Mass testing and vaccination saved UAE from worst of pandemic, health official says

Dr Farida Al Hosani said the robust response of health services and the support of the public were also key

Mass testing and an extensive vaccination drive protected the UAE from the worst effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, a senior health official said.

Dr Farida Al Hosani, executive director of infectious disease at Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, has praised the rapid response of health services and the support of the public in combating the outbreak.

Dr Hosani, an official spokeswoman for the health sector, said the swift expansion of testing capacity proved crucial to limiting the spread of the virus.

“Our strength in the UAE was healthcare readiness, adapting technologies, unified communication, effective collaboration and our emergency response system,” she said at a conference at the Arab Health trade exhibition in Dubai.

“Trust between the community and government was crucial.

“The combined response allowed us to handle the pandemic in the best possible way that was recognised internationally as being one of the top global responses.”

Dr Al Hosani said the development of better treatments as well as strong vaccine take-up had helped health services tackle the virus more effectively in its second year.

“It is very hard to say that one measure worked better than another, but so far 2021 has been very different to 2020,” she said.

“Due to the vaccines and what we have learned in effective treatments, the severity of cases generally is much less than in the first wave.”

Arab Health 2021:

Dr Al Hosani highlighted the significance of stay-at-home measures, the introduction of remote learning in March 2020 and the vaccine programme to the national effort.

Expanding surveillance teams and heat maps, and the deployment of field medical teams to Covid hot spots such as Naif in Dubai and Al Mussaffah in Abu Dhabi quelled localised outbreaks.

Lab testing on a mass scale was critical to managing new cases, while an effective home isolation programme encouraged support for those forced into quarantine to prevent further infections.

“Testing has saved the country, with a rapid expansion of capacity from around 2,000 a day in March 2020 to hundreds of thousands of tests today,” Dr Al Hosani said.

“Our work with the public sector that understood the government strategy in expanding the testing programmes was hugely important, with 20 drive-though testing centres opened across the country.

“The huge number of volunteers that helped with the vaccine trials in August helped the community understand that we had to wait for the vaccine, which was also important.”

Preparing the UAE for a national inoculation campaign allowed health authorities to wrestle back control from the pandemic, so many could return to work and relative normality.

The launch of human trials with an inactive virus in August 2020 attracted more than 42,000 volunteers of 125 nationalities to six test centres.

A vaccine programme for frontline workers, the elderly and most vulnerable continued in September with a plan to protect 50 per cent of eligible target populations by the end of the first quarter of 2021.

That was followed by a Phase-3 trial of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine in January, for which 1,000 volunteers came forward.

UAE delivers global support

Dr Al Hosani said the international support offered by the UAE also played an important role in attacking the virus head-on.

Aid included 4.25 million PCR test kits and 2,060 ventilators shipped around the world on 183 medical flights to 134 countries.

Mobile hospitals were established in Sudan, Guinea, Mauritania and Jordan, and a clinic was set up in Turkmenistan.

The UAE aided the transport of two field hospitals from Norway and Belgium to Ghana and Ethiopia at a cost of $4 million.

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