The multibillion-dollar world's fair in Dubai has warned that some venues on site may shut down as coronavirus cases rapidly rise in the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai's Expo 2020 said that virus outbreaks among staff may force some parts of the fair to “close temporarily for deep cleaning and sanitization," without elaborating on the scope or the location of the infections. In addition, the organizers announced on Monday that the mega event had registered over 8 million visits, reported Khaleej Times, the Dubai daily.
The UAE's daily virus caseload has skyrocketed by a multiple of 37 in just the last three weeks after the arrival of the omicron variant.
The vague statement from Dubai's government-run media office on Monday underscores the daunting challenges of hosting among the world's first major in-person events amid a still-raging pandemic. The fair opened in October after a year's delay as the UAE bet that its rapid vaccine rollout would allow its economy to avoid the closures that have paralyzed much of the West. This first-ever World Expo 2020 in the United Arab Emirates was previously scheduled from October 20, 2020, to April 10, 2021.
Expo tries to enforce various virus precautions, with face masks mandatory on the fairgrounds and a vaccination certificate or recent negative virus test needed for entry. But the highly transmissible omicron variant, which is thought to evade immunity from vaccination, poses a new test.
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There have been no visible social distancing requirements at Expo's massive concerts in recent weeks where revelers have rammed up against each other, waving their hands to the music.With Dubai's peak winter tourism season in full swing, the world's fair has vaulted into the spotlight. Millions of tourists from around the world are flocking to the sprawling site packed with scores of national pavilions, restaurants, shops and performance stages. Christmas parades drew crowds last week and Expo is now gearing up for big concerts to attract party-goers on New Year's Eve.