UAE Covid restrictions 1 year on: Strategic approach

Duabi - A year later, we look back at how the country took on a deadly virus and beat it back.

By Saman Haziq

Published: Wed 24 Mar 2021, 6:41 AM

As the Covid-19 pandemic gripped the UAE, the country rose to the occasion and set a precedent on how unified policies and infrastructure across the public and private healthcare sectors can bring about improved health outcomes. From accelerated mass testing, fever clinics, drive-through screening centres to country-wide sterilisation drives, the UAE’s comprehensive support plan has helped it in keeping Covid numbers significantly low from the very beginning.

When the numbers escalated after the UAE recorded its first Covid-19 case on January 29, 2020, the government put in stringent measures to control the spread of the virus, detect cases early and implement social distancing protocols.

The UAE leadership was quick to identify the threat and understood that widespread testing and screening would be the perfect strategy to stymie the march of Covid. A massive screening programme was rolled out; potential pockets identified such as workers’ accommodations and areas with high density of population. Field hospitals, drive-through screening centres and isolation facilities were built in record time.

A nationwide clarion call was made to the public to stay at home and venture out only if they required essential supplies, such as food and medicines. Panning out an effective approach, the Ministry of Health and Prevention approved six key measures which helped to contain the infections, while reducing the risk of the virus on public health. These included activation of the early warning systems for medical cases; assigning fully equipped medical teams around the clock; enhancing the capacity of the medical supply chains; covering the health insurance cost of Covid-19 testing and treatment for insured and non-insured persons; emphasising the importance of avoiding travel, and conducting thermal screening systems across all air, land, and sea ports as well as malls and public places.

School closures began on March 8 for four weeks and three weeks later, it was decided that schools will be closed until the end of the academic year. Prayer halls, shopping malls and entertainment destinations were also shut temporarily and the country suspended issuing visas to foreigners. On March 22, a 11-day sterilsation drive kicked off, followed by night curfew as the country began disinfection of localities.

Multi-language awareness programmes, country-wide sterilisation drives, strict safety measures and above all, the increase in the number of tests ensured the country remained ahead in the fight against the coronavirus.

In order to keep the country updated with the situation of the pandemic, the government also began regular media briefings to inform people about the health situation in the country, and highlight figures and statistics provided by medical establishments responsible for combating the virus.

The country’s far-sightedness allowed it to set up testing laboratories even before Covid-19 was declared a pandemic. Research facilities like Mohammed Bin Rashid University (MBRU) became part of the country’s sustained approach and came up with groundbreaking analysis of the strain of virus in the UAE. The key role in coordinating all these efforts was played by the Covid Central Command Centre.

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