The last week of May and the first day of June have witnessed a sigh of relief as millions who have been home for over two months in the Arab world can now finally go out and about. Imposed quarantines, ghost towns, and the general panic that's been our daily bread since mid-March are easing down and retreating. 

Countries like Egypt and Jordan are on their way to reopening their countries - internally, for the time being - while Lebanon, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia are already mid-way through their "business as usual" plans.

The novel coronavirus pandemic, which has so far infected over 6.2 million individuals worldwide, seems to be relatively under control in some nations. However, governments everywhere are struggling to revive their economies and thus resorting to ease lockdowns.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, COVID-19, coronavirus, Panorama Mall Riyadh, Riyadh, mall
Saudis shop at the Panorama Mall in the capital Riyadh on May 22, 2020. Photo Credit: AFP Source: Al Arabiya

Mosques, over 90,000 of them, have reopened to the public in the kingdom, with strict measures and rules awaiting worshipers at the doors. Anything from prayer rugs and washrooms to copies of the Quran have been sanitized for the return of believers, though the frequency at which the sanitization process will take place remains unconfirmed. People intending to attend daily or Friday prayers need to keep a two-meter distance from others while always wearing a face mask and avoiding hugs and handshakes. 

The Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Kaaba will remain closed to the public. 

As for restaurants and coffee shops, their popularity appears to have remained the same if not increased after mandatory lockdowns had people isolated at home for over 60 days. Groups of up to five people can be seated at the same table - unless part of one family - and a distance of 1.5 meters needs to be applied between customers. 

Saudi Arabia, a country that introduced tourist visas in September 2019, was investing millions of dollars in its entertainment scene to generate revenue that's not linked to oil. With no Hajj, Umrah, or tourism planned for 2020, the kingdom can only focus on internal economic activities to decrease its losses. 

Though international flights remain a plan for the future, domestic ones have resumed end of May.

Businesses in the public and private sectors have reopened their offices with a 30-percent capacity and other safety measures in place. 

The kingdom, which has so far recorded 85,261 infections and 503 deaths, aims to return to normal life starting June 21. 


Dubai, beach, Jumeirah, COVID-19
People enjoy a day at the beach at Jumeirah's Al-Naseem beach. Photo Credit: AFP Source: The National

In Dubai, economic and entertainment activities are back. Gyms, restaurants, cinemas, malls, beaches, and parks have reopened as of late May and are witnessing crowds longing for life pre-coronavirus. Businesses are also back on track, with offices welcoming employees at a 50-percent capacity under tight measures. 

Dubai's Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management has announced that children under six years old, people of determination, and those with respiratory problems are spared from wearing masks in public. Those driving alone or with family, exercising, or undergoing medical treatments are also allowed to remove their masks.

Abu Dhabi, the country's capital, however, has banned flights in and out of the city as well as Al-Ain and Al-Dhafrah. This measure will last a week starting Tuesday and is meant to "enhance the effectiveness of the 'National Screening Program and reduce the spread of covid-19,'" according to the Abu Dhabi Media Office. 

Beaches at hotels in Abu Dhabi are now allowed to open at a 40-percent capacity while "hotel pools, spas and gyms remain closed until further notice."

Emirates, UAE's carrier, will resume flights in the region starting July 1.

The UAE, which has so far recorded 34,557 infections and 264 deaths, is on its way to a smooth return to normal life. 


Beirut, Lebanon, Raouche, COVID-19
People walking along Beirut's seaside Corniche. Photo Credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir Source: Reuters

Lebanon has been steadily circling around the novel coronavirus pandemic, even after being hit with a second wave that held over 60 new cases a day last week. 

The country has reduced its curfew, meaning people can now be out on the streets until midnight, with restaurants and coffee shops ready to receive them. Mar Mikhael, a popular street in Beirut among young people, has been witnessing somewhat normal traffic for the past two weeks, though many pubs and eateries remain closed. 

Even though businesses and offices are open again, some industries like gyms, parks, nightclubs, and nurseries will remain closed for the time being.

As for the reopening date of the airport, the only international one in the country and which was supposed to reopen on June 8, the final decision will be taken based on a two-week stable decline in new cases, according to Health Minister Hamad Hasan. If zero to a few cases surface in the coming 14 days, the airport could open again on June 21.

The odd and even system for cars stands still, with plates ending with even numbers allowed to be driven on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and those ending with odd numbers allowed on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. All cars are allowed to be driven on Sundays.

Lebanon, which has so far recorded 1,220 infections and 27 deaths, could be lockdown-free come July, though the economic crisis facing the citizens rings no bell of normalcy.