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The Four Percent


Allowing alcohol deliveries in Dubai during the pandemic may be surprising to some, since drinking is illegal in the neighboring emirate of Sharjah and the nations of Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

But in normal times, Dubai residents can sip at cocktail lounges or soak themselves at Champagne brunches, perhaps the most visible compromise the emirate has made between its Muslim identity and its many expatriate workers and tourists. Foreigners drive cabs, pick up the garbage, run restaurants and power the other industries that make Dubai a global business hub and tourist destination, leading to looser restrictions on behavior than in many of its neighbors.

But allowing home deliveries of spirits is new.

Alcohol delivery, now offered via online order by the city’s major alcohol distributors, is a nod to another reality — that of a citywide lockdown, in which only one member of each household is allowed outside at a time for essential trips. Only tourists who can show a foreign passport and residents with an alcohol license, available to non-Muslims over 21, can order the alcohol, which ranges from a $4.36 bottle of Indian blended whiskey to a $780 bottle of California red wine.

The lockdown is being stringently enforced, blending the high-functioning efficiency that has streamlined Dubai’s economy and government authoritarianism that brooks little dissent. People must obtain a police permit online each time they leave home. Everyone must wear masks and gloves outside.

The Dubai police have said they will not hesitate to “name shame,” arrest and even jail people who mock the stay-home measures on social media.

But it was a striking contrast to the policy in Bangkok, where the authorities announced on Thursday that the sale of alcohol would be banned from Friday until April 20 to discourage gatherings next week during Songkran, the Thai New Year. Songkran celebrations, which can attract large crowds, were canceled earlier.

Bangkok, which is under a partial lockdown, is one of more than 10 jurisdictions in Thailand that have enacted some form of alcohol ban in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.



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