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Leadership Success

How did the UAE manage to overcome the Covid-19 crisis?

28 October 2021

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, the whole world has suffered consequences on various levels, including human and financial losses. Countries worked round the clock to produce vaccines. Though equitable access to these vaccines was not guaranteed, administering them (especially with booster shots) helped reduce the number of cases and deaths. As a result, some countries announced that they have managed to overcome the crisis and go back to normal, and the world is witnessing so-called 'exit waves'.

The UAE was among the first countries to announce COVID-exit. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed  Al Nahyan,  Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, said on October 6 that the Coronavirus is no longer a threat and that life is returning to normal in the UAE, offering several lessons evidentiary in following:

The Main Features of the Emirati Experience

The UAE took all the necessary measures to combat the Coronavirus as soon as it discovered the first case in January 29, 2020. It has been described as 'number one in world vaccination race'. This (together with other factors, such as the efforts of UAE medical teams and the use of digital technology) has led to announcing exit strategies that will sooner than later result in recuperating.

1.    Relaxing precautionary measures:

On September 22, 2021, the Ministry of Health and Prevention, and National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) announced that though people must maintain a two-meter social distance, wearing protective masks is no longer obligatory if a person is on the beach or by a public pool, in his/her own vehicle (even if with others), indoors alone, at a barber shop or a beauty salon, or being diagnosed or treated at a medical center. Besides, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee announced the approval of home quarantine without the use of electronic wristband for people arriving in the UAE and/or in contact with positive cases, starting from September 19.

2.    Resuming economic activities:  

The National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) announced on August 8 that restrictions imposed on some sectors will be loosened. For example, shopping malls, restaurants, coffee shops, cinemas, exhibitions, museums, etc. will be allowed an 80% operating capacity, whereas all events will be allowed a 60% capacity. Hotels are permitted to enjoy full capacity. As for means of transport, their capacity must not exceed 75%.

On September 23, UAE Central Bank announced that since the economic situation started to improve, the support measures which were taken as part of the economic support plan will be withdrawn, but this will be done gradually so that it should not affect credit transactions and economic growth.

3.    Relaxing restrictions on travelling to the UAE:

The UAE has re-opened its doors to visitors from all countries. Since August 30, tourist visas have been made available to applicants all over the world, provided that they are vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine. Besides, they must take a quick PCR test in the airport.

Indications of Success   

As a result of hard work on all levels, the UAE came first on many international indexes and classifications concerned with evaluating Corona-combatting efforts. Following is a brief investigation of the indications of the UAE's success in containing the Coronavirus crisis:

1.    Numbers of cases have declined:

Extensive use of COVID-19 tests and examinations has helped make the numbers of cases announced by UAE Health Ministry accurate. This, in turn, helped provide suitable treatments for the cases, and contain the spread of the virus. It is obvious that there has been a significant decline in the number of cases; on October 16, only 115 cases (7.39% of the population) were reported. Since October 3, the number of reported cases has never exceeded 200 per day.

2.    Numbers of deaths have dropped:

Early discovery of COVID-19 cases, along with the readiness of the health system, helped decrease the number of Coronavirus deaths in the UAE. In fact, the UAE has the lowest Coronavirus death rates (0.3% of confirmed cases). Since the beginning of October, the average number of Covid-19 deaths has become one case per day. It is noteworthy that there were no deaths at all on October 2, 10 or 16.  

3.    Numbers of tests have increased:

The UAE is among the countries with the most COVID-19 tests. The period from the outbreak of the virus to October 16 saw 88.985.332 COVID-19 examinations, and 362.508 examinations were conducted on October 16 alone. In addition, the UAE is one of the countries adopting a follow-up policy, which has greatly contributed to reducing the spread of the virus.

4.    Vaccinations rates are very high:

In order to achieve acquired herd immunity, the UAE has designed a powerful vaccination program, by making various vaccine types available in more than 200 vaccination centers all over the country. According to this program, the elderly (among other categories of the population) can book an appointment so that they can be vaccinated at home. Booster shots are also available. Starting from September 20, people who received the second shot of China's Sinopharm more than six months ago must receive a booster shot to enhance their immunity, in accordance with the vaccine's accredited protocol.

The UAE has also approved the use of Sinopharm for children between 3 and 17, as conducted clinical studies proved it to be safe for this age group. In May, the UAE approved the use of Pfizer Biontech for children between 12 and 15.   

According to the Health Ministry, vaccine doses administered to citizens and residents till October 16 amounted to 20,686,282, with a daily average of 41271 doses. This means that about 96.17% of UAE's population received one dose of vaccine, and about 86.15% received two doses.

According to Our World in Data Index, the UAE came first on the list of the countries where most people received at least one dose of vaccine (the topmost country on the list, Portugal, where most people received two doses, is immediately before the UAE in the index). Vaccination rates in the UAE are far greater than those in the major countries which made the vaccines.

5.    Ability to recuperate is great:

The UAE came fourth on the Nikkei COVID-19 Recover Index in September 2021. The index is a ranking of the countries by their likelihood to recover from the pandemic (it lists 120 countries and regions every month) based on decline in the number of cases, increase in vaccination rates, and relaxation of social distancing.

Besides, the UAE came sixth in the latest (September) update of the Bloomberg COVID Resilience Ranking. This index consists of subsidiary indexes concerned with the percentage of vaccinated people in a country, the quality of medical care, death rates, and measures taken to resume cross-border travel. It is noteworthy that the UAE came fifteenth on this index last August. This considerable progress which the UAE has made came as a result of lockdown relaxation and the low numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Important Lessons

There are important lessons to be learnt from the UAE's experience such as:

1.    Leaders stand by their people:  

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, UAE leaders chose to stand by the citizens and residents alike. They did their best to reassure people and stressed upon that the UAE can overcome the pandemic by sparing no effort to secure the necessary medical care for everyone. This positive attitude was not only manifest in procedures and measures, but it was also strongly reflected in the leaders' very discourse. No one can forget Mohammed bin Zayed's 'Don't worry' which greatly helped to put people's mind at ease when said in March 2020, and encouraged them to abide by the rules and restrictions so that the pandemic can be contained.

2.    Effective communication is key:

The UAE set a good example to others as far as professionalism and transparency are concerned. Effective communication with people has always been maintained via media coverage of the developments of the situation, as well as guides and manuals issued with the aim of providing people with information they need to deal with the exceptional circumstances and to stay safe (e.g. guidelines for office and workplace environment, travel, and quarantine, as well as for dealing with positive cases, etc.)

3.    People share responsibility too:

The UAE would not have succeeded in overcoming the pandemic if the government and the people had not cooperated. People's awareness, manifest in abiding by health guidelines and safety protocols, is the element which led the leadership's endeavors to bear fruit.  

4.    Digital technology is a vital element:

The UAE's government has greatly benefited from its huge investments in digital infrastructure. Digital technology applications in the health area were capitalized upon to contain the pandemic. For example, the Alhosn UAE app was used to keep track of tests and vaccination dates and monitor those in contact with positive cases through showing the vaccination status. Citizens are encouraged to make use of the 'green pass protocol' in the application to enter public places, such as shopping malls, restaurants, gymnasiums, etc. Another useful application in this respect is Telemedicine, which helps people to consult doctors 'virtually' in order to limit face-to-face interaction in accordance with social distancing rules.

5.    Humanitarian efforts are essential:

The UAE is one of the earliest countries to launch initiatives to help other countries face the pandemic and its consequences. Until July 2021, the UAE provided about 135 countries with more than 2154 tons of medical aid (including respirators, test tools, and personal protection equipment). Besides, in November 2020, the UAE created the HOPE Consortium to help distribute more than 6 billion vaccine doses, and send small shipments of the vaccines to countries with limited capacity in ultra-cold storage.

In conclusion, we can safely say that the UAE has set a great example to other countries dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. All UAE institutions joined hands to combat the spread of the pandemic, under the guidance of the leaders who have always done their best to reassure people and draw up plans to exit the crisis with a minimum of human and material losses, so as to pave the way for economic and social recovery. The UAE can be said to have provided guidelines for exiting the crisis which other countries can follow.