Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 8 April 2020

Pandemic has warranted urgent action

It is evident by now that only a holistic approach can help the world combat this pandemic

A man wearing a protective mask following an outbreak of coronavirus walks at Global Village in Dubai. REUTERS
A man wearing a protective mask following an outbreak of coronavirus walks at Global Village in Dubai. REUTERS

The UAE has rolled out a substantial set of measures to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus and limit its impact on our lives and on the economy. The World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a pandemic last week and urged governments globally to do more to combat its spread. As people around the world stay indoors and uncertainty prevails, stock markets have plummeted. Small businesses and big corporations alike are affected. This has added concerns about the economy to already-existing fears about the virus affecting people’s health.

In response, authorities have taken immediate action to try and contain the pandemic and save lives while protecting the local economy. The Central Bank of the UAE has decided to launch a Dh100 billion economic stimulus package "to grant temporary relief" to the private sector for a period of up to six months.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, also unveiled on Thursday a package worth Dh1.5 billion to offset the effects of the coronavirus on businesses. "The world is going through difficult times,” he said, “but we have the capability to navigate challenges successfully.” Other countries, as well as international organisations, have also decided to inject cash into the economy.

Saudi Arabia announced a 50 billion riyal stimulus package to offset the impact of the virus, while the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have put together a package of ($62 billion) in financial assistance for nations most in need. The sooner such measures are put in place, the better equipped our economies will be to fend off the consequences of the pandemic. This will, in turn, help to save the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands people adversely affected by the health crisis.

These long-term plans are crucial to ensure that people’s lives as well as their jobs are protected. They complement, of course, pressing measures that are already in place in the UAE to limit the spread of coronavirus and keep those of us who are most vulnerable safe.

In addition to closing schools and universities for four weeks, the UAE has announced a temporary suspension of visas starting Tuesday. Authorities have also ordered federal employees who are most at risk of contracting complications due to the coronavirus to remain at home, and called on senior citizens to avoid going out.

These long-term plans are crucial to ensure that people’s lives as well as their jobs are protected. They complement pressing measures that are already in place

Flights to and from at-risk countries have been halted, as well as all cruise ship operations into Abu Dhabi. The ports will, however, continue to welcome vessels with only crew members on board, and deliver any provisions or other services that they might need.

Meanwhile, the country has rightly heeded caution and banned big events. Abu Dhabi and Dubai have closed cinemas, nightclubs, tourist restaurants and popular attractions, to prevent large gatherings, which can be potential breeding grounds for the virus. The UAE has also shown compassion for all those impacted, from flexible working hours to helping evacuate hundreds of people from Wuhan, China.

It is evident by now that only a holistic approach can help the world combat this pandemic. This includes emergency healthcare and preventive measures, as well as financial plans, so that effects of the virus on people’s health, their livelihoods and the economy can be curbed and hopefully, reversed, in the long term. We can each aid in this effort by lending a helping hand to those who need it and avoiding any actions that spread the virus.

Updated: March 15, 2020 06:40 PM

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