Coronavirus: UAE still to hit peak of outbreak but stay home order will be effective, says expert
Dr Juan Acuna, a leading epidemiologist, said people must heed calls to stay indoors to help 'flatten the curve' of the pandemic
A global health expert has warned the coronavirus outbreak has yet to 'peak' in the UAE but insists strict stay-home measures will prove effective if supported by the public.
Dr Juan Acuna, chairman of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, has called on residents to heed calls to remain indoors to help curb the spread of the virus.
Dr Acuna, a former programme director at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, admits it is unclear when the pandemic will be brought under control as numbers of cases continue to spiral all over the world.
He commended UAE officials for taking decisive action, including imposing flight bans, closing schools and universities and issuing an order for people to remain at home for all but essential travel.
A nationwide sterilisation drive, taking place from 8pm to 6am daily, has also been extended until April 5 as part of a wide-ranging strategy to safeguard health.
"People need to take the stay at home initiative very very seriously. If we do that, then this will solve quickly,” said Dr Acuna in an interview with The National.
"Stay at home as much as you can and only go out for crucial work.
"Treat the elderly with a lot of care and every time they use something, disinfect it."
The pandemic, which first emerged in Wuhan, China in December, has escalated in recent weeks.
As of Tuesday, the UAE had 664 confirmed cases, including six deaths, with 61 people recovering from the virus.
The global death toll now stands at more than 42,000, while the number of cases has topped 860,000.
More than 178,000 people have recovered from the disease.
“We do not know how long this pandemic is going to last,” said Dr Acuna.
“Things are getting worse and in the UAE, we have not yet seen the peak in the growth of the cases.”
Dr Acuda feels the pandemic will have have an indelible impact on society.
"We will never return to what we consider normal," he said.
"These circumstances have changed the world in a way that returning to normal is not going to be possible.
“If by normal we mean going outside and businesses opening up, we will not know when this might be, until we see the peak of the disease.
"People are going to be very careful and social distancing is going to leave people with a lot of fear.
“Even the wealthiest places will be hard hit.
“We have been indoors for a week but it is likely we will indoors for months. It is likely this will go beyond April.
"As soon as we see the number of cases flattening and starting to decrease, we can make a better estimate.
“The measures we are taking need to be maintained, because should we stop these, there will a spike in the number of cases.”
Dr Acuna explained that the number of cases in UAE are increasing but not exponentially.
He said if more people were tested, they could be asked to isolate early.
“In an ideal world, we would be able to test everyone. Now we have drive-through tests. If you have symptoms or if you have been in touch with anyone who has symptoms you must get yourself tested," he said.
He said many places would be likely to shut down, many businesses affected.
"Social distancing will leave people with a lot of fear. People will be more careful and it will take time to recover from the feeling that you need to be away from others.
“Most people have not lived through a time like this."
The Sars outbreak in 2002 spread to 26 countries and resulted in 8,098 infections.
Though Sars was a coronavirus and was more deadly, in order to spread it needed close contact with someone who was infected.
"The difference with the novel coronavirus is it is easily transmitted and does not always show symptoms," said Dr Acuna.
"No one knows when the vaccine will be ready, people can only speculate.
“The curve of the pandemic has been slowed down in many countries. Still, many more cases will happen."
He warned people not to follow advice trending on social media.
He said people were sharing stories of inhaling hot air emitted from hair dryers as a prevention or cure against the coronavirus.
"It's very stupid. You can never achieve a high enough temperature to kill the virus," he said.
The coronavirus can survive in temperatures up to 70°C, said.
"Do not self prescribe or take medication to avoid infection. Do not use hair dryers to heat your mouth and mucus because you might burn yourself," he said.
Updated: April 1, 2020 04:49 PM