Dr Farida Al Hosani, executive director of infectious disease at Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, stated that mass testing and extensive nationwide vaccination campaign helped the UAE in preventing severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a recent conference at the Arab Health Trade exhibition in Dubai, Dr Al Hosani noted that rapid expansion of testing capacity by the UAE's health sector proved beneficial in limiting the spread of the virus. She further lauded the proactive response of the health sector and public support in the national efforts to contain the outbreak.
“Our strength in the UAE was healthcare readiness, adapting technologies, unified communication, effective collaboration and our emergency response system,” she said, while addressing an Arab Health 2021 conference.
She underlined that the trust between community members and the UAE government served as a crucial motivation in addressing the pandemic challenges. She added that the joined efforts and response of the public and private sector helped the UAE in effectively handling the impact of the pandemic. The UAE proactive response to COVID-19 was recognised internationally as one of the top global responses.
Dr Al Hosani further stated that the development of new and innovative treatments along with robust vaccine trials helped the UAE's health services in protecting the population throughout the fight against COVID-19.
"It is very hard to say that one measure worked better than another, but so far 2021 has been very different to 2020. Due to the vaccines and what we have learned in effective treatments, the severity of cases generally is much less than in the first wave," she added.
During the Arab Health 2021 conference, Dr Al Hosani underlined the importance of stay-at-home measures and introduction of remote learning at the onset of the pandemic during the national efforts. Furthermore, the vaccination programme launched later last year helped in safeguarding the UAE community's health and wellbeing from the impact of the virus.
She highlighted that expansion of surveillance teams and heat maps along with deployment of field medical teams to Covid hot spots such as Naif in Dubai and Al Mussaffah helped in overcoming localised outbreaks.
In addition, large-scale lab testing proved crucial in managing new cases along with an effective home isolation programme that provided support to those individuals who were placed in quarantine to prevent further infections.
From about 2,000 tests a day in March 2020, the UAE expanded its testing capacity to thousands currently, as a result of which the country was able to tackle new cases effectively. The public sector partnered with relevant entities to launch over 20 drive-through testing centre across the country to boost the government strategy.
“The huge number of volunteers that helped with the vaccine trials in August helped the community understand that we had to wait for the vaccine, which was also important," the senior official added.
Premediated efforts to launch the national vaccination campaign allowed the UAE health authorities in tackling the pandemic with the aim of resumption of economic activities across the country and gradual return to normalcy.
The UAE initiated human trials with an inactive virus at six test centres in August 2020 which saw the participation of over 42,000 volunteers from 125 nationalities. The government launched a vaccination programme in September 2020, for most vulnerable groups, such as frontline workers and the elderly, with the goal to immunise 50 percent of eligible target groups by the end of the first quarter of 2021.
Furthermore, the UAE begin Phase-3 trial of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine in January, with the support of about 1,000 volunteers from various nationalities.
At the same time, the UAE played a paramount role in supporting the global fight against COVID-19 by providing necessary aid to various countries across the world. As part of its international humanitarian efforts, the UAE sent more than 4.25 million PCR test kits and 2,060 ventilators on 183 medical flights to 134 countries.
Furthermore, mobile hospitals were set up in Jordan, Sudan, Guinea, and Mauritania along with the establishment of a medical clinic in Turkmenistan. The UAE contributed to the transport of two field hospitals from Norway and Belgium to Ghana and Ethiopia at a cost of $4 million.