Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 September 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: how the world changed in 100 days

China first informed the WHO about mystery 'pneumonia' cases on December 31

Today marks 100 days since the World Health Organisation was informed of Chinese patients suffering from pneumonia, caused by a mystery virus.

The cases were in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, and health officials in China had already begun to suspect the outbreak could be a coronavirus similar to Sars, the respiratory disease that killed 774 of the 8,096 people who caught it between 2002 and 2004.

After being told about the new coronavirus on December 31, the WHO published information about the outbreak on its website on January 5.

It said there was “limited information to determine the overall risk” and the “WHO does not recommend any specific measures for travellers”.

It has changed the lives of billions of people, from those mourning the more than 76,000 who died after contracting the virus and the medics treating hundreds of thousands of cases, to the millions who lost their jobs as the pandemic necessitated quarantine measures across the globe.

Those early dispatches seem to come from another life and there is now unlikely to be anyone in the world who is not aware of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

There is no vaccine yet and no medicine is certain to ease a patient’s symptoms, which include a fever and cough.

Ventilators to keep the most critically ill alive are in short supply, as is protective equipment for healthcare workers on the front lines in the fight against the virus.

Some countries have weathered the storm better than others.

Nations such as South Korea and Singapore, using experience gained during the Sars outbreak, had more advanced testing regimes in place.

But the suffering and disruption in the countries has been minimised, rather than avoided altogether.

Some of the decision taken by countries now appear unwise, with hundreds of thousands of young people allowed to mingle during spring break in the US, even as the virus spread across North America.

In the UK, a four-day horse racing festival in Cheltenham went ahead only two days before the WHO declared the outbreak was a pandemic.

An early plan to allow the virus to spread to build up 'herd immunity' in 40 million Brits was hastily abandoned when researchers predicted an appalling death toll in the hundreds of thousands.

The UAE has been widely regarded as having reacted quickly to the threat posed by Covid-19. By late January, it had introduced thermal scanning at airports, beginning with passengers arriving from China.

The first cases in the UAE were reported by the end of the month – four members of a family from Wuhan who travelled to the Emirates for a holiday.

As the number of cases increased, slowly at first, the country began to ramp up its response, with measures including a nationwide sanitisation programme and calls for people to remain in their homes to stem the spread of the virus.

Authorities will hope the steps taken will give the country an even better degree of control over the outbreak and bring a full recovery closer.

December 31

China informs the WHO of dozens of cases of pneumonia caused by an unknown virus in Wuhan.

January 23

The UAE introduces thermal scanning and swab tests at airports for travellers arriving from China.

January 29

The UAE confirms its first four coronavirus cases after testing members of a family who travelled on holiday from Wuhan. The mother, father, girl, 9, and grandmother arrived in the Emirates on January 16 and sought treatment on January 23 after the grandmother developed flu-like symptoms.

February 5

The General Civil Aviation Authority suspends all flights from China, with the exception of Beijing. Some UAE universities ask students not to attend classes if they feel unwell and have visited China recently.

February 9

Liu Yujia, 73, the grandmother from the family from Wuhan, becomes the first patient in the UAE to recover from the virus.

February 12

The disease caused by the virus is given the name Covid-19 by the WHO.

February 14

Two more patients make a full recovery – a Chinese man, 41, and his son, 8. Three of the eight confirmed cases in the UAE have now recovered.

February 25

Doctors in Dubai are told to test patients with severe chest infections for Covid-19, even if they have not travelled to a country where there is a significant outbreak or been in contact with an infected person.

February 27

Schools across the UAE cancel trips abroad, as well as activities that require large gatherings. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai’s education regulator, asks families to provide travel records to help identify anyone at risk of carrying the infection.

February 28

The UAE Tour is cancelled after two Italian team members test positive for Covid-19. The Department of Health in Abu Dhabi tests people at two Yas Island hotels, the Crowne Plaza and the W Hotel, where the cyclists and teams are staying. Two people who came into contact with the infected cyclists are quarantined.

March 3

The Fatwa Council advises those who feel unwell not to pray at mosques. Cleaning operations are carried out in mosques across the country. Places of worship across the country begin to install thermal scanners at entrances.

March 7

Abu Dhabi Sports Council calls on clubs to suspend all sports events “until further notice”.

March 8

All schools and universities are told to close for four weeks and Spring Break begins.

March 9

An "active and continuous investigation" to find people who came in contact with other patients identifies 14 new cases. Tourism destinations, including Dubai Miracle Garden and Global Village, close. Events such as festivals and concerts are cancelled or postponed, including Fashion Forward Dubai and the International Prize for Arabic Fiction awards ceremony.

March 10

Cruises operating out of the UAE are suspended and Etihad Airways announces a series of flight suspensions. Emaar Hospitality announces it will stop accepting bookings at several hotels in Dubai until August 31.

March 11

Abu Dhabi imposes a ban on shisha.

March 12

The outbreak is declared a pandemic by the WHO. More than 125,000 people across the globe now have contracted the virus, with more than 4,700 deaths. Dubai bans shisha in cafes across the emirate.

March 13

Abu Dhabi shuts nightclubs and live events across the capital are cancelled. Europe is named the new centre of the pandemic.

March 14

Louvre Abu Dhabi and other tourist attractions and theme parks close. All public beaches and cinemas close in Abu Dhabi. Parks in the emirate shut for cleaning.

March 15

Theme parks, cinemas, gyms and parks across Dubai close. Authorities in the emirate also suspend weddings, with similar measures taken in Ajman and Fujairah.

March 16

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, releases a video message to reassure citizens and residents that "our country is infinitely able to supply everyone with all the food and medicine they could ever need”.

The UAE confirms more than 125,000 tests have been carried out and Abu Dhabi rolls out a 16-point stimulus package to limit the financial effects of the outbreak. Public prayers are suspended in all places of worship.

March 17

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanks UAE for helping to combat the outbreak. The government calls on Emiratis living or working abroad to return home.

March 18

Emiratis are told not to travel abroad and visas-on-arrival are suspended. The government orders any new arrivals in the country to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

March 19

The government suspends entry for all residents overseas. The UAE flies dozens of South Koreans and Iranians out of Iran in a humanitarian mission.

March 20

Authorities warn anyone caught intentionally spreading coronavirus in the UAE could face up to five years in prison. The law on communicable diseases, introduced in 2014, criminalises any “intentional behaviour that results in spreading an infection”.

March 21

The UAE announces two patients have died after contracting the virus. An Arab citizen, 78, who returned from Europe, and an Asian citizen, 58, are the first fatalities in the country. Authorities urge the public to adhere to social distancing guidelines as 13 more cases are reported, as well as seven recoveries. Dubai begins an 11-day disinfection programme to sterilise at least 95 roads, and residents are asked to stay off the streets. Banks offer customers loan repayment holidays.

March 22

School pupils and university students begin two weeks of distance learning. Emirates airline announces it will suspend all passenger flights from March 25. Etihad also suspends most services.

March 23

The country’s case total increases to 198. A traveller who did not self-isolate after arriving in the country is discovered to have infected 17 people with Covid-19, including his family and colleagues. Domestic travel restrictions are imposed on the public, with people allowed to travel to supermarkets and pharmacies for essentials.

March 25

All passenger flights are grounded and all shops are shut, with the exception of supermarkets, pharmacies and fish, meat and vegetable markets. Residents are told they should not go outside, even for exercise.

March 26

The UAE announces it will begin a nationwide cleaning and sterilisation drive that is due to last for three days and will be carried out between the hours of 8pm and 6am. Movement of traffic and people will be allowed to continue as usual during the day.

March 28

The nationwide sterilisation initiative is extended until April 4. Dubai Police activate speed cameras to catch anyone out on the roads between 8pm and 6am. Sheikh Mohamed visits Abu Dhabi’s first drive-through testing centre.

March 30

Authorities announce schools will remain closed and distance learning to continue until the summer. Dubai Expo 2020 representatives say they are in talks to postpone the event until 2021.

March 31

Sheikh Mohamed reveals he "shed a tear" when he heard residents sang the UAE national anthem from their balconies. Metro and tram services are partly suspended. Movement is restricted in Al Ras, one of Dubai's most densely populated districts, for two weeks to help identify potential cases. Some schools in the UAE agree to cut fees by up to 50 per cent, but call for parents' support to protect the salaries of staff. Two pharmacies in Dubai are fined for raising the cost of face masks, while another is found to have increased the price of hand sanitisers.

Abu Dhabi unveils a gateway at bus stations that sprays disinfectant as people pass through.

April 1

It is announced Al Ain Hospital is closed to the public and will treat coronavirus patients.

April 2

Global cases pass a million, having doubled in the space of a week. There are 210 new cases of coronavirus in UAE, bringing the country's total to 1,024.

April 3

More than 200 new cases bring the total to 1,264 and the death of an Asian man, 51, is reported. Officials say the number of cases will begin to increase significantly due to widespread testing.

April 4

Dubai residents are told they cannot leave home without a permit and an online system is set up to handle applications. The government proposes a new start date for the Expo – October 1, 2021.

April 6

Police update the permit website to allow pedestrians and people taking taxis to obtain permits. Authorities call on people with a medical background to volunteer to help in the fight against the virus. More than 1,000 are already helping in hospitals and quarantine centres after receiving training from the Emirates Foundation.

April 8

It is 100 days since the WHO was first alerted about the virus.

Updated: April 8, 2020 01:42 PM

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