Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 5 August 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: Abu Dhabi malls see just 10% occupancy as public heed call to stay home

Authorities hail level of social responsibility among Abu Dhabi residents and Emiratis, saying the contact tracing app has also been increasingly downloaded

Abu Dhabi residents and Emiratis are taking on board government calls to stay home unless necessary, indicating strong social responsibility, a local official has said.

A clear sign that safety precautions were being taken on board was that shopping malls in Abu Dhabi are experiencing far less footfall than is permitted by authorities amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Rashed Al Balooshi, undersecretary of Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, said he had received reports of capacity limits not being met.

“Despite allowing shopping malls to open with 40 per cent capacity, they are barely reaching 10 per cent,” he said during a webinar with health officials and business leaders about return to work measures.

Rashed Al Balooshi, undersecretary of Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, says the public have listened to stay home orders. Satish Kumar for The National
Rashed Al Balooshi, undersecretary of Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, says the public have listened to stay home orders. Satish Kumar for The National

He said this was a strong indication that people were heeding the government's call to stay home by not going to public areas.

“It is human nature to want to protect one's self,” he said.

In addition, he said strict safety measures, to protect the public from potentially contracting the virus, made the shopping malls safer but also inaccessible to children under 12 and people over 60.

Mr Al Balooshi said the department has assured concerned businesses that the lack of footfall was to be expected given that Covid-19 remains a global threat.

"Our path towards achieving economic development has become mainly reliant on supporting and developing essential industries, as well as prioritising the role of the citizens in the process,” he said.

It is human nature to want to protect one's self

Rashed Al Balooshi, undersecretary of Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development

“The Department of Economic Development has already taken its first steps towards change … through the implementation of a series of initiatives and projects that will contribute to enhancing the competitiveness of doing business in Abu Dhabi and empowering private sector companies as major drivers of the emirate’s local economy.”

His comments about a socially responsible community were backed up by Dr Farida Al Hosani, the spokeswoman for the UAE health sector, who often gives updates during the country's regular briefings on the state of Covid-19 in the Emirates.

She said data from the UAE's tracking app, Al Hosn, indicated that more and more people were adhering to safety measures while in public.

As people slowly begin to return to their offices, Dr Al Hosani said some businesses were encouraging their staff to download the app.

"The UAE did not impose the use of Alhosn app on individuals and institutions due to the government's confidence in the high level of awareness within the population of this crucial matter and its trust that there is a joint sense of responsibility shared by the various segments of our community, regardless of their nationalities or backgrounds.”

She said companies have also been successfully raising awareness among their staff about how to safely returning to their workplace and more people have been downloading the app voluntarily.

Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health and Prevention, says people are increasingly downloading the contact tracing app, Al Hosn. National Media Council
Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health and Prevention, says people are increasingly downloading the contact tracing app, Al Hosn. National Media Council

“With the gradual return to work, there has been a noticeable improvement in the number of people who downloaded Al Hosn app," she said.

“This shows that companies and organisations are committed to educate members of society and their staff on precautionary measures.”

Al Hosn uses Bluetooth signals to detect if the mobile phone carrier has come into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. For it to be effective, the person who went on to contract the virus should have had the app downloaded too.

Dr Al Hosani said the app has now also been linked with all UAE hospitals and testing centres.

“If a person undergoes the Covid-19 test, the app will show them their test results," she said.

“So the person will be able to find out if they are [Covid-19] positive or not.”

The information, which is secure, is then used to track down anyone else that has come into contact with a Covid-19 patient.

Al Hosn app has been crucial to facilitating the large scale, regular testing of mall employees, said Talal Al Dhiyebi, chief executive of Aldar Properties.

“We were facing a big logistics challenge. In shopping malls alone we have 45,000 employees, and a similar number in stand-alone shops outside the malls, and a similar number for hotel employees. So we are talking about around 150,000 employees whom we started testing regularly every two or three weeks."

Mr Al Dhiyebi said, once authorities allowed employees to return to offices, the challenge was to ensure each of them tested negative for the virus before coming back to the workplace.

He said that by asking employees to download the app, they can check the status of their Covid-19 test easily.

“In Yas Mall alone, there are 5,000 employees who need to enter the mall 45 minutes before it opens.

“Previously, the door was open and they would enter normally, but now you need to check that each one of them took the Covid-19 test and tested negative.”

He said this task would have been impossible if not for Al Hosn app.

Updated: June 16, 2020 04:05 PM

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