NAT Abdul Rahman Bin Mohammed Al Owais 1-1589297086198
His Excellency Abdul Rahman Bin Mohammed Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: The Minister of Health and Prevention has praised the UAE’s efforts to handle the repercussions and challenges of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The UAE has exerted exceptional efforts to absorb the implications of this pandemic and is now examining future opportunities to advance the healthcare system into the post COVID-19 period. This would serve the aspirations on the need to keep pace with rapid and evolving changes; strengthen the UAE’s development model and achieve the strategic goals of post COVID-19 era by the UAE Centennial 2071,” said Abdul Rahman Bin Mohammad Al Owais.

NAT H.E.s during the UAE meetings discussions-1589297094386
Participants during Tuesday's virtual session Image Credit: WAM

His remarks came during his address at the UAE Government remote meeting under the title ‘Preparations for the post-coronavirus, COVID-19, period’. The meeting brings together more than 100 government officials, ministers and heads of federal and local government entities, undersecretaries and directors of federal and local entities, to examine the implications of the pandemic on vital sectors and explore opportunities, challenges and preparations for the post COVID-19 period.

Al Owais said the meeting, which embodies the directives of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, aims to produce a strategy for the post COVID-19 period and assess the outcomes of the national response to the crisis in the healthcare and other vital sectors.

“There are no custom-made, clear experiences on how to handle the crisis that countries can implement, and no one can predict what will happen. However, the UAE is committed to adopting new ideas and availing of similar experiences to establish their own response strategy based on accumulated lessons and information and will hopefully overcome this crisis with greater strength and determination,” he said.

Al Owais discussed the potential challenges to the UAE health sector with attention shifting from non-communicable diseases due to the fight against the Coronavirus disease, overstressed health systems combined with the seasonal influenza and depleted operational capacity in hospitals.

Disease X

The minister gave an overview of the health sector expectations for 2020. He indicated that the UAE will manage to contain the COVID-19 outbreak and will develop a national readiness strategy for management of future diseases, ‘Disease X’. “The ministry will endeavor to develop the healthcare sector, by creating innovative ways to deliver healthcare services, such as telemedicine and digital medicine,” he said.

Other issues discussed include ongoing local isolation and quarantine measures for confirmed and suspected cases, conducting large-scale COVID-19 testing for all residents, enhancing citizens and residents’ immunity by encouraging a healthy lifestyle, and including mandatory COVID-19 vaccination, once found, in the annual government-funded vaccine schedule.

Al Owais also indicated that the UAE is leading global coronavirus testing with 1.5 million tests conducted since the beginning of the outbreak and that daily testing average in the UAE equals a four-month average of COVID-19 testing in other countries. “Other measures include isolation and quarantine programs for people returning to the UAE from foreign destinations, as well as the drive-through COVID-19 testing centers,” he said.

“The biggest challenge was during April, when the coronavirus curve was rising steadily. AS a precautionary measure, the UAE intensified its efforts to contain the outbreak, by enforcing mandatory self-quarantine and confinement measures, even for asymptomatic persons, during recovery for 15 to 25 days and up to 35 days. However, it takes up to one month to confirm total recovery.”