Middle East/North Africa

UAE reports steep drop in COVID-19 cases as world fair begins

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) had fewer than 100 daily COVID-19 cases for the first time since the start of the pandemic and just as it begins hosting hosting a world fair. 

On Sunday, the Health Ministry reported just 99 new cases, according to Reuters.

The UAE hopes its world fair, known as Expo 2020 Dubai, will attract about 25 million visitors. The event, which is the first of its kind hosted in the Middle East, starts on Oct. 1 and is scheduled to run for six months. 

The UAE still requires masks in most public spaces, though about 96 percent of its of 10 million people are at least partially vaccinated, and about 86 percent are fully vaccinated, one of the highest immunization rates globally, Reuters noted.

In January, COVID-19 cases in the UAE peaked around nearly 4,000 per day. At that time, the government imposed new restrictions on some hotels, bars and nightclubs in addition to limiting the number of people allowed in places such as malls. 

At the time, Helal Saeed Al Marri, director-general of Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, attributed the spike to falling compliance with pandemic protocols. 

"Data shows that it's linked directly to compliance," he said. "When we had a 98 to 99 percent compliance we didn't see any spike. When that dropped by 4 to 5 percentage points we saw numbers go up. It tells us what we are doing is right."