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Dubai: Health care officials across the UAE are cautioning the public not to lower their guard as the country has seen a rise in the number of COVID-19 infections in the last three days.

While the number of COVID-19 cases had been on a steady decline since July 9, the recent surge has been a cause for worry.

In a daily press briefing held on August 18, Dr Omar Al Hammadi, the UAE government spokesperson, said the average number of cases had increased by 136 in both Emiratis and residents.

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Abdul Rahman Al Owais, the UAE Minister for Health and Prevention, also cautioned against the 30 per cent rise in Emiratis contracting COVID-19, which he attributed to the rise in social gatherings during the festival season.

“This rate of increase is worrying and indicates an increase in the rate of infection in the coming period,” he had said during a media briefing.

Dr Adel Al Sisi, the Chief Medical Officer, Consultant of ICU and Chair of Intensive Care at Prime Hospital, said, “The UAE government has done a commendable job with more than six million tests, which is more than 50 per cent of the total population. The higher the tests, the more are the possibilities of detecting asymptomatic cases in the community. That is why we see a surge. However, there is cause for alarm when we see a rise in number of cases.”

Dr Adel Al Sisi

Talking about the steps taken by the government, Dr Al Sisi said: “In Dubai at least, with the exception of a couple of hospitals, all have been certified COVID-19 free and we haven’t lowered our guard in hospitals. We still have continued to keep a separate pathway for patients with fever and separate receptions so that if a suspected case does come in, we are able to call the hospital we have a tie up with to take in a COVID-19 patient. From what I know, the cases that are being reported are largely mild to moderate with very few patients on ventilator. The survival rate from COVID-19 in the UAE is 90 per cent. The government is very vigilant and the vaccine trials are in the third phase.”

He said that the surge in cases could also be due to the people getting more relaxed about their fear of contracting the disease. “The government has taken all precautions and now it is left to the residents to act responsibly.”

Four golden rules

Dr Ramanathan Venkiteswaran, Medical Director of Medcare and Aster Hospitals and Clinics and access clinics, conceded that hospitals in their group had witnessed a surge in suspected cases. “People have gone lax in observing the four golden rules — social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands frequently for 20 seconds at least and in absence of handwash, using hand sanitisers.

What you can do?
• Make sure to get yourself tested for COVID-19 if you have fever, dry cough, nausea and are unwell
• Desist from stepping out if unwell, isolate yourself until you get reports
• If asymptomatic, quarantine at home or if required, report to the nearest hospital for treatment
• Totally avoid social gatherings or throwing parties at home where social distancing is impossible
• Comply with health protocols issued by the government at all times. It is mandatory to wear face mask in public, frequently change the mask if contaminated, observe social distance in buses, restaurants, malls, private vehicles and wash hands frequently for a minimum of 20 seconds. Wherever washing hands is not possible, use sanitisers.
• Cut out all unnecessary socialising wherever possible

"While we at the hospitals will have to ensure that all our health care workers are wearing full Personal Protection Equipment [PPE] and have fever clinics as well as separate pathways for suspected patients, the residents will have to take responsibility and follow the protocols. This means not travelling with more than three people in private vehicles, maintaining social distance in malls, offices, restaurants, buses and metro, not having private gatherings etc. This can help stem the community transmission as it did earlier,” Dr Venkiteswaran said.

Dr Ramanathan Venkiteswaran

Dr Atul Aundhekar, CEO of Avivo Health Care group, said false confidence in oneself has mainly led to a resurgence in cases. “We have seen in countries like the UK, Australia and New Zealand, wherever restrictions were lifted and people behaved irresponsibly by shunning the mask and not maintaining social distance, there was a second wave and those governments had to re-introduce restrictions.”

He said in the preceding holiday season, there was more movement in the community which made families drop their guard and socialise. Secondly, it is human nature to have a blind spot after sometime, where people feel falsely reassured that COVID-19 will not happen to me, or the worst is over, so we can relax. People need to raise the bar on their hygiene, sanitisation and personal vigilance in following all the protocols. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic. Although the UAE has earned global praise for the efficient handling of the situation and we are on the tail-end, there is no way we can relax.”

Dr Atul Aundhekar

Dr Aundhekar said that it was each person’s responsibility to ensure that he or she did not step out in case of fever and goes for screening. “Once we have made sure we have no COVID-19, it is our duty to emphasise the same with our family and relatives. The awareness has to be spread door-to-door. The government has taken the right steps so far and is moving towards a lasting solution with vaccines etc. But each one of us has a responsibility towards the community and we have to ensure we do not become spreaders.”