Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

The world is reopening but coronavirus is far from gone

Many have mistakenly associated eased restrictions with the notion that Covid-19 is no longer a serious threat

The World Health Organisation said the number of coronaviruses cases hit a record high on Sunday. Reuters
The World Health Organisation said the number of coronaviruses cases hit a record high on Sunday. Reuters

Countries are embarking on a phased opening up after months of movement restrictions, lockdowns and grounded flights due to the coronavirus pandemic. Greece has opened its doors to international tourists. France has now allowed cinemas to welcome audiences. And the UAE is preparing for life to go back to a semblance of normality after four months of restrictions, with cultural sites, commercial enterprises, and travel opening up.

Yet on Sunday, the World Health Organisation reported a record number of coronavirus cases, with 183,020 new infections in a single day. At first glance, opening up while a pandemic is on the rise appears to be risky, especially after months-long efforts to contain the outbreak, but the truth is more nuanced and complex.

The world today largely knows how to deal with Covid-19, and measures like wearing masks, sanitising, social distancing and taking precautions with those who have underlying conditions, are now known to help stem its spread. Airports and public places have been largely adjusted to meet safety needs. That was not the case in January.

Furthermore, most of the new coronavirus cases are concentrated in the Americas, although Europe remains the largest centre for the virus, with a total of 2.5 million people having contracted it since the beginning of the outbreak. In the Gulf, meanwhile, the high number of newly uncovered infections is not necessarily linked to a growing infection rate as mass testing campaigns are underway in many of those countries. Three Gulf nations figure in the top 20 countries and territories that have carried out the most tests per capita in the world. In Abu Dhabi alone, 380,000 tests have been carried out on a population of 1.5 million, and authorities have implemented a comprehensive set of measures.

While health authorities around the world formulate society-wide strategies to respond to the crisis, the general public also bears responsibility to curb the spread of the virus. Many have mistakenly associated the reopening of society and the economy with the notion that Covid-19 is no longer a serious threat, that the world somehow willed the virus away.

As the WHO has demonstrated time and time again, this could not be farther from the truth. It is paramount for each and every person to abide by new precautions, hygiene rules and physical distancing measures needed to keep the virus at bay. If we are to once more enjoy a sense of normality, save livelihoods and enjoy time out with friends and family, we must also learn to keep one another safe.

Many have mistakenly associated the reopening of society and the economy with the notion that Covid-19 is no longer a serious threat

Authorities now have the necessary tools and knowledge to identify coronavirus clusters and to contain the spread of Covid-19. The UAE’s efforts to halt the virus in its tracks have borne fruit. In a few weeks, the country has gone from 900 new Covid-19 cases per day to around 300, even as the number of tests carried out has remained generally the same or even increased.

These positive results have allowed the country to reopen partially, a necessity not only for the economy to thrive again but also for citizens and residents to carry on regular activities and preserve their sources of income. It is also important to support mental health and regain social interaction. This is especially important for children and adolescents who have seen their lives change completely at a pivotal time in their psychological development. Society owes them a normal childhood. As authorities continue their efforts to stop the pandemic, so must we exercise caution in order to preserve this progress.

Updated: June 22, 2020 07:59 PM

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