How the UAE prepared for Covid-19 before it struck

How the UAE prepared for Covid-19 before it struck

A health official in Abu Dhabi recently shared snippets of how the country prepared for the virus before it struck.

When the World Health Organisation (WHO) first reported that a ‘potential pandemic’ posed a big risk to public health, the UAE’s response had been swift, decisive, and multi-faceted. A health official in Abu Dhabi – who is among those leading the war on Covid-19 – recently shared snippets of how the country prepared for the virus before it struck.

Matar Al Nuaimi, director-general of the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre and director of the Emergency and Disaster Management Division, said the WHO’s initial announcement about the novel coronavirus prompted the healthcare sector to mobilise all efforts in preparation for the disease.

“(At that time) we already have the means of defence and pre-emptive action against the disease – and it has subsequently proved to be an important and effective element in our response to Covid-19 when it eventually came,” said Al Nuaimi, an ex-Staff Colonel in the UAE Armed Forces.

Read: Covid-19 war chief in Abu Dhabi shares how he fought the virus himself

The index included training, medical capabilities and equipment, communication and integration of the UAE’s several health care systems.

“This was all before Covid-19 actually hit. Therefore, we were keen to start some necessary procedures to introduce health workers to the pathological case in the health sector.”

On January 21, a circular was sent out to all – saying that the infectious disease would inevitably reach the UAE, so immediate preparation and processing were a priority, Al Nuaimi said.

The action that followed was swift and it covered all bases: Medics were educated on the symptoms. An early reference sample of the virus was brought to the laboratory at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. Laboratories multiplied.

Mobile surveillance teams were formed for public screenings, pro-actively testing the vulnerable. Isolation centres and field hospitals were opened.  And the public was provided all the available information related to the disease.

“We did not want to overwhelm the health sector; putting that amount of pressure on the healthcare system could result in unwelcomed outcomes – you will not be able to do anything else,” the official said.

Being a former military man, Al Nuaimi knew the importance of preparing for a major battle.

“I know that by training thoroughly and effectively you can accomplish at least 70 per cent of your mission, as I contributed in training high-level medical staff while I was in the military.”

Though only a few in the world were prepared for the events that unfolded in the next weeks and months following the news of the outbreak in January, Abu Dhabi and the rest of the UAE have exerted all efforts to win the war on Covid-19 – from leading the way in mass testing to developing innovative treatments and playing a key role in making a vaccine available.


Ashwani Kumar

I am a newspaperman from the emirate of Abu Dhabi. A journalist at heart. I get my stories from the streets. A south Indian born in the Hindi heartland, I easily connect with people from different nationalities and cultures. I am calm like a monk, sensitive and very patient reporter. On the ground, I cover a range of topics related to community, health, embassy, tourism, transport, business and sports. I will go out on a leg to do what’s right and stand by what I believe in.

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