DUBAI: Some Europeans have extended their stay in Dubai this winter to avoid strict coronavirus lockdown at home and make the most of lighter restrictions to work, learn, dine out and relax by the pool.
Wary of the backlash some celebrities have faced for posting selfies on social media of poolside drinks and luxury hotels during the pandemic, they stress that what they are doing is as practical as it is pleasant.
Zane Scotland, a British professional golfer-turned-coach, arrived in Dubai for a six-day break with his wife and son.
With the six-year-old's school closed and online learning available, and plenty of golf courses in Dubai where professionals are looking to train, the family decided to remain until things improved back home.
"I would say nobody is going home, everybody has decided to stay on longer," the 38-year-old told Reuters on a golf course under the winter sun.
"You can do a lot and you can operate more freely being here ... So you know, the ones who can afford to be here, pretty much everyone has extended and ... taken that view of being constructive while being here."
Dubai is one of the few destinations open to international travel since July.
It has had to tighten rules, however, amid a sharp rise in coronavirus cases across the United Arab Emirates. Daily infections tripled over the past month to hit a record 3,966 on Jan. 28 in the UAE.
Along with mandatory mask-wearing in public and social distancing, Dubai has further restricted capacity at restaurants and social gatherings and banned live entertainment.
Some countries, including Britain, have halted direct flights from the UAE, which includes Dubai.
Scotland said he was careful what he posted online.
"I'm posting about the work that I'm doing. You do have to be mindful, because there are people in a really difficult situation. We haven't had any backlash. I'd like to think it's because we're being respectful and doing what we normally do."
For Italian venture capitalist Paolo Pio, who is single and normally lives in London, Dubai is an ideal alternative.
"The privilege I have is that I can work remotely," he said in his hotel's co-working space.
"If I live on my own in a London apartment for this entire time and I don't see anybody, I certainly will suffer mentally and it certainly would be very unproductive, right? So, I chose to be in the place that allows me to be the most productive."
(Writing by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Janet Lawrence)