Coronavirus: health minister says UAE is already planning for next viral outbreak as Covid-19 fight goes on

Abdulrahman Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, says national strategy is being developed to fight 'Disease X'

Abdulrahman Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, addresses the UAE's response to Covid-19 during a remote government meeting.
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The UAE's Health Minister said the country was already drawing up plans to battle future viral outbreaks, as it continues to tackle the effects of coronavirus.

Abdulrahman Al Owais said a national strategy for managing future diseases, known as "Disease X', would be developed from lessons learnt with this pandemic.

Mr Al Owais was speaking on the final day of an online government meeting to assess the country's post-Covid-19 action plan.

He said the ministry would improve the efficiency of health services by embracing advances in technology and investing more resources.

“The ministry will endeavour to develop the healthcare sector by creating innovative ways to deliver healthcare services such as telemedicine and digital medicine,” Mr Al Owais said.

He spoke of ways to bolster the health sector, which included raising its government budget, continuing to increase testing for the virus and work on vaccine research, and promoting healthy lifestyles so residents are in a better position to stave off disease.

Mr Al Owais said the UAE had conducted more than 1.5 million Covid-19 tests since the outbreak.

“The UAE intensified prevention efforts to contain the pandemic by organising a nationwide sterilisation campaign, launching the ‘Weqaya’ virtual platform and intensifying awareness campaigns about hygiene and social physical distancing, not to mention its ‘Don’t Worry’ campaign to promote mental health,” he said.

“Other measures include isolation and quarantine programmes for people returning to the UAE from foreign destinations, as well as the drive-through Covid-19 testing centres."

Mr Al Owais said the UAE faced its sternest challenge last month when its Covid-19 curve began to climb.

"As a precautionary measure, the UAE intensified its efforts to contain the outbreak by enforcing mandatory self-quarantine and confinement measures, even for asymptomatic persons, during recovery for 15 to 25 days and up to 35 days," he said.

"However, it takes up to one month to confirm total recovery.

The UAE has shown exceptional management of the crisis, while leveraging other countries' experiences

“The UAE acted proactively with extreme transparency since the early days of the outbreak and managed to respond quickly to the virus.

"It was the first country in the Middle East to report a confirmed case, one of the first countries to begin coronavirus testing and early detection, and among the few countries that are still performing strict testing.

“There are no custom-made, clear experiences on how to handle the crisis and no one can predict what will happen.

"However, the UAE is committed to adopting new ideas and availing of similar experiences to establish their own response strategy, based on accumulated lessons and information, and will hopefully overcome this crisis with greater strength and determination.”

Mr Al Owais said the UAE's multicultural make-up meant it had to devise a unique response to the public health crisis.

“The UAE has shown exceptional management of the crisis, while leveraging other countries’ experiences," he said.

"However, the level of response was different, given the demographic composition in the country, which is home to more than 200 nationalities, and its distinct resources, readiness and experiences in many sectors.

"This explains the discrepancy in world countries’ response to the coronavirus pandemic and the disparate impact on the economic, health, psychological and social levels."

The six main areas of focus for the Covid-19 meeting are health, education, the economy, food security, society and government.

Ministers and officials have been discussing and taking part in interactive sessions.

The aim is to produce business plans, policies and means to ensure the short, medium and long-term development of the UAE’s government work, and enable the country to tackle economic and social challenges.

As of Tuesday, the UAE had recorded 19,661 Covid-19 cases, of which 6,012 patients have recovered and 203 have died.