Coronavirus: UAE launches mental health drive to fight Covid-19

Officials said fear and anxiety can have a damaging impact on the body's ability to overcome the virus

Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokeswoman for the country's health sector. Courtesy: Dubai One    
Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokeswoman for the country's health sector. Courtesy: Dubai One    

The UAE is stepping up a nationwide drive to boost mental health - and help overcome the threat of Covid-19.

Officials stressed that a healthy mind can bolster physical health, while "fear and anxiety" can impact on the body's ability to combat the virus.

At the country's regular media briefing, it was announced that a major wellbeing strategy - dubbed 'do not be concerned' - would be key to efforts to limit the spread of the virus.

"Fear and anxiety can weaken immunity. We need to work out how to deal with stress," said Ammar Al-Muaini, spokesperson for the National Programme for Happiness and Quality of Life.

He said more than 50 experts were part of the forward-thinking initiative.

Mental health support will be provided via social media and a daily podcast.

It aims to offer particular solace to elderly members of the community and for those in quarantine.

The campaign is being backed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Medics in Abu Dhabi have already started to sport armbands bearing the phrase “La tsheloon hamm”, which translate from Arabic – in the local Emirati dialect – to “do not be concerned”.

The phrase was first said by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, when he reassured the public that the UAE was prepared to face any challenge when it came to the virus.

The slogan is now frequently repeated by authorities and can be seen on signposts across the country.

While mental health is crucial in the fight against Covid-19, Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokeswoman for the UAE health sector, emphasised the importance of taking care of the body, too.

During the briefing she highlighted the growing number of recoveries from the virus in the country - which stood at 933 out of 4,933 cases as of Wednesday.

She said good hygiene, exercise, avoiding smoking and following a healthy diet were key.

She also issued a rallying cry to members of the public to take immediate action if they have a high fever.

"Another important aspect is having people not taking a high fever seriously," she said.

"Any individual who has fever must communicate with the nearest medical centre or go to one of the drive through testing centres across the country."

She reiterated that people must take responsibility for their health, helping to guard family members and other people in the community from exposure to the virus.

She said the global scientific community had not yet reached a "consensus" on whether rising temperatures ushered in during the summer months would mitigate the impact of the virus.

Dr Al Hosani also thanked Sheikh Fatima bint Mubarak for offering her support to the country's health workers.

In a text message sent to their mobile phones, the Mother of the Nation said she was grateful to medical staff.

“I extend you my sincere thanks and appreciation for the sincere efforts you're making to protect Covid-19 patients," said Sheikha Fatima, also chairwoman of the General Women's Union and president of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood.

“Our hearts stay with you all, as you're wholeheartedly responding to the call of duty in such a time of distress. God bless you all and keep you a cherished asset for your homeland.

“Your Mother, Fatima bint Mubarak."

No update was given on the latest number of coronavirus cases in the Emirates.

Earlier on Wednesday it was revealed that Dubai's World Trade Centre had been been transformed into the Middle East's largest hospital.

It is able to provide 3,000 beds – including 800 for intensive care patients, the centre's director of engineering Ali Abdulqader said.

The move is part of efforts to boost bed numbers to handle a potential increase in Covid-19 patients.

Updated: April 16, 2020 11:13 AM

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