swab test, covid-19 in uae, oronavirus drive-through screening center
A paramedic staff collects swab samples at a coronavirus drive-through screening centre located at Sharjah Golf and Shooters Club. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: As recoveries overtake infections for days running, health professionals say that the first phase of COVID-19 will soon be over.

Latest statistics show that out of 42,982 cases, 28,861 have recovered in the UAE and for the first time, recoveries have surpassed more than 50 per cent of those infected.

The death rate has also continued to be low, standing at 293.

Charles Stanford

Going by this, Dr Charles Stanford, senior director with VPS Healthcare, who has also been the former head of respiratory and internal medicine at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Ireland, said that it was possible to see the end of the first phase of COVID-19 infections by mid-July.

“Using the UAE WHO statistics upon COVID-19 cases and deaths, it is possible to see the end of the first phase of the epidemic in the UAE by mid-July. Whether or not there will be a second phase remains to be seen,” he said.

Compliance with protocol is the key

Dr Adel Al Sisi

Dr Adel Al Sisi, Chief Medical Officer, consultant ICU and chair of ICU at the Prime Hospital, told Gulf News: “We have seen a drop of COVID patients in our ICU. There are lesser patients requiring ventilators. Several doctors and nurses working in COVID-19 wards and Intensive Care Units in other hospitals, too, have reported a huge drop in the number of severe and critical patients. Nearly 80-85 per cent of the infections reported now are asymptomatic and mild where people either quarantine at home or in hospitals and recovery happens within a week. This shows that the virus is becoming less virulent and proves that the stringent medical protocols introduced by the government have worked.”

Command and Control Centre Statement  

On Tuesday, Dubai’s COVID-19 Command and Control Centre released a statement to say “the precautionary measures implemented in the emirate to combat COVID-19, and the concerted efforts of the public and private sector as well as the community, have helped Dubai achieve marked progress in curbing the spread of the virus.”

Command and Control Centre Statement in full

The centre, tasked with managing the emirate’s response to the pandemic, said Dubai’s progress is borne out by the rise in the recovery rate and the decline in the number of identified cases and people with COVID-19 symptoms visiting hospitals in the last few weeks.

Dr Amer Ahmad Sharif

Dr. Amer Ahmad Sharif, head of Dubai’s COVID-19 Command and Control Centre, said there are a number of hospitals in Dubai that do not have any COVID-19 cases. Most government and private hospitals in the emirate have resumed their diagnostic and treatment services and their capacity is not under pressure due to COVID-19 cases, he said.

Dr. Sharif said the results indicate Dubai is moving steadily towards overcoming the pandemic.

The Head of the COVID-19 Command and Control Centre said an analysis of indicators in the last three months shows a significant decline in cases. The rate of infections in the last three weeks has fallen considerably while the rate of recoveries has increased. The number of cases requiring hospitalisation also saw a decline.

Dr Sharif said the awareness and commitment shown by citizens in adhering to health guidelines and precautionary measures contributed significantly to the progress. He stressed on the need to continue following the guidelines issued by local and federal authorities and adhering to preventive measures such as physical distancing and use of sanitisers.

Dr Sharif further said the easing of movement restrictions in the emirate and the reopening of economic activities were smoothly implemented due to the cooperation of all members of the community. Their commitment remains crucial to avoiding any future setbacks that could undermine the efforts of the last few months as well as regaining the emirate’s economic momentum and enabling all sectors to resume normal activities.

How do we know if the curve is flattening?

To understand the incidence of infection and recovery, scientists use a graphic representation. The “curve” researchers are talking about refers to the projected number of people who will contract COVID-19 over a period of time. Dr Stanford explained: “The visual representation of the total number of infected, new infections and recoveries as well as fatalities on a graph shows the relationship between facts (values) and time (date). If the relationship is not a straight line, then the curves are part of a circle showing the increase or decrease.

NAT GRAPH1-1592383397168
Using the UAE WHO statistics upon COVID-19 cases and death, the following graphs made from the data available after the peak infection rate and deaths, shows some of the possible ends of the first phase of the epidemic in the UAE. Whether or not there will be a second phase remains to be seen. Image Credit: WHO

The steep rise in infection is represented by a rising graph that reaches a peak and then it goes down as infections decrease. This rise and fall is typical of all epidemics or pandemics. When we talk about flattening or bending the curve it represents the descriptions of the hoped-for effect of preventive measures upon the otherwise natural effect of the virus or other infections. In the UAE, the statistics show that the initial phase of the pandemic is on the wane.”

NAT GRAPH-1592383395605
The dots are the reported numbers. The solid red line is the trend. The dotted red line is an extension of the trend (Assumes that the current decrease will continue). The light green triangle is a simplistic way of looking at possible differences from the assumption that the trend will continue. You can see that the direction is towards early-mid July Image Credit: WHO

The reason why we have a higher number of asymptomatic or mild infections is in itself a subject of further analysis said Dr Stanford. “There are, however, different mutations of the virus already, those in the USA and China being milder than that in Europe,” he added.

How New Zealand and China flattened the curve

Dr Stanford feels the complete quarantine of cities has probably been a major factor for control in China, while in New Zealand, it is simply the low density of population per square kilometre. “In New Zealand, with a population of 4.9 million, it had only 1,504 cases and 22 deaths. It has an educated, responsive population and a land density of only 46 people per square mile. This is in adherence to the same efforts in most countries and it probably explains their results. It is unclear as to the mutation type prominent there, perhaps Type A rather than Type B, which is common in Europe.”

WHO and CDC have constantly warned in countries that have won the first round of their battle, to be prepared for a second wave of infection and that there is no room for complacency. Both Dr Stanford and Dr Al Sisi felt that in order to maintain the current rate of recovery and lower incidence of new infections, it was important for the entire population to follow government advise on health protocol.