5 Aug 2020

Number of COVID-19 cases: UAE: 59,546 (5,970 per million) UK: 301,261 (4,520 per million) Global: 16,741,049

Number of deaths from COVID-19: UAE: 347 (35 per million) UK: 45,963 (690 per million) Global: 660,428

How does the health system work and how has it responded to COVID-19?

In line with the National Agenda of the UAE Vision for 2021, the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention seeks to create a healthcare network that is aligned with the highest international standards, ranking first in 7 global health indices according to the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority. As well as aiming to enhance the readiness of its health system to address pandemics and other healthcare risks, the aim is to be the best country in regard to quality of healthcare by 2021.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE’s healthcare system has offered free stem cell therapy to critical patients with COVID-19, sent humanitarian aid to other nations and established a health centre with extremely high standards of medical care to facilitate and monitor evacuees from Wuhan, China.

How has the national government responded to COVID-19?

Since the UAE’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was recorded on 29 January, the Government has taken a number of measures to curb the spread of the virus including calling for all residents to stay at home unless absolutely necessary.

The primary efforts made by the Government in the UAE began with the closure of all schools and higher education facilities for 4 weeks whilst a distance education platform was put in place for the rest of the academic year. The suspension of prayers in all places of worship followed suit and remote working for both federal and local governments in the UAE began.

Since 17 March, all foreign visas were temporarily suspended and by 21 March, the entry of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizens was suspended too. Soon after, the General Civil Aviation Authority halted all inbound and outbound flights and the transit of airline passengers was stopped for two weeks from 25 March.

By the 24 March, the National Media Council called for the distribution of print publications, including magazines, marketing materials and newspapers to be suspended, in order to adhere to preventative measures to stop the likelihood of multiple people handling the same printed materials. The UAE government also ordered for the postponement of all sporting events, as well as the closure of all commercial centres, fresh food markets, shopping malls and entertainment facilities; with the exception of pharmacies, food retail outlets and supermarkets.

On 24 June, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) announced the completion of a National Disinfection Programme that had begun three months earlier. During the sterilisation, public movement, public transport and services were restricted and all citizens except key workers were to obtain a movement permit granting permission for emergency or essential travel only.

All private hospitals in Abu Dhabi are now free from COVID-19 patients, as are field hospitals across the region and at least 12 hospitals in Dubai are now free from COVID-19. Restrictions have gradually begun to lift and residents have now initiated their return to work, public areas have re-opened and travel is now permitted. It is still mandatory, however, to wear a mask in public spaces, and to adhere to strict social distancing guidelines set by the government in the UAE.

What is the impact on the health system of these measures?

The UAE health system has been commended on its response to the measures implemented by the Government during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to testing at government healthcare facilities, drive-through screening centres, COVID-19 sniffer dogs and UAE police smart helmet technology; the UAE has carried out over 4 million COVID-19 tests to date. Also, through a door-to-door screening initiative, over 400 residents in Dubai’s densely populated Naif district were screened for the virus. All citizens have been advised to download the ALHOSN UAE contact tracing app where they receive their test results within 24-hours and can find guidance in the event they need medical attention.

Most recently, the president of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan implemented a ‘Frontline Heroes Office’ dedicated to recognition, awareness, and support for the UAE’s frontline workers.