A year since the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a pandemic, our lives are completely transformed. People are separated with mandated distancing, faces must be covered with masks and a variety of other rules are in place to keep everyone safe from the debilitating and deadly virus.
Countries imposed a series of rules to contain the spread, from mandatory quarantine to travel restrictions. Now vaccines are bringing hope for a return to normal life again.
In these five graphs, The National assesses the current, global state of play and how the UAE fared in terms of cases, recoveries, deaths and vaccinations.
Covid-19 cases in the UAE sharply increased in 2021
The UAE's case numbers for every million population, at 39,841.66, are significantly higher than the global average, located on the 73rd percentile. This means about 73 per cent of countries had a lower coronavirus infection rate, while 27 per cent had a higher rate.
The relatively high rate in the Emirates could be attributed partly to the country's rigorous testing regime, which has identified cases that may have been missed in nations where testing capacity was more limited.
Also, had this graph been compiled at the end of 2020, the UAE would have been seen in a much more favourable light, because myriad measures including curfews, closures of restaurants and cafes for a time, and mandatory mask wearing had helped to keep a lid on infections.
But infection rates surged dramatically in 2021, pushing the country up the international rankings.
Andorra, a very small nation with a population of only 77,000, is more likely to lie at the extremes of country lists. A single outbreak, or the absence of one, has a proportionately greater effect. This major tourism hub was praised for its efforts at testing residents but has, nonetheless, recorded 112 deaths.
While Andorra, wedged between France and Spain, is anything but isolated, Vanuatu, an isolated archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, has a natural advantage in keeping out the coronavirus. Tough border controls meant that the first Covid-19 case was not recorded until November, and bars, restaurants and other places where people gather were consequently able to remain open.
UAE has lower than average death rate, despite high case numbers
When Covid-19 deaths are adjusted for population size, the UAE fits almost exactly in the middle of the world rankings, with 125.1 deaths per million residents from Covid-19. It is on the 46th percentile for deaths, so 46 per cent of nations have performed better and 54 per cent worse.
The country has a slightly lower-than-average death rate despite case numbers being significantly higher than the global median.
A key factor that has kept down the number of deaths is likely to be the high proportion of residents who are of working age and less vulnerable to Covid-19 than older people. World Bank figures indicate that less than 1.2 per cent of UAE residents are aged above 65.
Working in the other direction is that nearly three quarters of UAE residents are males, who appear more likely than females to die from Covid-19, although some academics dispute this.
The country with the highest per capita death rate, San Marino, is entirely contained within Italy and is one of the European nations hardest hit by the pandemic. Another factor accounting for San Marino’s outcome is its small size, which means outbreaks have a proportionally greater effect.
While Burundi has officially recorded only three deaths, Human Rights Watch said health workers in the small landlocked African country are concerned the government is not reporting the pandemic accurately. There are Unicef-aided efforts to control the pandemic, though, including a high-profile hand-washing campaign.
Seychelles overtakes UAE in vaccine race
The UAE has one of the most successful Covid-19 vaccine programmes in the world, placing it third among all countries in doses administered for every 100 residents.
Like major western nations, notably the US and UK, the UAE signed several supply deals and became involved in clinical trials, allowing early access to supplies.
The speed of the US and the UK contrasts starkly with the situation in the EU, where the implementation is hampered by poorer access to supplies, something blamed on delays in signing agreements with pharmaceutical companies.
Chile, a richer nation than most of its South American neighbours, had the finance to secure supplies and, like the UAE, hosted trials and struck supply deals with vaccine producers from both East and West.
Most of the top 10 nations have populations below 10 million, with the process of implementation less complex. This was a key factor with the Seychelles, which has a population of just under 100,000.
The island nation in the Indian Ocean has also benefited from close ties to the UAE, which donated 50,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, allowing vaccinations to begin in January. Much of the Seychelles' population is of Indian descent, and New Delhi donated 50,000 Indian-made doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, while the Seychelles government bought 40,000 more, according to reports.
UAE vaccination drive slows as vulnerable groups prioritised
The UAE's rapid vaccination drive, with most residents given at least a first dose within two months, must be credited to a well-developed health infrastructure and the country's access to supplies. More than 60 doses are administered for every 100 members of the UAE's population of just under 10 million.
Officials forged ties with vaccine developers by hosting clinical trials, and gained access to supplies immediately after vaccines were approved, allowing the country to surge ahead of all other major nations except Israel.
Phase 3 clinical trials of the Sinopharm vaccine, involving 31,000 people, began in the UAE in July, and Abu Dhabi started administering the Chinese dose in December. Dubai began its immunisation programme with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in December, before adding the Sinopharm shot later that month. The UAE authorities approved Russia's Sputnik V vaccine in January, and in early February Dubai began administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
The number of doses the UAE administers daily has tailed off in recent weeks since the authorities turned the focus to the most vulnerable, with vaccination centres prioritising the elderly, the disabled and people with chronic diseases. In Abu Dhabi the age cut-off is 50, while in Dubai over-60s are included on the list. People outside the priority groups are asked to reschedule their first doses.
UAE's monthly Covid-19 cases begin to drop, as deaths rise
Early introduction of lockdown measures, including restaurant and cafe closures, successfully controlled the pandemic. By August, case numbers were less than half their previous peak.
However, like other countries, the UAE had to balance public health with the needs of the economy, and lifting of measures subsequently caused case numbers to increase.
While Abu Dhabi was closed to international tourists, Dubai began allowing them to visit from July, and in September case numbers showed a significant increase. For the final quarter of 2020, monthly cases were four times higher than levels in August.
Major increases were reported in the first two months of 2021. Authorities said this was a consequence of a surge in tourism and business activity over the winter holiday across the country. In December, Dubai's hotel occupancy was 71 per cent, and the IT industry trade fair Gitex was held.
Case numbers more than doubled from December to January, although the slight dip in February could be because of the vaccination drive.
The country performed relatively well in terms of mortality rates in the early months of the pandemic, with lockdown measures helping to cut numbers significantly.
The peak of the first wave of Covid-19 deaths was reached in May, when 157 people died, but strict measures helped to cut fatalities significantly after this. For a three-month period, from July to September, deaths were only slightly more than one fifth their number at the early peak.
However, fatalities more than doubled in October and, while case numbers showed a slight dip the following month, the death rate continued to climb.
Authorities said this was because of delays in people seeking medical attention.
The biggest increases, however, are in 2021. The countrywide death rate in February was up more than 10 times compared with the third quarter of 2020. With the vaccination drive under way, it is hoped the numbers will record a steady fall.