Under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Dubai government has developed a comprehensive plan to help different sectors prepare themselves for the post-COVID-19 phase, according to heads of organisations on the frontlines of Dubai’s campaign against the pandemic.
The officials were speaking at a remote press conference organised by Dubai Media Office in collaboration with Dubai TV.
Dawood Al Hajri, Director General of Dubai Municipality and Dr. Amer Al Sharif, Head of the COVID-19 Command and Control Centre, answered a series of questions from senior officials of major Arabic and English media in the UAE. The media interaction, broadcast on Dubai TV channels, provided the latest updates on the COVID-19 situation in the emirate and measures taken by their organisations to support Dubai’s efforts.
‘Life after COVID-19’
As per the directives of Sheikh Mohammed, different sectors are getting ready for “life after COVID-19”, Al Sharif said. Dubai’s healthcare sector will place high importance on the management of public health and communicable diseases.
Priorities in the next phase will include ensuring the provision of professionals specialised in infectious diseases and linking healthcare services with academic and research institutions to create a comprehensive system for delivering positive health outcomes.
Thanks to the UAE leadership’s directives and the combined efforts of all entities and stakeholders, the latest numbers indicate positive results in the campaign against COVID-19, Al Sharif said.
As noted by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the country is on the verge of a “positive breakthrough” in its bid to contain the pandemic, but the public must remain patient and continue observing precautionary measures, he said.
One of world’s highest recovery rates
The UAE’s integrated healthcare system has helped it achieve one of the highest COVID-19 recovery rates in the world. Increased testing and early diagnosis have helped to increase the number of recoveries. Most cases with COVID-19 are minor and do not exhibit symptoms, he said. Medical teams and healthcare systems are ready to deal with any emergency, he added.
Al Sharif expressed his gratitude to frontline workers for their efforts in providing the highest standards of medical care. He also said the collaboration between the private and public sector to raise the country’s healthcare capacity has been instrumental in the effectiveness of measures against the pandemic.
Dubai Municipality measures
Al Hajri expressed his appreciation for all frontline workers, especially cleaners who keep the city and its streets clean and safe from the virus.
Dubai Municipality takes comprehensive precautionary measures for its frontline workers, he said. To deal with the crisis, all teams have worked to spread awareness among workers and distributed essential equipment and supplies such as temperature screening machines, disinfectants and other items.
Dubai Municpality’s staff, including cleaners involved in waste management, underwent extensive training on precautionary measures. The Municipality also carried out intensive sterilisation of the workers’ residential facilities. From the beginning there was high level of awareness among all workers.
More than 4,000 workers within ten specialised teams are working to deliver various functions on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19, apart from a large number of volunteers, citizens and residents. Dubai Municipality has a massive team for conducting sterilisation procedures, and inspection teams work to deliver their responsibilities on construction sites, in workers’ accomodation, malls, commercial outlets, salons and food outlets.
Dubai Municipality has issued 45 circulars based on the directives of the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management. It has outlined 11 sets of protocols related to precautionary measures in malls. Malls and outlets have been directed to strictly adhere to these protocols. Inspectors follow up regularly to ensure these measures are observed.
Responding to a question on whether Dubai Municipality will intensify supervision once public parks are opened, Al Hajri said that since the start of restrictions on movement, comprehensive sterilisation has been conducted in all public parks. T
he lifting of restrictions will take place in three phases, he said. The big parks will be reopened in the last phase of reopening. Stringent precautionary measures will be implemented to ensure the safety and health of the community. Steps will be taken to ensure the public abides by these measures, he stressed.
Al Hajri further said that since the reopening of economic activities, Dubai Municipality has carried out comprehensive inspections to ensure compliance with guidelines. Since 25 January, 7,000 inspections were carried out in various places including shopping malls, salons, food outlets, laundry services and both open and closed markets to ensure mandatory measures are being observed.
Speaking about measures taken against outlets that violated precautionary measures, he said circulars were sent to outlets explaining all measures. Some outlets had to be penalised for violating the measures. The extreme measure of closing outlets had to be taken in some cases.
However, he explained that the aim of Dubai Municipality’s efforts is not to close outlets but to safeguard the health and safety of the community.
Talking about the disposal of medical waste, he said such waste is treated at the Jebel Ali Hazardous Waste Treatment Facility. Up to 6 tonnes of hazardous medical waste contaminated by COVID-19 is collected from clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities and treated in three cycles in 24 hours and disposed.
Al Hajri stressed that other services of Dubai Municipality have not been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The Municipality has continued to maintain high levels of cleanliness in the city. Service operations are streamlined in three shifts to ensure high levels of excellence are maintained.
Living with the virus
Responding to a question on whether it is possible to live with the virus after containing the outbreak, Dr. Amer Al Sharif said that since COVID-19 is new, scientists and experts are still in the process of learning about about it.
Many governments are talking about living with the virus and balancing medical and precautionary measures with renewed economic, social and other activities in various spheres of life.
Preventive measures are important and the public has a responsibility to maintain the highest levels of precautions, he said.
Answering a query on the medical protocols being followed in the treatment of COVID-19 in the UAE and whether it includes drugs used in some countries like hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir, Dr. Amer Al Sharif said the UAE follows the protocols approved by health authorities including the Ministry of Health and Prevention, Dubai Health Authority and Abu Dhabi Health Authority.
This protocol distributed to all healthcare organisations is updated based on the latest scientific evidence and recommendations.
He confirmed hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir are some of the drugs included in the guidelines issued to healthcare facilities.
He stressed that the UAE has a clear strategy to expand medical testing across all segments of the community.
The goal is to ensure early diagnosis, isolate cases and contain the virus. The country has adopted a clear policy on this since the beginning of the outbreak and the results achieved vindicate this strategy, he added.