Frontline workers are the pandemic's greatest heroes. They have worked relentlessly to keep people safe and healthy, and to help maintain a sense of security in troubled times. In the early days of the pandemic, neighbourhoods across the world saw weekly, even nightly rituals in which residents applauded for medical staff from their balconies every evening.
As outbreaks of Covid-19 dragged on, the novelty of these celebrations wore off. Yet hospital personnel and others have continued to combat the health crisis, risking their lives daily for the past nine months.
In recognition for their work, the UAE has enrolled more than 80,000 essential, frontline workers in a special programme to provide them with professional, psychological and financial support. This includes mental health services, discounts, schooling as well as benefits for essential workers' families.
The project will be overseen by the Frontline Heroes Office, set up by President Sheikh Khalifa in July and operating under the direction of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
"We owe it to them to recognise their heroic efforts” said Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon, chairman of the Frontline Heroes Office, “and to ensure we are providing our frontline professionals and their families with the same level of protection and support they offer us.”
Under other initiatives, some healthcare professionals in the Emirates will also be eligible for long-term visas. In May, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, issued instructions for some medical professionals in Dubai to be granted a 10-year golden residency. The visas are a token of gratitude for their efforts in the fight against the coronavirus.
Work such as that of the Frontline Heroes Office is integral in ensuring the long-term health of the country’s frontline workers and the wellbeing of everyone in the UAE. Pandemics challenge every section of a society simultaneously, while frontline workers across sectors help to cushion the blow for the rest of us. Addressing their well-being and ensuring that they feel welcome and appreciated is a necessary and worthy investment in society’s future.
Support for frontline workers goes hand in hand with broader public health measures to keep everyone safe from coronavirus and other diseases. These include a mass Covid-19 testing programme as well as a vaccination policy launched by the UAE Cabinet on Monday. The immunisation policy aims to make vaccines and preventive care widely available in the country, in addition to raising awareness about the importance of vaccines.
As the global consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to unfold, it is all the more vital to support those who risk their lives everyday to keep us from harm's way. Medical staff, Abu Dhabi border police, delivery drivers and many others have kept the country healthy, safe and thriving. They have supported us through difficult times with great professionalism and dedication, even as they come under tremendous pressure. They deserve all of the recognition and respect we can accord.