Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 29 May 2020

Coronavirus: Public told to wear masks at all times as UAE confirms 241 new cases

Residents should cover their faces whenever they leave home, officials said as total hit 1,505

Latest: Dubai to impose new restrictions on travel and shopping

Face masks should be worn at all times when outside the home, the Government said on Saturday.

Residents were urged to buy or use home-made masks to cover the mouth and nose, health sector spokeswoman Dr Farida Al Hosani said.

Even basic masks offer some protection and could prevent the spread of germs from coughing, she said.

“An alternative option, in the absence of a medical mask, is to cover the nose and mouth using paper masks,” Dr Al Hosani said.

When I wear a mask I'm protecting you and when you wear it, you're protecting me

Dr Farida Al Hosani

"Or use home-made masks made of cotton or mixed cotton, making sure to re-wash them.

"When I wear a mask I'm protecting you and when you wear it, you're protecting me."

The message came as 241 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed, taking the total to 1,505. The death of an Arab national, aged 53, took the death toll to 10. Seventeen more people recovered, for a total of 125.

The new tally means the number of cases almost tripled in a week.

Dr Al Hosani said the rise was expected and would continue as a result of "early, intensive tests on a big scale to identify cases and who they were in contact with".

She confirmed for the first time that some patients will be allowed to recover at home, if their symptoms were mild.

"We're having home quarantine and quarantine in specialist isolation facilities, based on the severity of cases," she said.

Any decision to allow home recovery would be based on how many people the patient lived with and the guarantee they could be kept separate, she said.

Officials also updated the public on the economic effects of the virus, in a briefing by Humaid Al Mehairi, spokesman for the Ministry of Economy.

"The national economy of the UAE is competitive, resilient and has strong links with economies globally, therefore it is impacted by the current crisis," he said.

He said efforts were under way to ensure that supermarkets and food suppliers have access to the goods they need. The ministry has a database of 1,600 main outlets that provide the public with essential items.

"We have a clear plan in order to have enough stock of the main commodities in continuous supply.

"Further, we have co-ordinated with suppliers and outlets to guarantee the selling of those goods at reasonable prices."

The time it takes to clear food shipments at customs has been cut from two days to only a few hours, he said.

Extra staff were also drafted in to probe price hiking and retailers were told they cannot make more than 5 per cent profit on hand sanitisers and disinfectants.

Mr Al Mehairi repeated the need to avoid stockpiling food at home.

"During this crisis we've had some consumption habits which were not really sound, such as overbuying and storing food at home," he said.

"You don't need to have that – our markets do not have any shortage ... and local production [of goods] continues.

"We ask all people to feel confident and not to overbuy."

Mr Al Mehairi said officials were aware of the clear effects on the tourism industry, but predicted it would bounce back as the situation improves.

"The tourism sector is one of the most impacted by the current crisis due to the suspension of flights, travel and movement," he said. "Despite that, it has strong fundamentals and it is expected it will be the first sector to recover after the crisis."

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Updated: April 5, 2020 09:28 AM

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