Coronavirus: Abu Dhabi medics hold China conference call to aid efforts to combat Covid-19

Doctors at Burjeel Medical City gained a crucial insight into how health experts in Zhejiang tackled the pandemic

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 18, 2020.  
   Dr. Faisal inserts a swab in the mouth of a patient for a coronavirus test at the Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi.
Victor Besa / The National
Reporter:  Ramola Talwar
Section:  NA
Powered by automated translation

Medics in Abu Dhabi have held talks with experts in China’s manufacturing hub of Zhejiang to help boost their fight against coronavirus.

A team from Burjeel Medical City joined a Zoom conference with researchers, nurses and infection control specialists at the Fourth Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University to share insights on containing the virus.

With more than 1,200 confirmed cases, the coastal province of Zhejiang was declared a Grade One emergency on January 23.

Home to 57 million people, the region was one of the first to return to economic activities after a period of nine days without any new confirmed cases, according to the Zhejiang Health Commission.

Hospital vice president Xu Zhihao, a professor of pneumology and respiratory medicine, said staff quickly learnt the virus was unlikely to become airborne, but could be transmitted from close contact.

“It is accepted fact that the virus is transmitted through close contact, although aerosol transmission is plausible in a closed environment with a high concentration of patients with the virus,” he said.

“We decided all patients should be triaged at the doorstep to a hospital, and those with a temperature sent to a separate fever clinic with negative pressure wards for further tests for Covid-19.

“To avoid creating unnecessary panic, we paid more attention to false-positive results by also then testing for antibodies in patients.

“We decided staff working on isolation wards should have strict training in how to put on and take off their personal protective equipment.


“If staff show any symptoms, they should be immediately isolated.”

On the east coast near Shanghai, latest state figures show Zhejiang province reported 1,205 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with one death, while 1,050 patients have been discharged.

Its capital, Hangzhou used big data and information technology like QR codes to track the virus as it spread.

Careful planning and clear public messaging helped reduce the impact of the virus when compared with the first epicentre in Wuhan, more than 1,000 miles away.

In the early days of the outbreak, Zhejiang was the first region to raise the risk management response to the highest level, despite recording no confirmed cases.

The Fourth Affiliated Hospital in Zhejiang opened in 2014, has 1,000 beds and treated more than a million outpatients last year.

Doctors there said increased respiration rates or drowsiness in children, along with a temperature, could be an early indicator of the virus.

Strict hygiene measures were immediately introduced at the hospital, with staff told to wear greater levels of personal protection equipment in areas of the hospital exposed to infected patients.

Observation and quarantine wards demanded the greatest level of protection and included a full face shield, mask, shoe covers, gloves and complete protective suits.

Patients in Zhejiang who tested positive for Covid-19, but did not show symptoms, were also quarantined for two weeks, with regular temperature checks and a CT scan completed as a precaution.

“What was interesting was that these doctors were not respiratory experts as such, but were able to get some level of control by enacting common sense and standard clinical management,”  said Dr Neil Nijhawan, a palliative care consultant at Burjeel Medical City.

"It is slightly different, but most of the rules we would apply to a severe form of flu also proved to be successful in the treatment of coronavirus patients in Zhejiang.

“If clinically a patient is deteriorating, it was clear doctors in China were prepared to bypass a chest x-ray and have a CT scan instead.

“There are a still a lot of unknowns with Covid-19, so it was invaluable to have first-hand experience from colleagues who have been through some difficult times and are willing to share their experiences with us.”