Medics at Dubai's 1,200-bed Covid-19 field hospital remain on alert

There are no patients to treat but staff remain vigilant in case they are needed

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Related: Seha chief on how UAE kept public trust in health care during Covid-19

As hundreds of people queue to be vaccinated at one of the country’s largest temporary medical sites at Dubai Parks and Resorts, a 1,200-bed field hospital near by lies empty.

Empty beds are a sign of progress in the fight against Covid-19, said one of the hospital's general practitioners, Dr Mohammad Nour Al Saeed, from Syria.

But health officials do not take victory over the virus for granted, with the worrying surge in India a timely warning against complacency.

At the peak of the pandemic in 2020, two thirds of the temporary field hospital was full. It is now on standby.

We are winning against the virus in the UAE but we need to be cautious now more than ever

“This site has been a major hub for vaccination in recent months,” said Dr Al Saeed.

“We started with 600 vaccinations daily but we can now give around 5,000 jabs every day."

Working on the front line during the pandemic has shown doctors how serious the virus can be.

With this in mind, a new 50-bed intensive care unit was added at the site.

“Working in ICU or with inpatients has given an insight into how damaging this virus can be," said Dr Al Saeed.

“In the beginning it was very rare to see a young person in hospital with Covid-19.

“In recent months we have seen patients getting younger, with many aged 19 to 20.”

New ICU opens on Dubai/Abu Dhabi border

New ICU opens on Dubai/Abu Dhabi border

Every day, thousands of people visit the resort's vaccination centre, built in a car park 20 minutes outside Dubai and operated by Abu Dhabi Health Services (Seha), to receive doses of the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Sinopharm.

So far, more than 10 million doses have been administered across the country in one of the world's fastest inoculation drives.

A separate metric shows 65 per cent of the eligible population are now vaccinated against Covid-19.

Any resident over the age of 16 can now schedule their first or second dose of the vaccine at the centre.

If called on, staff at the field hospital can treat all Covid-19 cases, from patients with mild symptoms to those in need of intensive care.

The dedicated coronavirus unit will free up city hospitals to treat regular inpatients with everyday ailments.

It is not simply rows of empty wards inside the field hospital, there is also a pharmacy and a laboratory with a cold-storage unit set at minus 80°C for vaccine doses.

Field hospital 'here if needed'

The vast centre is divided into patient-only zones, where only medics in full personal protective equipment may enter.

A strict one-way system is in place, so up to 1,200 patients can be screened, treated and monitored during their journey through the centre.

Cameras adorn the walls of each ICU bay to allow healthcare staff to monitor patients 24 hours a day.

Wards are equipped to give up to 50 patients at a time oxygen and life supportin a similar manner to a regular hospital.

As cases of Covid-19 continue to fall in the UAE, a surge in India that has taken its infection tally to more than 17 million should remind everyone to remain vigilant, said Dr Al Saeed, who joined Seha in April 2020.

“We are winning against the virus in the UAE but we need to be cautious now more than ever,” said Dr Al Saeed.

“It is important we do not collapse under the strain of more cases so we must all continue to be careful.

“What is happening in India is a disaster because they cannot provide enough oxygen.

“The brother of one of our nurses died because of this. This hospital has never been full, but it is on standby.

“Hopefully it will not be needed, but it is here if it is.”