How the UAE managed the COVID-19 outbreak

UAE, situated in the heart of the world, is one of the busiest and most connected hubs for air and sea traffic across the globe.

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced nations to a grinding halt and most travel hubs forced shut to arrest contagion, the UAE helped people return to their loved ones, transport essentials and aid, while setting up two of the world’s largest GDP-compliant vaccine cargo hubs.

This was possible due to UAE’s “symphonic thinking” that led to effective pandemic management with timely implementation of protocols, systems, optimisation of infrastructure and a supportive public.

And soon, UAE confounded expectations when it took measured risks to contribute to humanity, hosting the world’s first Phase-III #4Humanity trials of an inactivated vaccine from July 16, 2020.

It also took an early call to issue Emergency Use Authorisation on the vaccine and was among the first to launch its national vaccination campaign in December last year.

Today, UAE has four authorised vaccines and ranks first globally in COVID-19 vaccine doses given at 158.24 doses per 100 people, crossing 15.5 million doses so far. It has consistently ranked as one of the two highest-rated vaccinated nations on a per-capita basis in the world.

A recent study shows that COVID-19 related hospitalisations have decreased by 93% and COVID-19 related ICU admissions have dropped by 95% — making the UAE one of the live case studies on the effects of mass vaccination.

A recent study shows that COVID-19 related hospitalisations have decreased by 93% and COVID-19 related ICU admissions have dropped by 95% — making the UAE one of the live case studies on the effects of mass vaccination.

Unlike nations who locked borders, UAE has remained open to serve humanity. It has maintained a relatively low average infection of under 2,000 cases per day as well a low death rate.

Backed by science, stringent safety protocols, strong public-private-partnerships, collective public and community engagement, we have set a model to fight this pandemic to save human lives, locally and internationally.

Symphonic Thinking

UAE's response to COVID-19 is a well-coordinated symphony involving a diverse group of actors – from the leadership to the government, from private sector to healthcare, and humanitarian organisations. All collectively produced a systematic response — thanks to 50 years of efforts in building the infrastructure, cutting-edge technology, systems, processes, value for human talent, enterprise and ingenuity.

Action of People - From the inspiring national leadership to the worker at the supermarket ensuring every shopping trolley is sanitised and safe to use, one has to salute the effort of all citizens at all levels and the ‘partnership mindset’, further accentuated by people following requisite healthcare regulations.

Symphony of Man and Machine – The use of technology and its efficient deployment at all key touchpoints for prevention, detection, diagnostics, disinfection and monitoring – from the drones cleaning the streets, IoT based virus tracking, AI backed genomic sequencing to vaccine manufacturing, and human centric design with drive-through COVID-19 testing offering the perfect mix!

Compassionate Enforcement – Effective management and implementation of masks, social distancing, and self-quarantine regulations. The progression from planned social distancing to lockdown was managed sequentially and with least disruption. Essential supplies were accessible and available for all and basic human needs met.

Forward Thinking - Fighting the pandemic required coordination in the present and in planning ahead. Schools transitioned quickly to online education, and self-sustenance capabilities around omics and biobanks were built. Specialised global vaccine logistical hubs created and UAE built a robust digital infrastructure.

Digital Nation and Mobile Governance - The pandemic put that on overdrive UAE’s digital capabilities with virtually all UAE services made accessible online. The transformation was quick, efficient, and seamless. The implementation of AI, cloud computing and digital vaccine management app was strategic.

Emergency Response Mechanism – The UAE has a robust emergency response system to deal with high density cases. Being one of the busiest travel hubs, large number of tourists and visitors tested positive and all of them were provided the best treatment facilities.

Economic Impact Management – UAE was cognisant of the economic impact of the pandemic. It showed a balanced approach through economic stimulus, financial relief, financial control, social support, free medical support, humanitarian outreach, and rule relaxations to soften the blow for the new normal.

International Cooperation - Under the direction of the leadership, UAE actively engaged in multilateral cooperation with countries in facilitating humanitarian support, collaboration on medical breakthroughs, providing aid, vaccines, and implementing long-term economic recovery strategies.

Human Spirit – UAE's story is not complete without acknowledging our frontline warriors. It is story of human spirit and commitment from individuals and institutions – a commitment made stronger because of the support received from all levels, especially the leadership. A spirit kindled by Baba Zayed.

As Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet said over a year ago, “This comes down to a political leadership that is sensitive to the science and that is attuned to the risks.” We couldn’t agree more.

Faheem Ahamed is the Group Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of G42



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