed for one week initially while the emirate's disinfection program is stepped up.
Meantime 661 new cases of Covid-19 in the UAE were reported for the 24 hours to Sunday. Another two deaths occurred, while recoveries totalled 386.
There are now a total of 34,557 cases of coronavirus in the UAE. There have been 264 deaths. Recoveries now total 17,932.
Whilst the number of cases is high, the testing in the UAE has been aggressive with more than two million people tested so far.
(Photo credit: 13newsnow.com).