Covid-19: Behind the scenes of UAE's response to pandemic


Abu Dhabi - The UAE has done a ‘fabulous job’ with the massive RT-PCR testing.

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Ashwani Kumar

Published: Mon 21 Jun 2021, 5:37 PM

The selfless service of healthcare workers, proactive planning and efficient deployment of nationwide vaccination and screening drives are steering the UAE’s fight against the pandemic, an Abu Dhabi-based medical expert and WHO panellist said.

Dr Emmanuel Nsutebu, chief of infectious diseases at Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City, and member of the Abu Dhabi Government Health Service Infectious Disease and Infection Control Council, and the SEHA Critical Care Council – both leading the response against Covid-19, said that the UAE has a robust healthcare system to manage any crisis.

Giving an insight into the composition of the councils, Dr Emmanuel noted it comprises a bunch of multi-disciplinary experts with infection prevention specialists, infection disease consultants, microbiologists, obstetricians, paediatricians, pharmacists and more who have worked tirelessly round the clock to bring the situation under control.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have been meeting them regularly to lead and coordinate the infectious disease and infection control aspects of Covid-19 response. They are very motivated experts in their field who have done a huge amount of work behind the scenes to contain the spread of Covid-19,” said Dr Emmanuel, who has also participated in three Covid-19 panels of the WHO Living Guidelines for therapeutics, clinical management and drugs.

Vaccination a game-changer

Dr Emmanuel highlighted that the nationwide vaccination drive has been the ‘game changer’.

“The Covid-19 vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel. Being able to get more than 87 per cent of the population vaccinated in a few months is a huge achievement. It has been a crucial reason why we see the number of new infections coming down, as well as the number of people admitted to the hospitals.”

Dr Emmanuel pointed out that the UAE has done a ‘fabulous job’ with the massive RT-PCR testing.

“Identifying and isolating positive cases and placing in quarantine people who may have been in contact with the patient, has been done successfully.”

Dr Emmanuel noted that the UAE has offered world-class medical care to Covid-19 patients.

“SEHA network across the UAE has taken responsibility to basically look after everybody diagnosed with Covid-19. It is a huge amount of work, but shows the strength of the UAE’s healthcare system. The public healthcare system has looked after Covid-19 patients, whether you have insurance or not. It’s a privilege for someone like me to see that.”

New variant, a cause for concern

Unfortunately, the number of new cases is going up in the last couple of weeks.

“What we are seeing now, a cause for concern, is the new variants of Covid-19 appearing in different parts of the world that are potentially more transmissible, can cause severe illness, also in younger people, and may render the vaccine not as effective. This includes the variants in India more recently, the UK, Brazil and South Africa. So, while there is positive news (in the UAE), we have to be mindful.”

Dr Emmanuel pointed out that no one is safe unless everyone in the world is vaccinated, and urged residents to be cautious and follow safety measures even after taking the jab.

He stressed on even people with other chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, lung disease, taking the vaccine.

“The UAE has done an excellent job of controlling Covid-19. It’s an example for other countries to really learn from. I am British and originally from Cameroon. Given that what has been done in the UAE in terms of public health measures and treatment, it has been a breath of fresh air to be able to see how Covid-19 is managed. In particular, Abu Dhabi has harnessed its strong technology infrastructure to develop platforms to combat the pandemic and ensure the highest level of services, connectivity, easy access and integration between the public and private sectors and the community of Abu Dhabi. For most of us, as expatriates, we are lucky to be in the UAE during this pandemic.”

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