Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: Figures show UAE cases under control but officials urge public to be vigilant

Personal responsibility remains crucial as workforce returns to offices and more public places open

The coronavirus outbreak in the UAE may have peaked several weeks ago, government figures show - but officials urged the public to remain vigilant.

Statistics suggest that measures introduced by the government from early March to stem the tide of Covid-19 infections proved effective.

There has not yet been a sustained fall in the number of recorded infections, but this may reflect increased testing activity.

A graph of weekly rolling averages of deaths linked to Covid-19 in the Emirates – an average of the figure for a particular day plus the three days either side – indicates that the peak, of about 10 fatalities per day, was reached around May 7.

Today we are all responsible for recovery, and we are responsible for the decline of the virus, and our commitment will reduce its spread

Dr Farida Al Hosani

Given that coronavirus deaths typically lag a few weeks behind infections, as it takes around this long for an infection to intensify to the point where it might prove fatal, the peak in daily infections may have been reached in the second half of April.

Speaking on Saturday evening, Dr Farida Al Hosani, the government's health spokeswoman, warned of the need to remain vigilant as public life returns.

"We have recently observed a relative moderation in the number of cases in the country, as well as a significant improvement in recoveries, but it is difficult to say at the moment that we are in the process of declining," she said in response to a question from The National.

"Today we are all responsible for recovery, and we are responsible for the decline of the virus, and our commitment will reduce its spread."

While other measures are also important, death rates have been described as the clearest single measure of the progress of a coronavirus outbreak within a country.

The scientific journal Nature wrote in an analysis article last month that the number of deaths was “a surer tracker of the disease’s progress and effectiveness of containment” than any other single statistic, including recorded infections.

“When the rate of new deaths per day starts to slow or reduces, it’s a good sign that the disease has peaked,” the journal wrote.

Graphs indicate that the fall in daily deaths in the UAE linked to Covid-19 after early May’s peak has been especially rapid.

In many other nations, such as Italy and the United Kingdom, the increase in fatalities was faster than the subsequent decline.

Overall, 99 deaths linked to Covid-19 were recorded in April, an average of 3.3 per day, while as of May 30, there have been 157 deaths, an average of 5.23 per day.

However, the trend has fallen significantly and recently there have been just a handful of daily fatalities, as indicated by the levelling off of a graph of the cumulative number of deaths. The UAE’s death toll was 264 as of Sunday.

Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter in the UK and consultant in communicable disease control, said the total number of deaths in the UAE was “a remarkably low number compared to the size of the population”.

“It’s an example that [shows that] containment is not rocket science. If you do the basics right and act fast you will get better results,” he said.

Dr Pankhania cautioned that the proportion of a population that is elderly – in the UAE this is particularly low – and the accuracy of death rate figures may also influence a country’s reported totals.

The UAE’s cumulative number of recorded infections is just above 30,000 and daily number appears to be levelling off or falling. The highest number of new cases in a day so far, 994, was recorded fairly recently, on May 22, and is roughly double the average of a month ago.

However, this was also the day with the largest number of tests – more than 50,000, with the UAE increasing the number of testing staff and opening new test centres.

The UAE introduced a variety of lockdown measures in response to the pandemic and appears to have been successful in limiting infections.

Schools and universities were closed in early March and in the middle of that month, prayers at places of worship, including mosques, were suspended, and entry into the country became more heavily restricted.

There first deaths linked to Covid-19 were recorded on March 20 and soon after this, shopping malls and food markets were closed, public transport suspended, a street sterilisation campaign launched and residents urged to stay at home.

In early April a two-week lockdown was announced and was later extended, although the country is now in the process of a gradual opening up with the aim of allowing economic activity to resume without sparking a second wave of infections.

Updated: May 31, 2020 03:54 PM

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