March 21, 2020 / 7:12 PM / 14 days ago

UPDATE 1-UAE banks ease pressure on core industries as social restrictions tighten

* Loans to be rescheduled, delayed

* Beaches, parks to close

* Restaurants to stay open at reduced capacity (Adds banks’ measures, details, context)

DUBAI/CAIRO, March 21 (Reuters) - Banks in the United Arab Emirates announced a raft of measures on Saturday they said would benefit the biggest contributors to the economy as the country announced its first deaths linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

Aviation, hospitality, healthcare, retail, event management, consumer goods and education would be prioritised by the banks, which will reschedule or delay loan payments, reduce instalments and cut or reduce fees, state news agency WAM reported.

Dubai’s largest bank Emirates NBD, Dubai Islamic , Emirates Islamic and Commercial Bank of Dubai, all state-linked, will introduce the measures from April 1 to June 30, WAM reported.

Mashreq is also taking part and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) announced similar measures earlier on Saturday.

The UAE also announced it was temporarily closing beaches and parks after they attracted large numbers of people over the weekend, while restaurants and cafes would have to reduce capacity to 20% of normal if they wished to stay open.

Schools, cinemas, gyms, nightclubs and some bars have already been shuttered and many concerts and sporting events have been cancelled.

The Gulf Arab state over the weekend reported two deaths linked to the coronavirus, its first fatalities. There have been 153 infections. Dubai government’s media office tweeted that people should stay home.

The Central Bank has said it plans to support banks and businesses in the country with a 100 billion dirham ($27 billion) stimulus package.

Dubai’s Emirates and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways have announced a series of flight suspensions as the coronavirus epidemic crushes travel demand.

Saudi Arabia, which is on virtual lockdown, on Saturday launched a social media campaign urging people to stay at home as “our strongest weapon against coronavirus”.

Qatar, which has reported 481 cases of infection, said on Saturday it is closing parks and public beaches until further notice. (Reporting by Yousef Saba and Samar Hassan Editing by David Holmes)

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