Face masks are no longer required in most indoor public places in the UAE as sweeping changes to Covid-19 safety rules came into effect on Wednesday.
The easing of the mandate is a significant step forward in the country's fight against the virus, which first emerged in late 2019 and swiftly spread around the globe.
Under the overhaul of safety measures, face coverings are now optional in schools, venues such as malls, restaurants and places of work, and on flights to the Emirates.
Head teachers welcomed the lifting of face mask rules ― announced on Monday ― and said it will have a positive effect on children's development.
Rebecca Coulter, principal at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park, said this was a day school principals had been waiting for.
“We are thrilled at the news that masks will no longer need to be worn in school,” Ms Coulter said.
“It will be great to see people’s faces, smiles and reactions.
“Wearing a face mask is optional in the UAE and on Emirates flights,” Emirates said on its website.
“If you are travelling from or transiting through Dubai International, the mask rules of your destination will apply throughout your journey.”
Flydubai said wearing masks was no longer mandatory on its flights to the emirate.
“Effective from September 28 [Wednesday], passengers travelling to Dubai do not need to wear a face mask while on board their flight,” guidance on the airline's website said.
“At the airport, wearing a face mask is optional and not mandatory.”
It said travellers flying out of Dubai would have to follow mask rules in place at the destination they were travelling to.
“The requirement for passengers travelling from or through Dubai to wear a face mask is determined by the rules applicable at the final destination or transit point.”
Etihad Airways said on Tuesday that masks on its flights are optional “following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in Abu Dhabi”.
For outbound flights, the national airline said masks “will only be required for passengers flying to China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Maldives, Philippines, South Korea, Seychelles” as well as Canada until September 30.
People will be required to wear face coverings only in places of worship, hospitals and on public transport ― which includes buses, metros and taxis ― the authorities said in a televised briefing on Monday.
The relaxation of Covid-19 protocols comes during a sharp drop in infection rates in recent months.
Daily infection rates ― which were as high as 1,800 in early July ― have stayed below 500 since August and are at their lowest levels since May.
Until now, people had to wear a mask until they were seated or eating in a cafe or restaurant.
Face masks have been central to local and international efforts to save lives and reduce infections.
For much of the pandemic, people in the UAE were mandated to wear face coverings in indoor and outdoor settings.
In February authorities lifted the requirement to wear face coverings outside.