Dubai: The first case of coronavirus was reported in the UAE on January 29, 2020. Today, just 11 months later, residents have a choice of COVID-19 vaccines to pick from. There’s a sense of renewed hope and confidence as they ring in the New Year, thanks to the authorities who tackled an unprecedented crisis with a strong will and firm hand.
Starting with the prompt introduction of the national sterilisation programme in March, the authoriities, under a centralised command, kept adding new precautionary measures, while simultaneously setting up the necessary infrastructure for testing, quarantine, isolation and treatment of confirmed cases.
As flights continued to be suspended and retailers worked under restrictions, UAE remained one of the few countries in the world that could boast of food security to meet any eventuality. Even at the peak of the pandemic, the emirates did not see a scramble for food stuffs in supermarkets, as there was enough and more for everyone. So much so, that the generous government continued to live up to its reputation and regularly sent out aid to other affected countries.
“The UAE is committed to the global fight against COVID-19. We are pleased to support this process and welcome partnerships between UAE organisations and international players to enable promising solutions and progress."
Anticipating the surge in cases well before they struck, the health authorities went into overdrive to prepare for potential requirements. Field hospitals with huge capacities came up in quick succession across the emirates; anyone with symptoms could walk into any hospital emergency to get tested, even as drive-through facilities were opened. The extensive swab test network across the country helped detect cases quickly.
The introduction of the ALHOSN UAE app enabled contact tracing and entire blocks of people who were in touch with a positive patient could be quarantined in time. Testing was ramped up to such an extent that the UAE in no time came to be ranked among the world’s top five countries for per capita COVID-19 testing.
The breakthroughs on the vaccine front also made international headlines. In July,the UAE kicked off Phase III trials for the Sinopharm inactivated vaccine developed by Chinese experts. In October, the UAE also announced that it would host Phase III trials for an adenovirus-based vaccine developed in Russia. At the time, Abdul Rahman bin Mohammad bin Nasser Al Owais, UAE Minister of Health and Prevention, said: “The UAE is committed to the global fight against COVID-19. We are pleased to support this process and welcome partnerships between UAE organisations and international players to enable promising solutions and progress.”
Leading from the front, Abu Dhabi also made international headlines by becoming the global logistics hub to facilitate COVID-19 vaccine distribution across the world. Etihad Cargo, member of the Hope Consortium which was set up for the purpose, transported five million vaccines in November on behalf of the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi.
In Dubai, the Supreme Committee for Crisis and Disaster Management last week announced a massive and free vaccination campaign against COVID-19 with the Pfizer vaccine. The first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived from Brussels on an Emirates SkyCargo flight.
As residents book appointments for the free vaccine, the sense of excitement and relief is unmistakeable.
As one resident who took the vaccine today remarked, “This will be my most profound New Year. Kudos to the authorities that they made it possible for me to celebrate.”