Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 May 2020

Coronavirus: contact-tracing app 'more effective than lockdowns' as UAE reports 941 new cases

Amid extensive testing authorities urge public to download Al Hosn app and celebrate Eid at home

UAE authorities said they will push ahead with sophisticated contact tracing rather than impose a second lockdown on the country.

During a regular briefing on Wednesday, authorities renewed their call for Emiratis and residents to download Al Hosn, an app that helps stop widespread infections by helping authorities track who potential Covid-19 patients have come into contact with.

But Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokeswoman for the health sector, said it can only be effective if at least 50 to 70 per cent of the population uses it.

It came as authorities announced a further 941 cases of coronavirus, after conducting 43,732 tests across the country.

The new cases brought the country's infection numbers to 26,004.

There are also 1,018 more recoveries from the virus in the 24 hours, while six patients have died.

Overall, the UAE has recorded 11,809 recoveries and 233 deaths.

Alongside the UAE's extensive testing, the widespread use of Al Hosn is critical to containing the virus, Dr Al Hosani said.

It uses Bluetooth signals to detect if the carrier has come into contact with someone who may pose a risk of infection and has the app downloaded too.

"We advise you to use it as this is the fastest tool to flatten the virus," she said.

“It is available in three languages so that the majority of the population can use it.”

This week, authorities toughened fines for breaking the precautionary measures in place to keep everyone safe and extended the daily stay home order by two hours, from 8pm to 6am. The new schedule for the national disinfection programme began on Wednesday. However, authorities said people who live in industrial areas or labour accommodation, which are more densely populated, must stay home from 6pm to 6am.

“The UAE has been a responsible society, said Dr Saif Al Dhaheri, spokesman for the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority.

"There were offences and some have not obeyed the laws. There are penalties and fines for those flouting rules."

Dr Al Dhaheri said that giving eidiyah, or gifts of money during Eid Al Fitr, which will begin on Saturday or Sunday, is prohibited this year because the virus could spread through banknotes and coins.

“We want to protect our children so we encourage digital payments,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al Shamsi, spokesman for the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, urged people to celebrate Eid at home with family.

“This year is exceptional and Eid prayers will be performed at home," he said.

"Mosques will be closed and the takbeer will be broadcast 10 minutes before the Eid prayer.

"After the takbeer, prayers should be performed at home. Celebrate with family members and keep loved ones safe.

"We should show gratitude to our frontline workers.”

In the past three daily government announcements, the number of recoveries from Covid-19 have exceeded the number of new infections.

Dr Al Hosani attributed the increase in recoveries to several factors.

“First, we apply the most efficient and latest technology such as plasma treatment to treat patients," she said.

"Second, we have expanded our capacity to test more people. We screen large populations and isolate them if they are found to be infected.

"Third, we have set up more field hospitals and increased the number of beds to treat patients.

"Last, we have all the medical equipment, medicines and the medics to treat people."

Updated: May 21, 2020 03:25 PM

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