Coronavirus: Dubai hospitals are safe to visit, say health authorities

Head of the Disease and Epidemic Control Centre says some people have avoided going to hospitals for fear of contracting Covid-19

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Hospitals in Dubai are safe to visit and anyone with an ailment "should not hesitate" to seek medical advice, authorities said on Thursday.

During a weekly press briefing, Dr Amer Al Sharif, head of the Disease and Epidemic Control Centre, part of Dubai's Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management, said hospitals had clear procedures in place to ensure Covid-19 patients were isolated from other visitors to avoid infections.

"If you need any treatment, you must go to hospital if you have a symptom. Do not fear going to hospitals," he said.

Many hospitals in the emirate have introduced a "virtual doctor" option for those who wish to seek medical advice without physically going to hospital.

Do not fear going to hospitals

Dr Al Sharif said Rashid Hospital was mainly where coronavirus patients were being treated but added that other hospitals, public and private, are admitting patients too.

He said all hospitals, including specialised medical centres, are still receiving patients for any ailments – not only coronavirus.

"Children's hospitals are also open and safe," he said.

While the rest of the country has imposed an 8pm to 6am nightly curfew, during which a disinfection programme is carried out, Dubai extended this to 24-hours as of April 4. The curfew is due to last until Saturday, April 18, but may be extended.

On Thursday, Dr Al Sharif said it was not possible to know how long the curfew will last but that decisions would be made based on the results of the disinfection programme and general adherence to the stay home order.

"The [disinfection] programme is considered a precautionary protective measure to ensure the safety of all members of the community, which is why we extended it to 24-hours."

He said the emirate was taking a two-pronged approach to tackling the virus; curbing its spread through social distancing and increasing the number of tests being carried out.

"We are also working to increase hospital capacity and working with partners to ensure we constantly have enough medical supplies," he said.

Tests are now being conducted at most hospitals and even on site in densely populated areas of Dubai, including Al Ras, Naif, Al Khawaneej and in labour accommodation, where testing clinics have been opened.

"All who tested positive are quarantined and isolated and treated with a clear health plan."

Testing is also conducted at airports, where residents who wish to return to their home countries are being repatriated on special flights. Precautionary measures are also in place for airport employees, who are frequently tested and given personal protection equipment to wear, to ensure their safety.

This week, Emirates announced it was also conducting Covid-19 tests at the airport for outgoing passengers prior to boarding. The results take just 10 minutes to process.

During the briefing, Maj Gen Mohammed Al Marri, of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, said Dubai looked forward to being able to reopen its borders and "welcome tourists again soon".

No timeline for this was given but he said tourism authorities, airlines and companies were continuously reviewing the current global situation and drawing up plans to revive tourism "to go back to normal life and hosting tourists as we did before the crisis."