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In the UAE’s COVID-19 Response, Abu Dhabi Puts Itself First

MIN READAug 3, 2021 | 17:48 GMT

A photo taken in April 2018 shows the Abu Dhabi skyline at sunrise.

(Rustam Azmi/Getty Images)

In the United Arab Emirates, diverging domestic COVID-19 strategies could undermine the federal government’s nation-building project and potentially mobilize a population that has so far remained largely absent from politics. The COVID-19 pandemic has handed the United Arab Emirates its first true national emergency since 1971. And the country’s seven emirates have not dealt with the crisis equally. Initially, the country took a strict lockdown-heavy approach when the first wave of the virus hit the Arab Gulf in the spring of 2020. But by the fall, Dubai and the northern emirates had all reopened their borders to tourists and largely normalized their economies. The country’s capital emirate of Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, has maintained strict border controls throughout the pandemic, using its deep pockets to prop up its economy. This divergence in COVID-19 strategies has threatened the United Arab Emirates’ notion of nationhood, with citizens unable to freely enter their capital...

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