UAE residents should not go outside – even for exercise – because they risk catching or spreading coronavirus, one of the country’s top health officials has said.
Aysha Al Dhaheri, head of health promotion at the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, urged people to instead exercise at home, making use of tutorial videos on the internet, rather than walking or jogging outside. If people want fresh air, they may briefly step outside their front doors but should return inside immediately, she said.
She also pleaded with residents to cancel all social and family gatherings and to maintain social distancing of at least two metres with non-household members when they did have to leave their homes, for example to go shopping.
"This is a golden opportunity to exercise at home," Dr Al Dhaheri told The National, when asked to clarify the official stance on exercise.
“Follow all the nice YouTube videos and fitness videos to do at-home exercise or some yoga. Train with your kids, do some activities with them, utilise your time wisely at home.”
Asked how residents could get fresh air, she said: “When you want to take some fresh air, you can stand in front of your house, just to change the environment, but please go back immediately.”
The recommendation goes further than those of some other countries, which have introduced tough measures in an attempt to combat Covid-19. The UK, for example, has ordered non-essential shops to close and told residents to stay indoors, although they are allowed out to partake in one outdoor exercise session per day.
On social distancing, Dr Al Dhaheri said it was not necessary for members of the same household to stay two metres apart but that this rule should be followed in all other circumstances. All gatherings should not take place, she reiterated.
Some people carrying the virus may be contagious despite not displaying any symptoms.
“If you have a stranger coming from outside, or any friend or relative, it is very important to keep the social distancing of two metres,” she said. “We highly recommend that you stop all family gatherings or friend gatherings or any social activity gathering. It is very important to adhere to the highest precaution.
“Please, we are requesting everyone to stay at home and avoid all kinds of gathering.
“The key issue is to keep social distancing. You cannot test everybody. So be prepared and help the great efforts UAE healthcare [workers] and officials are doing.”
In the UAE, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 has risen sharply in recent days. On Wednesday, 85 new cases were reported, bringing the total to 333.
It is hoped that by remaining indoors, the spread of the virus will be slowed.
But Dr Al Dhaheri said that, when residents do have to go outdoors for essential tasks, there is no need to wear a mask if they do not have symptoms. Gloves are also not recommended, except for people who were dealing in items or services where contamination is a risk.
Meanwhile, she said the country was “well prepared” with regard to access to equipment, such as ventilators, which may be needed in greater numbers should the situation worsen.
“Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed [Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces] has announced that for everyone, food and medication are red lines, and will be provided for everyone,” she said. There is “no need for concern about it”.