People with symptoms of coronavirus who avoid taking a test must shoulder much of the blame for the rising number of cases, senior doctors have said.
Some patients are writing symptoms off as flu and have not taken a test or isolated at home, they said.
Other factors in the spread of infection include new variants of the virus, more socialising indoors as temperatures increase, fewer people wearing masks and waning immunity from vaccines.
“The rise in cases is due to casual attitude towards Covid-19 protocols,” said Dr Ahmed Khairy, head of the department of internal medicine at NMC Royal Hospital in Abu Dhabi.
The infection rate has increased from 200 a day last month to more than 1,400 a day this week, but doctors said few people required hospital treatment and a low number of patients had pneumonia.
“The number of viral infections has gone up, some are getting influenza and others are picking up new Covid variants,” said Dr Saheer Sainalabdeen, a specialist in respiratory medicine at Medeor Hospital in Dubai.
“But the numbers needing hospital treatment for Covid-related issues are very low.
“There are lots of other viruses causing issues like colds, coughs and throat pain, and very few people are being admitted for pneumonia as we have seen in previous waves of Covid.”
While doctors urged people with health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness or cancer to take extra precautions, they said the sharp increase in cases was not necessarily a cause for concern.
“More people are inside now due to the hotter weather, and this is a viral infection,” said Dr Sainalabdeen, who has been treating coronavirus patients since the early days of the pandemic.
'Milder but highly spreadable'
“Those in close contact with others who have the virus will pick it up,” he said.
“If you are in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid, you should also be getting tested.”
In March, the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority said quarantine was no longer required for those in close contact with a positive case, but it is still necessary to get tested.
Health professionals have reported more common symptoms of fever, body aches and a sore throat during the current wave of infections.
A fever usually subsides within 72 hours, and as 100 per cent of the country is now vaccinated to some degree, symptoms usually pass without the need for hospital care in most cases.
Dr Khairy said complacency contributed to more cases in recent weeks.
“Many people are neglecting the importance of mask rules and are avoiding getting tested when they have minor symptoms,” he said.
“Another reason is the complacency in wearing masks indoor.
“Fortunately, with availability of vaccines and herd immunity the hospitalisation has reduced significantly.”
The number of people around the world with the virus has increased as mask mandates and restrictions on movement are cut.
Since June 12, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said air passengers travelling from abroad to the US will no longer require a negative Covid-19 viral test or documentation of recovery before boarding their flight.
The seven-day average of new cases has risen to 87,380 on June 20, up from 42,894 on April 20.
Meanwhile in the UK, the number of people in English hospitals with Covid-19 complications has increased by 24 per cent in a week.
NHS England data showed 5,726 coronavirus patients were admitted to hospital, up from 4,602 last Monday. Doctors attributed the rise to more socialising during Queen Elizabeth II's platinum jubilee weekend celebrations.
Dr Pawan Kumar Shrivastava, a consultant internal medicine at NMC Specialty Hospital in Al Nahda, Dubai, said people must not ignore precautions and government advice.
“We have lost so many of our friends and relatives in the last Covid wave, and we don’t want a similar situation again,” he said.
“The disease is milder, but that doesn’t mean we should not take precautions, as this can change at any time to severe disease.
“Once again, I emphasise on the proper use of mask, early diagnosis and effective home quarantine is the key to controlling this deadly infection.”
What are the rules?
Anyone who gives a positive PCR test for the coronavirus is a confirmed case. That means isolating for 10 days, even if symptoms are not present.
The Dubai Health Authority said citizens should download the Covid-19 DXB app. Those who do not will be liable for a Dh10,000 ($2,722) fine.
After that, “immediate” isolation in a separate room from family is required and employers must be notified.
The 10-day home isolation period is mandatory. The first day is the day the PCR test was taken.
Latest Covid-19 rules in the UAE: all you need to know
A person who gives two positive tests is a confirmed case. Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre said high-risk categories — those who are 50 years old or above or have severe symptoms or have a chronic disease or pregnant women — should visit a primary assessment centre for a check-up and isolation measure advice following a first positive test.
Those to whom the above does not apply, such as patients who demonstrate no symptoms following a positive test, should visit any health centre in the emirate for retesting.
The isolation period is 10 days and two negative PCR tests are needed to end quarantine. This period can be cut short if two negative tests are returned 24 hours apart.
Labourers of government and private companies are required to call 909 immediately for coordination of transportation to designated isolation centres.
Anyone who experiences severe respiratory symptoms is urged to call 999.