June 20, 2021

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UAE pledges $27B in stimulus as Mideast works to slow virus

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The central bank of the United Arab Emirates, home to the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai, on Sunday announced a $27 billion stimulus package to deal with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The money will go toward supporting the country’s banks, and regulatory limits on loans will be eased.

Nations across the Middle East have pledged to stimulate their economies as they weather the global pandemic, which has led to widespread school closures, the cancellation of sporting and other events, as well as sweeping lockdowns in some hard-hit areas.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Most people recover in a matter of weeks. But the virus is highly contagious and can be spread by individuals with no visible symptoms.

The virus has spread to more than 100 countries and infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed more than 5,700. Iran is home to the biggest outbreak in the Middle East, with nearly 13,000 cases and more than 600 deaths.

More than 70,000 people worldwide have recovered after being infected.

Countries across the Middle East have imposed sweeping travel restrictions, cancelled public events and in some cases called on non-essential businesses to close for the coming weeks.

Dubai Parks & Resorts announced it would be closed through the end of the month. The sprawling amusement park, built at a cost of $3 billion, has lost hundreds of millions of dollars since opening.

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, shut down its amusement parks and museums through the end of the month, including Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Tiny, oil-rich Kuwait meanwhile shut down malls, salons and barbershops to slow the spread of the virus. Authorities allowed coffee shops to remain open, but said no more than five customers can wait in line at a time and must be a meter apart from each other.

Saudi Arabia separately announced its own $13 billion stimulus plan.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial on serious corruption charges, which was supposed to begin this week, was postponed for two months due to restrictions on public gatherings.

Netanyahu has meanwhile been pressing for an emergency unity government with his main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz, following three inconclusive elections and more than a year of political deadlock. Gantz has appeared open to the idea.

Israel imposed sweeping travel and quarantine measures more than a week ago but has seen its number of confirmed cases double in the last two days, to around 200. On Saturday, the government said restaurants, malls, movies, gyms and daycare centers would close. Schools and universities have already been shut down until next month.

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