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Covid-19: Several Gulf states see daily cases rise to near 2020 highs

The UAE, the region's tourism hub, has seen the biggest surge with daily infections tripling in six weeks
Last week, visitors from several countries told Middle East Eye they were shocked by how desolate Dubai felt (AFP)

Several Gulf Arab states have seen daily coronavirus cases climb back towards highs recorded last year, prompting authorities to reimpose restrictions on travel and gatherings as they roll out vaccination campaigns.

Bahrain on Tuesday registered 759 new daily infections, slightly above the previous record number in September. 

The kingdom also banned prayers at mosques for two weeks as of Thursday, state news agency BNA said. Daily infections had fallen below 200 late last year.

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In Kuwait, daily cases rose above 1,000 on Tuesday for the first time since May, after having fallen below 300 in December.

On 7 February, the country suspended the entry of non-Kuwaitis for two weeks except for first-degree relatives, such as parents and children, and accompanying domestic workers. It also closed gyms and salons, Reuters reported.

Saudi Arabia, where daily infections have risen to above 300 but are still far from the daily highs of nearly 4,000 recorded last year, has indefinitely suspended entry for non-citizens from 20 countries, with the exception of diplomats and health workers.

'It looks abandoned'

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), the region's tourism hub to which visitors flocked in December, has seen the biggest surge, with daily infections tripling in around six weeks to a record 3,977 on 3 February.

The numbers have since edged down but the UAE on Tuesday recorded 17 deaths linked to the virus, its highest daily figure since the outbreak began.

Last week, visitors from several countries told Middle East Eye they were shocked by how desolate Dubai felt. 

Solaiman, a frequent visitor from Washington, said he was surprised by how easily he could walk through the areas around downtown Dubai, the Palace Hotel and the Burj Khalifa fountains.

"No one is there anymore," he said. "There used to be a time when no matter what time of day you were by the fountains you had to walk through a crush of people. Now it just looks abandoned."

The UAE ranks among top countries globally, along with Bahrain, for most vaccine doses administered per population.