Just 12 months ago the Dubai World Trade Centre was operating as a field hospital to treat the rising cases of Covid-19.
This week saw the vast exhibition centre return to its normal function, as the region’s largest medical conference, Arab Health, got under way.
The four-day event invites health professionals and manufacturers to share insights and showcase the latest pharmaceutical products and medical devices, with the region's pandemic response high on the agenda.
On day one, Dubai Health Authority released a book, entitled The Challenge, detailing the astonishing figures behind the early pandemic response in the emirate.
It can be read online to demonstrate lessons learned for future pandemics.
“This book is about the challenge Dubai faced with Covid-19,” said Wafaa Khaled Al Mohaisin, a senior administrator from Dubai Health Authority.
"We wanted something to show the challenges faced by the frontliners and those at the Covid Command Centre."
The book is currently available in Arabic online, but is to be translated into English and also released as a document of public record in time for Expo 2020 Dubai, which begins in October.
“It shows the initial response from professionals and volunteers, as well as all the numbers and data from the DHA," said Ms Al Mohaisin.
“Everything is here, from the in-patient numbers to those receiving remote care, as well as details of each of the facilities and how they evolved."
The data showed 7,251 covid-specific in-person medical consultations were completed up to May 2021, with 83,000 patients treated remotely via telehealth services.
In addition, 232,687 volunteer hours were donated by the community in 2020, saving Dh8 million ($2.18m) in labour resources.
“We wanted something for the next generation, to show how a small country became known internationally for its response,” said Ms Al Mohaisin.
Information is included on the 18 vaccination centres in Dubai, that at peak operations were capable of delivering 26,700 doses a day last year.
At One Central alone, capacity was ramped up to deliver 7,500 vaccines every day.
As well as vaccinations, 1,180,976 free meals were distributed to those isolating in the first four months of the outbreak – 16,874 meals every day.
"We are now moving towards vaccinating pregnant women and also children over 12, so these numbers will also be added to the book," said Ms Al Mohaisin.
“This book has in-depth information, even down to the number of face masks used and hand sanitisers.
“This pandemic evolved very quickly and people were asked to stay at home. It did not give anyone time to make plans on how that would work, but people in Dubai adapted and made it happen."
Virtual consultations continue to be used by the Ministry of Health and Prevention and the Emirates Health Services, with the latest Virtual Doctor Platform unveiled at the conference.
The digital platform is staffed by highly qualified medical teams providing remote specialised care and health consultations around the clock.
It aims to improve communication with the community and encourage best preventive health practices. The service is available in multiple languages.
Emirati postgraduate doctors living in Canada, Turkey, and New Zealand are taking part in the provision of platform services, with thousands of Covid-19 calls received by medical teams.
The Virtual Doctor service allows users to check their health conditions through a number of questions, including the person’s medical history and symptoms.
According to the answers, the doctor will either provide health tips or guide the user to visit a health centre.
"The platform features interactive contactless screens displaying various disease categories," said Dr Haifa Fares, head of primary healthcare at the ministry.
“Having selected the category, the user will be engaged in a call with medical staff to respond to the caller inquiries in an easy convenient manner.”
Arab Health is also focusing on healthcare and pharmaceutical industries that have become critical to the global response to the pandemic.
The Gulf region is a crucial market for the global medical market.
A recent report by analysts Kuick Research forecast pharmaceutical sales to double to more than $20 billion by 2025, with patented drugs accounting for 70 per cent of regional drug sales.
Meanwhile, Dubai is playing an important role as a logistics hub for the region.
DP World's network of maritime and logistics operations, combined with the reach of Emirates airline, Dubai Airports and International Humanitarian City, has accelerated Covid-19 vaccine distribution.
The Dubai Vaccines Logistics Alliance will focus on emerging markets and is expected to contribute to the delivery of two billion doses worldwide in 2021.
“The UAE is leading the world in terms of rolling out the vaccine,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates Chairman and Chief Executive.
"In line with Dubai's vision to facilitate a global solution for the wellbeing of communities, the Dubai Vaccine Alliance brings together key organisations to expedite the world wide transport of urgently need vaccines through Dubai."