No shisha sessions, deserted streets, mosques and shopping malls, drones in the sky broadcasting public health warnings – the new coronavirus has turned life upside down in the Gulf societies.
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More than 870 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded so far across the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), but so far no deaths related to the virus have been reported.
Most of those infected have been people returning from nearby Iran, where more than 700 people had died in the outbreak by Sunday.
Facing a mounting public health threat, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman have taken drastic measures to combat the pandemic.
“It is as if today is the weekend and not the start of the week,” Amal al-Hashem, a Dubai resident of 15 years, told AFP news agency on a largely deserted street on Sunday, the start of the week in the Gulf.
Kuwait has taken the most drastic measures in the GCC by largely locking down the country over the weekend, the only nation other than Italy to do so.
Kuwait City‘s main airport road was empty as all commercial flights to and from the small Gulf nation had been suspended.
Drones in the skies were sounding messages in multiple languages, urging people to return to their homes.
In Qatar‘s capital, Doha, the usually bustling market in the heart of the tourist centre was eerily quiet, while Riyadh’s shopping district also lay barren.
The Gulf countries have shut down cinemas and other entertainment centres – some even closing gyms and spas – as well as halting one of the region’s favourite pastimes, smoking shisha in cafes.
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