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UAE special report: One year of Covid restrictions, impact

Staff Report

Published on March 24, 2021 at 05.59

This time last year, the UAE announced its first curfew to curb the spread of coronavirus. A year later, we look back at how the country took on a deadly virus and beat it back.

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When the world rang in 2020, little did we think it would unleash a global pandemic that would bring the world to its knees. The UAE too was impacted and announced its first curfew with movement restrictions on March 24.

A year later, Khaleej Times looks at how the nation beat the virus strategic approach

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Strategic approach

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. Read more

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Holistic health: UAE’s focus on mental wellbeing admirable

The pandemic threw humanity into a tailspin. Working and studying from home, handling sudden job losses, led to social isolation and strained relationships, which took a toll on our mental health. However, proactive counter measures by local authorities have ensured the population has largely managed to tide over the worst of the pandemic. Regular surveys on the physical and emotional fallout, awareness campaigns and helpline numbers to offer moral support, community programmes with focus on mental wellbeing and constant motivational messages from the leadership helped people stay positive.

A ‘Life after Coronavirus’ survey by the Department of Community Development held in the final leg of 2020 showed that 44 per cent of participants felt their mental health had been affected since the beginning of the pandemic, while 38 per cent said their psyche was not affected and remained the same. Significantly, 55 per cent males and 53 per cent females saw an improvement in their mental health. Read more

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Businesses ‘transform’ to survive

With business activity grinding almost to a halt during the Covid-19 lockdowns last year, organisations across the UAE had to grapple with a series of challenges to protect their employees as well as their revenue streams.

Many organisations totally revamped their business strategy, while others stepped up their digital transformation plans to offer a seamless experience that allowed customers to reach out to them without compromising on employee safety. Several others turned to the government for aid, which came in the form of a number of initiatives and stimulus packages that reduced the pandemic’s impact on the community. Read more

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Travel restriction: Travel in the time of the pandemic

At the end of March 2020, the UAE woke up to a new normal. A country-wide month-long movement restriction launched on March 31 last year, was enforced restricting citizens and residents’ movement.

The UAE implemented the National Sterilisation Programme to disinfect bustling streets and public facilities. The curfew on movement continued between 8 pm and 6 am. Furthermore, Dubai closed down entrances and exit to Al Ras and Naif districts in Deira for mass testing and an intense disinfection programme.

Authorities also launched a nationwide drive to disinfect the metro, buses, taxis and airports while shopping malls and restaurants remained closed. The Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest in terms of international passenger traffic, stopped all passenger air travel arrangements. Similarly, authorities completely shut down international passenger flights at the Abu Dhabi International Airport and Sharjah International Airport. Read more

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UAE researchers say mutated strains are more infectious

UAE researchers are closely studying the new strains of Covid-19, which are blamed for the surge in cases globally.
Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokesperson for the UAE’s health sector, said at the routine Covid-19 briefing on Tuesday that after regular follow-ups and research on the contagion, the health authorities have found that new mutations of the virus are responsible for the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases across the world, as reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently. Read more

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Education: Schools, students show strong resilience

The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed the country’s education system forever. A year ago when the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 as a global pandemic, educational institutions at every level were sent scrambling and institutions switched to virtual learning, with teachers, students and governments swiftly adapting to an entirely novel way of life.

Institutions looked to increase the efficiency of delivery models by providing an application and technology platform through digital learning, pushing for equity and quality education and introducing new but effective systems of monitoring, evaluation, budgeting and planning.

A year later, a rethinking is underway among experts in the country with a growing sense that some of the changes wrought by the pandemic may last longer than imagined. Read more

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What UAE did to curb Covid

Mosques were closed in March to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and reopened after 4 months on July 1 at 30 per cent capacity.

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From closing stadiums, halls and schools, to postponing events, the UAE took some tough measures last year to stop the spread of Covid-19.
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After closure for dine in the early days of the pandemic, restaurants were allowed to open with limited capacity and social distancing.
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Public parks, recreational areas were closed during the peak of the pandemic, which helped curb the spread of the virus in the early days.
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Movement restrictions were introduced last year.
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Banners, stickers, fliers, posters stressed on social distancing.
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Awareness drives were held on sanitising and hand washing.
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Rigorous testing and isolation helped bring down numbers.
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