A warehouse at the International Humanitarian City in Dubai. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: In the fight against the novel coronavirus, the UAE is playing an important yet often overlooked role.

The country houses the World Health Organisation (WHO) Operations Supply and Logistics Hub in Dubai, and a senior WHO official said at a press conference in Cairo today that this facility is instrumental in supplying countries with required medical supplies.

“The Logistics hub in Dubai’s International Humanitarian City is playing a central role in ensuring that countries across the globe are receiving the supplies they need to prepare for, and to respond to, possible cases of Covid-19,” said Dr Ahmed Al Mandhari, regional director at WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (WHO-EMRO).

“So far, all countries in the [Eastern Mediterranean] region have been provided with laboratory reagents [for testing], personal protective equipment, surgical gowns and other supplies. In addition, the logistics hub is also ensuring the delivery of similar supplies to other countries [across the world],” Al Mandhari said.

According to its last report published a week ago, the hub has shipped more than 584,000 surgical masks, 47,000 N95 masks, 620,000 gloves, 72,000 surgical gowns, and 11,000 goggles to 57 countries.

“The [hub] continues to support COVID-19 emergency operations where global demand for critical items continues to outpace global supply availability,” the report reads.

At the press conference, Dr Al Mandhari stressed that the shortage in medical supplies poses a major challenge to WHO and country efforts.

“Global shortages in medical supplies and personal protective equipment for medical workers pose challenges to our ability to deliver the required amount of supplies to countries that need them,” he added.

The official called upon donors to provide resources, both financial and physical, to supplement coronavirus containment efforts.

“In most countries, we still have time to rapidly accelerate containment efforts, including proven measures like early detection, early testing, early isolation, treatment, contact tracing and community measures, which represent the best efforts to control the pandemic,” Al Mandhari said.

COVID-19 has so far led to 6,606 deaths worldwide, and 167,000 cases have been reported so far.

Al Mandhari also called upon governments to take a whole-government-whole-society approach as they work to control the spread of the coronavirus.

On an individual level, he recommended social distancing, as well as healthy habits to strengthen immunity, including balanced diets, sport activities, personal hygiene and tobacco avoidance.

Will the coronavirus threat reduce in summer?

A top official at the World Health Organisation’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (WHO-EMRO) has said that there is some evidence that the novel coronavirus threat is bigger in areas with colder weather.

“What we are seeing right now is that in Asia and in the Middle East and Europe where we have cold weather, the virus is spreading very seriously and mutating compared to the warmer areas. This is the area where there is a lot of ongoing investigation and study, and we will hopefully see more findings in the coming weeks,” said Dr Abdinasar Abubakar, team lead for high-risk pathogens at the Who-EMRO Infectious Hazard Management unit.

“A lot of experts and scientists around the world are monitoring the impact of the weather and temperature in the progression of the COVID-19 outbreak,” he added.