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How UAE’s NCEMA led the charge during Covid crisis

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When the pandemic struck, the country was not caught off guard

The novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has impacted nations across the world disrupting lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

The raging pandemic that claimed more than a million lives has strangled economies and put to test even the most efficient healthcare infrastructure globally. However, the UAE has shown exemplary resilience to deal with the pandemic, thanks to the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA).

The federal body, which was established on May 14, 2007, rose to its mandate of raising the readiness and resilience of the country during emergencies.

Operating under the supervision of the Supreme Council for National Security, the NCEMA is the federal standard-setting body responsible for regulating and coordinating all efforts of emergency, crisis and disaster management. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck the UAE, the country was not caught off guard.

Instead, national and state-level institutions were amply prepared to deal with the healthcare crisis.

The NCEMA began monitoring the evolution of the disease ever since the first case was reported in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province.

On January 29, the UAE recorded the first case of Covid-19 from a Chinese family that was visiting the country. With the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring Covid-19 a pandemic, and the infection rates accelerating, the NCEMA issued guidelines to public and private entities to limit the spread of the virus.

A nationwide sterilisation campaign to disinfect streets, public places, buses and Dubai Metro began on March 26. A partial curfew was also imposed with restrictions on movement of the public at night.

Residents were regularly reminded about the curfew timings, and all private and public entities were also asked to maintain precautionary measures. For instance, shopping malls and restaurants were asked to restrict their customers to 30 per cent of their total capacity. Schools and universities were instructed to switch to online classes.

One of the most important tasks cut out for the NCEMA was ramping up of the national health-care capabilities. At the peak of the healthcare emergency, the UAE’s private hospitals set up special Covid-19 wards and all non-emergency procedures were put on hold to cater to patients, who were infected with SARS-CoV-2 that causes the viral disease.

Under the guidelines from the NCEMA, health authorities set up field hospitals across the country to improve and expedite emergency responses. Quarantine centres were set up and even private buildings and hotels were transformed into isolation centres for infected people.

The NCEMA’s strategy of mass testing and anti-Covid strategies have set an example for the rest of the world. The UAE ranks first glob- ally in per capita Covid-19 tests and became an inspirational model in flattening the viral curve.

Drive-through test centres were set up across the country. The high-quality healthcare and the efficient responses ensured that the UAE maintained the lowest mortality rate and highest recovery rate during the pandemic. Al Hosn, the contact tracing mobile app launched by the UAE authorities, became a game-changer in the country’s fight against the pandemic.

When the country is gripped by an unprecedented crisis like the Covid-19, containing the dissemination of misinformation is as important as curbing the virus. The NCEMA took the lead and conducted daily press briefings to keep the public informed about the latest developments.

The 9pm press briefings conducted virtually became a go-to source of information for both media outlets and the public at large.

The NCEMA spokesperson regularly called on the public to adhere to the social distancing guidelines and other precautionary measures to contain the spread of the viral outbreak.

Police officers have been authorised to slap fines listed in the UAE Attorney-General’s resolution, which was issued as part of the precautionary measures taken to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Leading the world in its quest to find a defence against the raging virus, the UAE rolled out the Phase-3 clinical trial of Covid-19 vac- cine. Thousands of residents volunteered for the 4Humanity campaign and made history. When the country launched an emergency vaccination programme for frontline workers in October, Obaid Rashid Al Shamsi, Director-General, NCEMA, led by example and took the first jab of Covid-19 vaccine, Sinopharm. “In alignment with the leadership’s vision, the availability of this safe, effective vaccine will contribute to save and protect lives,” he said.

The NCEMA’s extraordinary contributions in protecting the nation against the killer virus continues as the UAE has begun a mass vac- cination programme.

But the Covid-19 challenge is not behind us. While many countries across the globe are still grappling with rising number of infections, the NCEMA’s integrated approach has helped the country flatten the Covid-19 curve. By combining good governance, advanced planning, effective policy decisions, national coordination and public accountability, the NCEMA stands out as a shining example in healthcare emergency and crisis management.

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