Dubai authorities plan for life with long-term Covid-19 threat

Head of Dubai's Covid-19 control centre says 'rules and regulations' would have to be obeyed as economic activity slowly resumes

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Dubai authorities are looking into what life may look like in the emirate if Covid-19 is to remain a long-term threat.

In a weekly briefing, Dr Amer Sharif, head of Dubai's Covid-19 Command and Control Centre, said many countries were studying plans for how to "coexist" with the virus if a vaccine were not developed.

Dr Sharif said it would be a matter of having rules and regulations that must be abided by to protect the public while making way for economic growth and a measure of normal life.

"Dubai is looking into how to live with the virus long-term by balancing public health, the economy and community life," he said.

"We are all responsible and will play our role."

Dr Sharif said more details were being uncovered about the virus each day and that information would inform plans.

Dubai is looking into how to live with the virus long-term by balancing public health, the economy and community life

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation said Covid-19 might never go away and become endemic, like HIV.

“I think it is important we are realistic and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear,” Mike Ryan, WHO emergencies expert, told an online briefing on Wednesday.

“I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not.”

More than 100 potential vaccines are being developed, including several in clinical trials.

But experts have stressed the difficulties of finding vaccines that are effective against coronaviruses.

On Thursday, local authorities said the gradual reopening of public spaces in Dubai was being done in three stages to prevent a possible surge in virus cases.

Dawood Al Hajri, director general of Dubai Municipality, said more than 3,000 workers have been sent across the city to conduct frequent inspections of malls, supermarkets, markets and salons to ensure precautionary measures were being adhered to.

More than 7,000 inspections have been carried out since January 25, Mr Al Hajri said.

"We have put 11 procedures in place at malls and retail outlets that must be enforced and we are following up to ensure these are being met," he said.

Mr Al Hajri said neighbourhood and public parks were being constantly sanitised.

While residential parks reopened this week, he said public parks would open after Eid Al Fitr.

But even then, safety measures will remain in place to protect members of the community from contracting the virus.

"It is also the responsibility of our community to adhere to these rules. We are all responsible for each other and we must take these measures seriously," Mr Al Hajri said.

Dr Sharif said Dubai would adjust its healthcare priorities in line with directives from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

Sheikh Mohammed led a three-day meeting this week to develop the UAE's post-coronavirus strategy.

Dr Sharif said there would be more focus on public health and communicable diseases.

"Previously, we mainly focused on chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases, but we must refocus on communicable diseases," he said.

He said there would be more medical research and laboratory work, and the healthcare sector would collaborate more closely with universities to keep on top of the latest studies and information.

"We will increase the capacity of the healthcare sector and automate patient files to be able to formulate an action plan more quickly," Dr Sharif said.

Mr Al Hajri said treatment of medical waste had become one of the biggest challenges Dubai Municipality had faced.

He said more than 350 tonnes of medical waste has been processed since the outbreak.

"This is hazardous waste that we must treat carefully and we do this at the Jebel Ali Hazardous Waste Treatment Facility, which is affiliated with Dubai Municipality," Mr Al Hajri said.

"It is not dissimilar to treating other hazardous waste and there are procedures in place to do this."

He said between five and six tonnes of medical waste was produced daily in Dubai by hospitals and labs.