COVID-19 in the Middle East: UAE closes all fresh food markets, supermarkets allowed to open 24 hours

By Guan Yu Lim

- Last updated on GMT

UAE shuts all fresh food markets, but food retail outlets and supermarkets allowed to open ©Getty Images
UAE shuts all fresh food markets, but food retail outlets and supermarkets allowed to open ©Getty Images

Related tags Middle east Uae Saudi arabia qatar Iran Supermarket COVID-19

The UAE government has closed all fish, meat and vegetable markets for two weeks in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention and the National Emergency and Crisis and Disasters Management Authority said the decision will be subjected to review and re-assessment.

In the announcement, the UAE is also closing all commercial centres and shopping malls. This excludes pharmacies, and food retail outlets, including cooperative societies, grocery stores, and supermarkets, along with fish, meat and vegetables markets dealing with wholesalers.

Restaurants are also not be allowed to receive customers. Instead, their services will be limited to home deliveries only.


The two authorities said that all food retail outlets, including cooperative societies, grocery stores, supermarkets, and pharmacies are permitted to remain open 24 hours a day.

However, they must not exceed a maximum capacity of 30% of their total occupancy in order to ensure the minimum recommended physical distance of two metres between customers.

These follow social distancing protocols aimed at minimising shared spaces and overcrowding in line with the precautionary measures taken to contain the spread of COVID-19.

In a joint statement, both authorities said: "All bodies concerned have to abide by the preventive and precautionary measures taken by the State's competent bodies to ensure public safety and people's well-being​."

Across the Gulf

In the Middle East, other countries have been one step ahead of the UAE with announcement of closures done earlier.

Saudi Arabia has shut down all commercial markets and malls, apart from pharmacies, supermarkets, and hypermarkets. In an official statement​ by the Ministry of Interior on March 16, they said these businesses were allowed to remain open for 24 hours, but must commit to sterilising all shopping carts after every use.

Meanwhile in Qatar, it was a similar scenario. In a press conference​ held by the Supreme Committee for Crisis Management, with effect from March 17, all retail stores and shopping centres are shut down, with the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies.

In the worst-hit country in Middle East, Iran has closed all schools, sports, cultural and religious events. The country has one of the highest death toll​ at 2,077, only behind Italy, Spain and China.  

At the time of reporting, there are more than 481,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 22,300 deaths worldwide.

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