UAE's sterilisation drive
Municipal workers disinfect the streets of Dubai as a preventive measure against the spread of coronavirus. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai is my favourite MENA city. I have been a frequent visitor since I worked with the MENA office of my agency. As Covid-19 continues to sweep across the globe, it is gloomy to see the bustling, sleepless cosmopolis put on hold.

Luckily, after a lasting and arduous effort, the UAE is gradually reaching a turning point, as the surging number of tests performed and the shrinking ratio of samples tested positive.

The achievement is not a coincidence, but comes with first-moving and following-up. In the early February, shortly after WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), the UAE started to conduct nasal swab tests on visitors from certain countries.

The UAE was among the first MENA countries to update Covid-19 data through social networking sites. Major UAE telecom companies have long changed their logo to “Stay Home”


Flagship airline companies, Emirates and Etihad, reduced international flights to a great extent. Soon afterwards, restrictions on convention, closure of schools, postponing large-scale events were announced.

But more importantly, from a Chinese perspective, the UAE succeeded in raising public awareness. On February 2, Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, is illuminated in the colour of Chinese national flag.

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Imperative of public health

It is not only a posture to cheer China up in the fight against the novel coronavirus, but a vivid reminder for all visitors and residents of the imperative of the public health.

In the meantime, the UAE was among the first MENA countries to update Covid-19 data through social networking sites. Major UAE telecom companies have long changed their logo to “Stay Home”.

At a time when solidarity is indispensable, the UAE elites have kept cool heads and wasted no time on scapegoating clichés.

Many have attributed China’s initial accomplishment in taming the virus to an early-bird strategy and government imposed lockdown. However, given the super-high transmission of Covid-19, failure at any point would trigger butterfly effect.

Comprehensive information

The Chinese government adopted stringent and forceful measures. Comprehensive and progressive Covid-19 information was released via social media in a timely manner.

Ordinary citizens had equal opportunity to obtain relevant knowledge from renowned public health experts through online conference.

COVID-19 is our common enemy, but the way to handle it could vary from one another in technical terms. As a free port accommodating over 8 million foreigners, the UAE excels in striking a delicate balance between raising public health awareness and reducing societal anxiety.

The National Sterilization Programme, instead of a massive curfew, installed by the UAE government, is a set of differentiated policies toward divergent industries and groups.

Over 1 million people have undergone Covid-19 tests of any form to have a clear picture of the Covid-19 trajectory.

According to the latest data from YouGov’s Covid-19 tracker, 94 per cent of residents in the UAE are well informed about what to do if they suspect they have the coronavirus.

I don’t doubt for a moment that the UAE and China will both survive this crisis, since public awareness is crucial to Covid-19 combat.

Xiangyu Qu is correspondent with the MENA office of People’s Daily.