Abu Dhabi: The need for masks and social distancing is expected to continue in the UAE as precautions have proven effective against the spread of the coronavirus, a senior health official in the capital said today.
It is now the responsibility of the community to “normalize” life as much as possible amidst these preventive measures, said Dr Jamal Al Kaabi, undersecretary to the Abu Dhabi health regulator, the ministry of health. Health (DoH).
“No matter what you see happening in the world, the UAE is basing its strategies on science. Is the removal of the masking mandate backed by science? When, at the end of 2020, we saw a drop in COVID-19 cases, we did not stop building field hospitals and increasing intensive care capacity. We also haven’t removed the masking mandate or social distancing rules. We then kept the basics until we could be 100% sure there were no cases, ”Dr Al Kaabi told Gulf News.
“So my feeling is that [the masking regulation] continue to. It is now up to the community to standardize [lives] in the midst of these precautions, ”he added.
Dr Al Kaabi was speaking on the sidelines of a seminar at Abu Dhabi University that examined the UAE’s experience with COVID-19. Top health experts discussed the multi-pronged strategy used in the country to successfully reduce the number of COVID-19 cases. The seminar was organized under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, President of the General Women’s Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Children and Supreme President of the Family Development Foundation.
“It is now as if we are very close to a normal [pre-COVID-19] life. We are seeing a decrease in the number of cases and the lowest death rates. This type of successful COVID-19 management strategy has been possible for one main reason – the support of our wise leadership who supports efforts and takes a visionary approach to everything, ”said Dr Al Kaabi. The UAE’s strategy was therefore proactive from the start. “We didn’t wait for the virus to come to us. We went [to combat it]”, said the official.
Multifaceted Strategy – Testing and Screening
On the one hand, the United Arab Emirates launched a mass screening program in the first months of the pandemic, and it is still ongoing. The country has also ensured the availability of large-scale COVID-19 testing in the country, with the country ranking third in the world for the number of COVID-19 PCR tests performed per 1,000 people.
“We started with 1,000 PCR tests a day, and it took us five days to get the results. Today the country performs more than 300,000 tests per day and the results are available within 24 hours, ”said Dr Al Kaabi.
Precautions against covid19
This was supported by basic preventive measures against COVID-19, such as compulsory mask wearing and social distancing in public.
At the same time, the country’s strategic stockpile has helped ensure that residents do not suffer from shortages of food and medicine, said Dr Nawal Al Kaabi, chief medical officer of Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, who also led the trials of Sinopharm in the United Arab Emirates.
The United Arab Emirates also hosted the largest clinical trial for the inactivated Sinopharm vaccine and also continues to study the immunity-boosting effect of the vaccine on children. He also contributed to the clinical trial of the Sputnik V vaccine.
The United Arab Emirates was also one of the first countries to implement a nationwide vaccination campaign, offering a range of COVID-19 vaccines for free to residents. It is now one of the countries with the highest vaccination rates in the world, with more than 80% of the population fully vaccinated this month. In addition, residents are also already receiving booster shots if they completed their vaccination six months ago.
Latest treatment methods
In addition to vaccine trials, health officials continued to review and introduce the latest treatments for COVID-19, including plasmapheresis, stem cell therapies and now, monoclonal antibody therapy – Sotrovimab – which has dramatically reduced hospitalizations and mortality among COVID-19 patients. This kind of flexibility in the healthcare system has helped help the UAE maintain low COVID-19-related death rates.
-Regular information: Federal and local authorities across the country have published a constant stream of reliable information for residents through press briefings and social media channels.
“Until today, we urge residents to rely on these official channels for information and to check everything they hear from friends or family. Take the example of people who are afraid of being vaccinated against COVID-19. Where do they get this information from when all the scientific evidence shows vaccines minimize symptoms of COVID-19 infection? Said Dr Al Kaabi.
On top of that, the UAE has quarantine programs and home quarantine regulations in place for people arriving from overseas. Dr Al Kaabi explained that this is still in place in Abu Dhabi.
“In addition, we now also have a monitoring capability that allows us to take proactive measures before symptoms develop,” he added.
Focus on people at high risk
The UAE also has special programs in place to vaccinate older people against COVID-19 in the comfort of their homes. At the same time, distribution networks have stepped up efforts to deliver treatment and medication to people at risk in their homes, while telehealth systems have made many advances in treating patients remotely.
In anticipation of Expo 2020
“The difficult times the world and the United Arab Emirates have witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic have taught us many valuable lessons and pushed us to seize the opportunities. Given where we are at, everyone is now looking forward to the start of Expo 2020, and today looks like a celebration of our achievements so far, ”said Dr Al Kaabi.
Dr Ali Saeed Al Dhaheri, Chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees, thanked UAE leaders for their proactive strategy to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[In the initial days of the pandemic], His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, urged the people of the United Arab Emirates not to worry, and those words will always resonate with nations because of their powerful effect. His statement succeeded in reducing public panic and giving hope at times when desperation seemed to fill the air, ”recalls Al Dhaheri.
Health officials gathered at Abu Dhabi University for a seminar on the UAE’s COVID-19 experience. Photo provided