UAE Covid
With its efficient handling of the crisis, the UAE looks healthier and economically sound Image Credit: Jose L. Barros/Gulf News

A friend in Lebanon told me on Thursday that he had just bought an oxygen ventilator. It was sort of awkward. For a week he looked for it online and finally got one. It was delivered to his home shortly before I rang him. He paid $1600 for it.

I thought it was a bit strange and asked if he was alright. He said yes, “but we will never know when I or my family need it.” He was afraid if he or his wife got the virus, they will not get the care they would need in any hospital.

“There are extremely sick people who are being told to go home. They are being told the hospital is unable to help them,” he said. So, he wanted to make sure that he can take care of himself and his family.

The health system in Lebanon has literally collapsed. A few days ago — on January 18 to be precise — Reuters put out a frightening report on the condition of the hospitals in Lebanon.

The report started by describing how “COVID-19 patients wait on pavementsoutside hospitals in Beirut, where emergency rooms are packed and intensive care beds full,” while “inside, exhausted healthcare workers are succumbing themselves — doctors at one hospital, asking not to be named, said around 40 per cent of staff were sick or in isolation.”

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“It is basically from one catastrophe to another,” Charaf Abou Charaf, the head of Lebanon’s doctors syndicate told Reuters. On that day, Lebanon saw the number of new cases soars to more than 6,000, the highest in the region. Lebanon is now under a strict 24-hour lockdown.

My friend, a university professor, is now planning to come to the UAE for a couple of months. He son works in Dubai and thought it was safer for his parents to spend those two months here rather than in a crisis hotspot like Lebanon. Others have done the same.

Two families I know came last month from London to spend a few weeks in Dubai where, they said, it is safer than in London. “My neighbour had very bad systems. He called the Covid-19 hotline. They told him they cannot send anyone to his home. He was told to stay home and isolate himself. That is all.”

Example of efficient response

I am sure hundreds of families have made a similar decision. The UAE by all standards has become an example of efficient response to the pandemic. Therefore, it was surprising to read those half-baked news reports, in some western media, about the surge in cases in the UAE or the ‘relaxed atmosphere’ in Dubai. One of those reports, which I read last week, was datelined London, and quoted unnamed people.

By Friday, the UAE has vaccinated more than 23 percent of the population. Per capita, the country is now second in the world after Israel but way above such countries as the UK and the US. The vaccination drive is in full swings with dozens of centres offering two type of vaccine, Sinopharm and BioNTech-Pfizer.

In a few months’ time, the entire country will be immunised against the coronavirus, an achievement very few countries could attempt. Today, there are many countries close and far that haven’t even started giving the jab to its people. A coincidence? Absolutely not.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the UAE’s response has been nothing but an example of efficiency, a lesson to all in crisis management. That response was a four pillar plan: 1- The National Disinfection Programme and Safe Distancing Rules, which began as mid-March 2020, soon after the World Health Organisation designated the novel coronavirus as a health crisis, 2-Protecting and strengthening the growth of the economy and business sector, which saw more close to Dh200 billion allocated federally and locally to support the banking and business sectors, 3- Implementing the food security strategy and finally, the UAE’s humanitarian initiatives, which helped, many less fortunate countries fight the pandemic.

Worked like clockwork

The plan worked like clockwork and we are reaping its results today. “During this crisis, the UAE has shown to the world it is a single cohesive team, one family moving in unison to overcome the exceptional circumstances,” His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said explaining how the UAE managed to overcome an unprecedented crisis that has so far claimed the lives of 2.1 million people around the world, devastated the global economy and disrupted life.

At the height of the crisis, when countries starting imposing curfews and lockdowns with images of long queues at food outlets and empty store shelves, life in the UAE was going as orderly as it gets.

Shaikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces assured “every citizen and resident of the UAE that our country is infinitely able to supply everyone with all the food and medicine they could ever need. We are well prepared to face any challenge that arises.”

As new variants of the coronavirus hit the world, leading to new strict measures and lockdowns in the US, Europe and the Middle East, the UAE looks healthier and its economy recovering faster.

While in other countries people struggle to get the vaccine, in some countries the wait can be two to three months, any person in the UAE can just drop in in any vaccination centre, even without an appointment, and get the jab right away. That is called efficient planning, a global lesson in crisis management.