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Dubai to set up field hospitals to cope with any coronavirus surge - official

DUBAI (Reuters) - The emirate of Dubai is preparing field hospitals to handle any surge in cases of the new coronavirus, a health official said on Thursday, as the United Arab Emirates saw its infection count more than double in the last week.

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The UAE has reported 2,659 cases with 12 deaths, the second highest among six Gulf Arab states whose tally has passed 10,500 infections despite containment efforts, including halting passenger flights, imposing curfews and closing public venues.

The UAE does not provide a breakdown in numbers for each of its seven emirates. Dubai, a tourism and business hub, is the only UAE emirate to have expanded a nationwide nightly curfew into a 24-hour one and has locked down two districts, Al Ras and Naif, which have a large population of low-wage foreign workers.

Humaid Al Qutami, director general of the Dubai Health Authority, told a televised news conference the UAE had early on prepared scenario models on a federal level, including providing hospital and quarantine centre capacity to handle 10,000 COVID-19 cases or more if needed.

“We will have more than two field hospitals ready in Dubai in the coming days to be ready for any situation,” he said, adding that the hospitals could offer between 4,000-5,000 beds.

“In Dubai we are offering five-star hotels as quarantine centres,” he said in response to a question on capacity.

Authorities in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi and in Dubai are also using idle hotels to monitor people with minor cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter have said. [nL8N2BW3YD]

Other Gulf Arab states including Qatar, Oman and Kuwait have sealed off areas to contain the community spread among foreign workers, who make up the bulk of the labour force and often live in overcrowded accommodation, including labour camps. Oman has locked down Muscat governorate, which includes the capital.

Millions of migrant workers, mainly from Asian countries, including Nepal, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, are among the region’s large expatriate population.

Two diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity there had been an outbreak in Dubai’s Al Ras and Naif districts, with one estimating hundreds could be infected. Dubai government’s media office has not responded to Reuters’ emails about the extent of the outbreak in the emirate.

Lieutenant General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, commander in chief of Dubai Police, told the news conference authorities had disinfected the two districts and conducted tests there, but gave no specific details.

Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous and Alexander Cornwell; editing by Barbara Lewis