COVID-19 in UAE: Mood optimistic as vaccinations surge, virus cases dip

UAE recorded its lowest daily infections in more than a year at 521 cases on Friday

  
A woman receives a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)at St. Paul's Church in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates January 16, 2021.

A woman receives a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)at St. Paul's Church in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates January 16, 2021.

REUTERS/Khushnum Bhandari

Can I pray at the mosque? Is it safe to send children back to school? Can I travel by bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi?

A few months ago, the answer would have been a resounding ‘no’, but thanks to the sharp decline in Covid cases and the exemplary zeal shown by the UAE in restoring normalcy that schools, places of worship, office and public transport, and all public activities have now resumed their pre-Covid routine — albeit with precautions in place.

UAE residents are embracing the new, post-Covid normal, confident about the government’s handling of the pandemic. This is borne out by a recent survey by the Ministry of Community Development where 95 per cent respondents said they were happy with the government’s efforts to restore normalcy.

Friday marked another milestone, with the UAE recording its lowest daily infections in more than a year at 521 cases. The consistent decline in daily cases is being credited to the country’s mass vaccination and mass testing strategy.

While 91.57 per cent of the country’s population have taken the first dose of Covid vaccines available in the country, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority on Friday announced that 80.62 per cent residents have been fully vaccinated (taken both the doses) sparking hopes of the UAE achieving herd immunity.

Dr Dirar Abdullah consultant and chair of internal medicine at Prime Hospital said if the pace at which the cases are dipping remains consistent, then it is matter of weeks — or a few months — for things to get back to normal, as it was before Covid struck. “The rate of new cases and hospital admissions are declining significantly and steadily in addition to the rate of vaccination which exceeded 90 per cent for one dose and 80 per cent for both doses. At this stage of achieving herd immunity, we are talking about a change from being a pandemic to a state where the disease will become endemic, for which we need to take an annual vaccine like the normal flu vaccine.

“In addition, one important factor which will see infection rates decreasing is continuing the vaccination drive for all age groups, creating high level of awareness and commitment by this very educated society,” he added.

The mood is optimistic across the board. Event organiser Ashwin Sancheti, managing partner at Spotlight Entertainment, said: “We as event organisers are also back in business while several parts of the world are still struggling to bring events back to life. When we have the mega Expo 2020 taking place in Dubai in just a few days, what more can we ask for? From small scale events to large-format concerts, we are working on all types of events now. Once again, a big thank you to the authorities for ensuring security and safety of everyone. I am proud to call the UAE home.”

“The phased approach to normalcy, excellent safety measures, an outstanding vaccination drive, all of this has led to recovery. When the whole world was under lock-down for almost six months to one year, the UAE kept the economy moving by employing smart measures. The authorities have managed the pandemic extremely well and the whole world is now looking up to our country for what it has done. This has boosted confidence in the nation, whereas beneficial opportunities are created for businesses to thrive and grow,” he added.

Health consultant Dr Sanober Khatri, managing director, GoodHealth Consultancy LLC, said continuity in business, education and social wellbeing has been restored through tireless efforts of the government, healthcare sector, first responders, institutions and individuals. “The huge vaccination drive, abundant testing, use of digital platforms, easy to use mobile applications for vaccination and test monitoring have played a key role in restoring life to pre-Covid levels. The role of frontline workers, the healthcare sector and the law-abiding citizens following all precautionary norms will never be forgotten,” she said.

According to Khatri, economic stimulus packages, the flexibility in policies and newer business friendly laws have provided a breather to the business sector.

Talking about the crucial role played by the healthcare sector in restoring normalcy, she said: “This pandemic has woken up nations to the need for long-term, data-driven, and well-governed approaches. Investment is healthcare is no longer viewed as a cost by individuals and societies. Scientific research on prevention, treatment and continuous medical education will help humanity to prevent any such catastrophe in the future. A holistic approach to healthcare, which focuses on physical health, mental health and social wellbeing needs to be ensured.”

Crucial point

Dr J.M. Gauer, CEO, RAK Hospital, however warned against complacency. “Now is the crucial point in time, where we should not become complacent and stay on the path to success. The population is — understandably so — weary of the situation. People are longing for normalisation and thereby inclined to drop safety measures. As healthcare providers we must continue to counsel, educate and actively support all efforts to allow things to get back to normal in a well-controlled and structured way… Vaccination of everybody is the obvious key to overcome the pandemic.”

Bidhan Chowdhury, founder and group CEO, Medi Q Healthcare Group, said the surge in economic and tourism activity is a sure sign of life returning to normal.

“ It is great to see that offices are open and the government has opened visas for all vaccinated tourists from all countries. Currently, the country is witnessing the lowest daily infections in more than a year. It is good that the government has not done away with the mask mandate. Face masks continue to be one of the strongest tools to fight Covid-19. People should continue to follow Covid- appropriate behaviour to ensure we do not lose the gains we have made in our fight against Covid-19,” Chowdhury added.

What helped:

>> High vaccination rates

>> Increase in the number of recoveries,

>> Dipping number of fresh cases

>> Low fatality rate compared to the rest of the world

>> Role of front-line workers and health sector

>> Law-abiding citizens following all precautionary norms

>> Economic stimulus packages

>> Flexibility in policies

>> Business friendly laws

>> Indicators UAE is nearing normalcy:

>> Schools are open with full capacity

>> Most workplaces have resumed on-site work or are in the process

>> Physical meetings and gatherings are happening again — with precautions

>> Small and large events taking place

 
 

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