Dubai company has almost entire staff vaccinated after more than 60 catch Covid-19

Deco Emirates, which was forced to shut for two weeks, explains why its workforce had to get the shots

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A company in Dubai said it has vaccinated almost its entire workforce, after being badly hit by the pandemic last year.

Deco Emirates and Carrara, a shopfitting company, said 560 of its 660 staff have received at least one dose of the Sinopharm vaccine since late December.

Of these, 175 employees have been fully inoculated with two doses. A further 100 who are on annual leave are set to get the shots on their return.

The vaccine is provided free of cost by the government.

About 60 staff tested positive for Covid-19 last year, before the vaccine was released for public use, said Hugh Bigley, managing director at Deco.

I pitched the idea to my workers and said it was our responsibility towards the country, colleagues and our families

“In 2020, we had a lot of workers in our labour accommodation who had to be quarantined after testing positive, or being in close contact with a positive case,” he said.

“When the vaccine came along we saw it as a way forward to safeguard our staff and continue operating as a normal business.”

He said last year, the company had to shut its offices for a week – and the factory for two weeks.

“I know some companies were forced to shut for months on end but this had such a detrimental effect on us and our business.”

Mr Bigley said he decided on the drive after the government said it wanted to get 50 per cent of the population inoculated by April.

Most of the first doses were administered to staff during the quiet period between Christmas and New Year.

Hugh Bigley, second to right, Managing Director, Deco Emirates. Deco Emirates Deco Emirates has inoculated a big percentage of their staff in drive to vaccinate all on site. (Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

Hugh Bigley and several other senior officers decided to get vaccinated to encourage workers to follow suit. Reem Mohammed / The National

“Workplaces need to be responsible for this and we took it very seriously from the get go, that’s why we got the ball rolling in December,” Mr Bigley said.

“We sent several buses carrying up to 30 workers at a time to Seha’s field vaccination tent at Dubai Parks and Resorts.

“People need to realise we are in a great position here to have this vaccination quickly and readily available to us, so why wait?

“Time is not on our side. Globally, cases are rising and sooner or later everyone will have to get it anyway.”

Earlier this month, workplace experts said employees could not be forced to take the Covid-19 vaccine.

However, many private companies have been actively supporting the drive, by either organising vaccination programmes for staff, or putting in clauses that make it difficult for them to refuse.

At Deco, Mr Bigley and several other senior officers decided to get vaccinated to encourage workers to follow suit.

“I pitched it to my workers and said it’s our responsibility towards the country, colleagues and our families,” he said.

“It wasn’t mandatory but we wanted our work environment to be safe and they understood that.

“We also asked that any outside contractors working on our site be vaccinated too.”

Over the next few weeks, Mr Bigley said he hopes to have all his staff vaccinated.

About 100 workers still need to be vaccinated once they return from annual or sick leave.

UAE mass vaccination drive - in pictures