Unvaccinated people stopped from entering malls, restaurants, cafes, retail outlets, and other public places.
Scores of shoppers who did not have a green pass were turned away at some malls in the Capital as new Covid-19 rules came into effect in the emirate on Friday.
From August 20, entry to public places in Abu Dhabi is granted only to Covid-19 vaccinated individuals and those who hold a green status — which appears after a negative PCR test result and remains valid for 30 days — on the AlHosn app.
The activation of the green pass system prohibits unvaccinated people from entering shopping malls, restaurants, cafes, retail outlets, gyms, recreational facilities and sporting activities, health clubs, resorts and educational institutions.
“I have been turned away because my AlHosn app is in grey status. I wasn’t aware about the new rules,” said Mohammad Khan who had visited Mushrif Mall for shopping on Friday morning.
“I am fully vaccinated, but I have spent weeks without doing a PCR test. I will have to undergo a Covid test this afternoon to avoid such inconveniences,” he added.
A security guard at Mushrif mall told Khaleej Times that by 11am they had turned away more than 50 shoppers whose AlHosn apps did not show green and those who had come to the mall without their mobile phones.
Saborna Banerjee, 32, an Indian sales executive who had visited Mushrif Mall to do some shopping with her husband says she likes the new rules.
“I am fully vaccinated and my AlHosn app holds a green status. I had no issues at the mall entrance,” said Banerjee.
“I am happy with the new rules. It feels safe being inside here when you know that everyone around you is free from the virus after being checked before accessing the mall.”
Tuhin Bose, 33, an Indian procurement engineer, who also visited Mushrif Mall on Friday morning said it was crucial for the authorities to introduce new rules as it would promote safety.
“The activation of the green pass system in shopping malls and other public places would reduce the spread of Covid-19 and improve safety as many people visit these public places daily,” he said.
Measures at malls to ensure only green pass holders get access
Managers and owners of businesses and shopping malls in Abu Dhabi had received a circular from local authorities detailing the new entry restrictions, exemptions and amendments relating to the operating capacity.
Speaking to Khaleej Times on Friday, Aravind Ravi, manager of Mushrif Mall said the first day of implementing the new rules has been a bit challenging as some shoppers were not aware of the requirements.
“So far things are moving well, although we have faced a few challenges as some people are not aware of the new rules,” he said. “Our security guards turned away those who did not have the green pass and advised them to go and take PCR tests so their status can change to green. We are hopeful that things will be good over the coming days as shoppers will have got used to the new measures.”
Ravi noted that all their security personnel have received special training and instructions on what to check on the app and details about the exempted categories.
“We have put in place measures to ensure that there are no long queues at the entrances. We have put signages and stickers with new rules at all entry points and shoppers will have no issues accessing the mall,” he said.
Bhupinder Singh, general Manager and CFO of Dalma Mall said they have stepped up security at all the entrances to ensure implementation of the new measures and smooth movement of shoppers.
“We have placed more security guards at the entrances to ensure only those with green pass are allowed access and to prevent long queues,” said Singh.
“Internet connection at all entrances has also been enhanced to enable shoppers open their AlHosn apps easily.”
Singh noted that the EDE Covid-19 scanners that were introduced at the mall last year will continue to be used to scan shoppers after checking their AlHosp apps because they had helped promote safety at their mall.
“Authorities haven’t stopped us from using the EDE Covid scanners. They had increased people’s confidence as they can move around knowing that everyone is Covid-19 negative and we shall continue using them.”
At Al Wahda Mall, guideline communications have been placed at all entrances and additional staff deployed to speed up the verification process.
“The mall management will ensure AlHosn app verification is done fast and smoothly,” said an official from Al Wahda mall.
Capacity of public places increased
With the new Covid rules, the capacity for shopping malls has been doubled to 80 per cent and cinemas are now up to 40 per cent from the previous 30 per cent. Similarly, entertainment centres, cultural centres, museums can function at 80 per cent capacity.
Additionally, restaurants and cafes can have guests up to 80 per cent, allowing up to 10 people to sit at one table. But guests have to wear masks when they are not dining.
Capacity cap at community and sports events, corporate meets such as exhibitions and conferences, entertainment events and wedding halls has been increased to 60 per cent. People attending these events must show a negative PCR test result received within 48 hours of the event.
Public transportation will now operate with 75 per cent passenger capacity from 50 percent previously.
According to the new measures, a taxi driver can travel with up to three passengers in a 5-person taxi and four in a 7-person taxi.
Also, wedding halls can have guests up to 60 per cent capacity with a maximum of 100 people in the hall.
Community members are encouraged to implement the green pass system at private events and family gatherings to preserve public health and curb the spread of the virus.
The operating capacity of health clubs, sports academies, gyms and spas will be maintained at 50 per cent. People have been urged to wear masks and follow physical distance.
The new regulations also have to be followed at museums, cultural centres and theme parks.