The head of a top hospital in Abu Dhabi has warned residents against paranoia, saying the UAE was prepared to protect its people against Covid-19.
Dr Rakesh Suri, chief executive of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, spoke with The National the day after the World Health Organisation chief warned countries to prepare for a "potential pandemic" of the coronavirus, calling the sudden increase in cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea "deeply concerning".
"[Do] not be paranoid, [do] not be scared. We are prepared, we are ready, we are with you and we will get past this," was Dr Suri's message to the public.
The hospital chief, who oversees 5,000 caregivers in 40 medical specialities at the Cleveland Clinic on Al Maryah Island, said that, while infection outbreaks are not new to the world, Covid-19 was different because of the public's access to real-time information on the spread of the virus.
"What’s different about this is it’s being spread and news of it is being spread in a whole different way," he said. "We are connected globally through electronic means in a way we have never before been in history, and this is part of the so-called problem."
The WHO has declared a global health emergency but stopped short of calling it a pandemic. A WHO joint mission to China that ended on Monday found the virus there "peaked" between January 23 and February 2 "and has been declining steadily since then”, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
China has reported a total of 77,362 cases of Covid-19 and 2,618 deaths. Outside China there are now 2,074 reported cases in 28 countries and 23 deaths, WHO figures show.
While the mortality rate of the virus has not been pinpointed by public health officials, Dr Suri, who is a practising cardiothoracic surgeon, said it is less than Sars or Ebola and called it a "myth" that this virus was "the most deadly infectious agent that we have seen in our lifetimes".
A more deadly virus "spreads less rapidly because if you think about it, it takes the lives of those it infects. Therefore the victims don’t get very far".
Dr Suri echoed Mr Tedros's comments that "this virus can be contained" and that government measures worldwide to take precautions and restrict air travel have been adequate.
"In particular, the UAE is a very safe place. There are very few cases. None in Abu Dhabi," Dr Suri said.
Cleveland Clinic has a protocol in place to "humanely" isolate patients who are being assessed for whether they are infected with Covid-19 and is "working very closely with the national leaders in health to ensure that we are on standby to help the nation meet any potential threat", he said.
"If anybody were to be diagnosed we have the best therapy available anywhere on the planet right here in Abu Dhabi."