Dubai: The new normal is upon us, and life in the UAE amid the coronavirus has reopened its doors; with face masks, gloves and social distancing in hot pursuit.
But even though Dubai has allowed 100 per cent capacity back at its shopping centres, residents continue to take precautions as single-store outlets receive around 20 per cent of its usual number of customers.
And as the effects of COVID-19 continues to affect the level of stress and mental health of residents, psychologists and therapists have already creates free virtual support groups, providing a space where people share their concerns and interests.
To address the issues of mental health brought about by the coronavirus, the Ministry of Health and Prevention has announced that a dedicated hotline was established, “to respond to your psychological concerns and anxiety related to COVID-19”, in cooperation with volunteers from Dubai’s Al Amal Hospital.
Residents can call the mental support hotline 04-5192519 – available from 9am to 9pm, from Sunday to Thursday. Alternatively, residents can send an email to Alamal.firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a May 2020 report published by the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) titled, ‘Life After COVID-19: Community’, it found that social distancing increased anxiety and mental health issues among individuals, and led to a disruption in family dynamics as family members try to balance social life and work.
The report, launched within the foundation’s ‘Life after COVID-19’ series, tackled the different challenges that the UAE and the Arab world will face in the aftermath of the global health crisis. It addressed the ongoing COVID-19 response measures at the community level, and provided recommendations to support the elderly and People of Determination to ensure their safety and social security, as most vulnerable groups of society.
As with previous pandemics, social distancing, or more literally explained as physical distancing, is seen to be the most successful measure in most countries in the absence of a vaccine or treatment for the COVID-19 disease. As a result, all activities that require gatherings have come to a pause and the commercial activity, work and study, which are dependent on the use of the internet, has further led to a rapid increase in video conferencing platforms.
In fact, the report identifies that active users of the application Zoom, reached 2.22 million people per month during the past few months - more than the total of its users in all of 2019. Primarily used for work, these platforms are now being used to host virtual birthday parties and events.
The report goes on to highlight that COVID-19 isolation has altered everyday lifestyle, and highlights the importance for family members to find a healthy work-life balance, as well as best ways to help children study at home.
Amid COVID-19 lockdowns, the report considers the shift towards digital communications as key to enhancing the possibilities of future community engagement. It draws on the example of the Arab region, where people have increased communication through social media platforms and applications, such as WhatsApp and TikTok.
The report also showed that several psychologists and therapists in the region and the world are agreeing to create free virtual support groups, a space where people share their concerns and interests.
Furthermore, while many couples have taken advantage of home isolation to enhance their relationships, this has also led to higher rates of familial issues and divorce rates in some societies. Domestic violence and emotional abuse have also increased as people were forced to stay indoors in tense environments.
The report cited the United Nations Special Reporter on violence against women, Dubravka Simonovic, who stated that it is very likely that rates of domestic violence will increase. She expressed particular concerns for women who are at a higher risk of domestic violence, and pointed out that the situation worsens considerably in cases of isolation such as the lockdowns imposed during the pandemic.
Despite the challenges, the report states that COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to reassess family priorities by recovering "lost times" and spending them with children and the elderly.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the report predicts that caregivers and midwives will have a greater role in domestic healthcare, especially senior citizens and pregnant women. For the long-term, the report also foretells that online sessions and live support groups will continue to grow after the COVID-19 pandemic, as it allows the formation of new, more inclusive communities that enable people to engage with each other positively without mobility or monetary challenges.