In the past few days, two new initiatives have been put in place to counter Covid-19 in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Firstly, health authorities announced they will be taking the emirate's mass testing campaign even further. In addition to carrying out free tests in drive-through facilities, industrial zones and residential areas for low-income workers, medical teams will also provide coronavirus tests, free of charge, to people living in high density areas and tower blocks. The aim is to identify and separate silent carriers of the virus.
The drive to locate and isolate asymptomatic patients is all the more crucial as they are believed to represent up to 25 per cent of all coronavirus infections, according to the US Centres of Disease Control and Prevention, and could spread the virus unknowingly to family members and others in close proximity.
Secondly, Abu Dhabi announced that travel between different regions of the emirate (Al Dhafra, Al Ain and Abu Dhabi City) will be banned for a week, starting Tuesday, to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Movement between Abu Dhabi and other emirates will also be restricted, but special permits will be issued for patients that must go to hospital, people working in essential sectors and for the movement of vital goods. Sheikh Abdulla Al Hamed, chairman of Department of Health - Abu Dhabi, told The National that "with the expansion of the project to include high-density areas, and to ensure that the largest possible number of the emirate's population are reached as quickly as possible, we had to ban movement between cities and reduce contact as much as possible."
The move is meant to buttress Abu Dhabi’s mass screening programme, making them two pillars of the same strategy that prioritises the health of all, Emiratis and residents.
Combined with mass testing, restricting movement within the emirate should enable health authorities to root out any clusters of the virus that have yet to be identified. Once these pockets are spotted, patients can receive medical assistance, and those around them can be spared from infection. The strategy should allow for better control of the outbreak, while lessening the risks of a second wave as the country prepares to gradually open up.
Striking a balance between public health and keeping the economy – and people’s livelihoods – healthy is no easy task. Maintaining this equilibrium requires a phased lifting of restrictions, accompanied by intensive screenings. Abu Dhabi’s latest efforts underline the emirate’s commitment to a return to normalcy, while maintaining a focus on people’s health. For instance, despite travel restrictions, people across Abu Dhabi can still go about their business as usual in their city from 6am to 10pm. Movement is only restricted from one area to another to isolate potential clusters while mass testing continues. And on Sunday, Abu Dhabi’s Emergency and Crisis Committee for the Covid-19 Pandemic increased capacity limits in malls from 30 per cent to 40 per cent.
As restrictions are lifted, individuals must act responsibly and adhere to precautionary measures.
In the words of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, "We have entered a new stage, the stage for gradual return to economic life," but to make it a success, individuals and institutions have a great responsibility to shoulder. "Every person is responsible" said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid on Sunday, during a Cabinet meeting.
While the world awaits a vaccine or a treatment for Covid-19, the only solution to save lives without sacrificing livelihoods is to stay cautious, and keep testing. This strategy is especially important for the nation's largest emirate. Abu Dhabi comprises nearly 90 per cent of the UAE's total landmass, making movement restrictions all the more pivotal for identifying and treating silent clusters of the virus and protecting lives.