Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 3 April 2020

UAE takes tough measures to beat coronavirus

These efforts are part of an international drive to clamp down on the virus, but their effectiveness relies on respecting these new rules

Hospitals in the UAE have tested more than 125,000 people, including those who have been to outbreak areas or come into possible contact with a carrier. Getty Images
Hospitals in the UAE have tested more than 125,000 people, including those who have been to outbreak areas or come into possible contact with a carrier. Getty Images

On Monday morning, UAE authorities rolled out a set of new measures to combat the spread of coronavirus as global numbers of infections continue to rise, and after the country saw its first two deaths from the ongoing pandemic over the weekend. The government recommends that everyone stay at home unless it is “absolutely necessary” to venture out. From Wednesday, all malls, markets and non-essential stores will be closed, but pharmacies and supermarkets will remain open. Restaurants will be closed to the public, but open for deliveries. Inbound and outbound flights will also be suspended.

These measures, as they stand, do not constitute a total lockdown. They instead call upon our sense of social responsibility and civic duty. These restrictions will doubtless impact our daily comfort, but they are a small price to pay for keeping all of us, and especially our elderly and our most vulnerable, safe from infection. We all have a part to play in ensuring we are doing all we can to prevent the spread of the virus in these difficult times.

The UAE was among the first countries to move against COVID-19, taking precautionary measures that just a month ago were rare in other parts of the world. Prior to the latest round of precautions, Emirati authorities had already ordered cinemas, parks and schools to be closed, while flights from at-risk countries were suspended from mid-March. Land borders were also restricted, with only returning citizens allowed to cross.

The UAE has also taken great precautions to isolate residents who may have been infected, including those who have come into contact with confirmed cases. For instance, at the W Hotel on Yas Island, in Abu Dhabi, 1,400 people were placed under a 14-day quarantine at the end of February after two Italians - support staff on the UAE Tour cycling competition - had tested positive for the virus. At the time, the coronavirus was mostly confined to China and lockdowns were uncommon. But because tough measures were taken to isolate the guests, a potentially devastating outbreak originating from that specific cluster was averted. Now, the guests have been declared free to leave their hotel rooms after the situation was controlled.

Countries around the world have now taken similar steps to slow the pace of outbreaks. Worldwide, more than 350,000 people have been infected, over 15,000 have died from the disease and nearly 100,000 have recovered. Italy has been under lockdown for weeks, and China has quarantined the entire province of Hubei, home to 60 million people and to the city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected.

These efforts are part of an international drive to clamp down on the virus, but their effectiveness relies on our ability to respect the new rules

In the Middle East, leaders are also stepping up, though sometimes with limited means. In Lebanon, where the healthcare system had been reeling under the consequences of an economic crisis since last November, authorities have announced a two-week lockdown, with security forces deployed to reinforce new regulations. In the Gulf, tough measures have also been put in place. Saudi Arabia has restricted movement and travel, and established a three-week curfew. Kuwait was the first country in the region to stop all commercial flights.

Efforts to enforce self- isolation, social distancing and good hygiene are part of an international drive to clamp down on the virus, but their effectiveness relies on our personal ability to respect these new rules. Together, we can lower the transmission rate and protect our loved ones – if we all put in our best efforts and help one another stay safe, from a distance.

Updated: March 24, 2020 09:44 AM

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