KT Edit: Maskless in the subdued normal in UAE

Dubai - In other terms, the UAE is learning to live with the virus and is more aware of its behaviour.

In December last year, when most countries were firming up deals with vaccine manufacturers for jabs against Covid-19, the UAE began its vaccination campaign in phases. Since then, there has been no looking back for the country that now has 82 per cent of its population fully vaccinated. The success of the vaccination rollout has led to the easing of masking rules in some public places, though it is advisable for people to keep their masks on at most times when leaving home. But the announcement on Wednesday is a relief for people who had grown used to the ‘new normal’ — masking, social-distancing, testing and jabbing before meeting friends, colleagues and family. Indeed, masks have become a habit, but there’s hope that they will be history as vaccines continue to work against the pathogen.

The UAE’s success comes from sound strategy and, as we have said before, it is driven by science and research on the virus and its mutations, the latest being the Delta variant that is responsible for breakthrough infections in many parts of the world. In other terms, the UAE is learning to live with the virus and is more aware of its behaviour. Surprises, however, are to be expected as the pathogen finds ways to evade the human defence mechanism. But panic has dissipated as the healthcare system is stronger and resilient than from a year ago. Now for more good news: Six billion people globally have been vaccinated, and the feat has been achieved in less than a year. Though vaccine inequity is a concern, former hotspots like India and Indonesia are showing signs of revival and are springing back to life.

India, last week, vaccinated a record 20 million people in a single day. Former laggards have become leaders. Exports of vaccines and supplies the common Covax pool are also gaining speed. Africa and South America continue to be a concern and unless the continent is covered, new strains of the virus will threaten the gains made in the developed and developing world.

On a more somber note, the US has lost more people to Covid-19 than to the pandemic of 1918. The toll stands at 679,000 from Covid and 675,000 from the flu pandemic. It must be noted here that the last pandemic came in three waves and vaccines were never developed. In most parts of the world, Covid is still in its second phase. The difference from then and now is that this is a pandemic caused by a coronavirus while the one from more than a century ago was caused by a virus. Since then, our faith in science has grown manifold and it has delivered a range of vaccines. Meanwhile, in the UAE, it’s time to breath some fresh air. So step out into an open space and take off that mask, carefully.

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