Exclusive: Dubai ready for any Covid emergency with crisis plan

Dubai - Safety rules have been tightened in the emirate following a recent spike in Covid cases, says top official in exclusive interview.

Dr. Alawi Alsheikh Ali, Deputy Director-General, Dubai Health Authority.
Dr. Alawi Alsheikh Ali, Deputy Director-General, Dubai Health Authority.

Anjana Sankar

Published: Sun 7 Feb 2021, 6:06 PM

Last updated: Sun 7 Feb 2021, 6:18 PM

Dr. Alawi Alsheikh Ali, the new Deputy Director-General (D-G) of Dubai Health Authority (DHA), has said that the emirate’s Covid-19 crisis preparations plans were ready, and the authorities would respond swiftly to any evolving situation amid its intensified efforts to administer vaccines to all eligible nationals and residents.

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“Dubai is comprehensively prepared to manage every aspect of the current situation. Crisis plans have been developed for all possible scenarios,” said Dr Alsheikh Ali told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.

Dr Alsheikh Ali took charge as the deputy chief of DHA at the end of January when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced a shake-up at DHA’s top-level leadership.

Awad Al Ketbi was appointed as the new D-G replacing Humaid Al Qatami.

Earlier, Dr Alsheikh Ali had served as the Provost of Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and the founding Dean of MBRU’s College of Medicine. He holds a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and two Master of Science (MS) degrees from Boston University and Tufts University in the United States (US).

New restrictions

DHA has tightened restrictions on public gatherings in a bid to rein in the contagion after Dr Alsheikh Ali took charge as the deputy D-G, DHA.

Dubai has closed its pubs and bars; axed entertainment events and shows at Global Village, reduced shopping malls and hotels' capacity to 70 per cent; indoor venues and cinemas to 50 per cent; and directed restaurants and cafes to close by 1am.

When asked whether Dubai would head to another lockdown to rein in the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, the official said the health authority would remain agile and ready for any eventuality.

“Throughout the pandemic, Dubai has proven its exemplary preparedness to deal with the most challenging of Covid-19 situations. We’re closely monitoring local and global trends and the rapidly emerging science and will continue to be guided by data and science and will remain agile, decisive and swift in responding to any evolving risks,” he said.

Vaccination drive

Dr Alsheikh Ali said Dubai aimed to make the vaccine available to 100 per cent of all eligible people. “In the UAE, 4,201,347 million vaccination doses have been administered until February 6, covering over a quarter of the population, with the majority now having both the doses. In Dubai specifically, vaccination campaigns are progressing rapidly. We aim to make the vaccine available to 100 per cent of eligible people in Dubai over the coming months.”

However, the emirate would not be offering vaccines to visitors and tourists, clarified the official.

“To achieve herd immunity, we need to focus on vaccinating people who live in the community. Therefore, the currently authorised vaccines are available for UAE citizens and Dubai residents,” said Dr Alsheikh Ali.

Dubai has rolled out three different kind of vaccines against Covid-19: Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sinopharm, all of which have been authorised by the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP). “We’ll continue to pursue other vaccine options as they become available. The important message to the community members is that they should get vaccinated if they're eligible,” he said.

More vaccine centres to be set up

The DHA deputy-director said Dubai has set up a total of 120 vaccination centres and is looking to establish more centres in the coming weeks.

“We’ve been prioritising vaccination for high-risk groups, but our aim is to make vaccination available to all eligible as soon as possible,” he said.

On Saturday, MoHAP announced that all Covid-19 vaccination centres would be temporarily offering vaccination only to senior citizens and people with chronic diseases in the light of the spike in infections over the past weeks.

On the question of herd immunity against SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, the official said current evidence suggests that 70 per cent or more is the minimum threshold for herd immunity when it comes to viral disease.

“Herd immunity takes place when a large number of people in a community become immune to a certain disease, making it difficult for the virus or the infection to spread. This threshold is influenced by the infectiousness of the virus and the efficacy of the vaccines,” he said.

“We’ll continue to provide the community with safe, effective and efficient Covid-19 vaccines to achieve our aim and make it available to everyone eligible in Dubai,” Dr Alsheikh Ali added.

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