The UAE’s approach to managing the Covid-19 pandemic enabled the safe opening and operations of Expo 2020 Dubai – the first World Expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia – which welcomed more than 11.6 million visits as on January 31.
Experts credited the country’s Covid resilience to the government’s commitment to its community, “which led to swift decision-making”.
Speaking at the Health and Wellness Week Business Forum, a top health official said the UAE’s robust infrastructure of healthcare laws, legislation, policies and regulations meant the leadership was confident that the pandemic could be effectively managed.
Dr Amin Hussain Al Amiri, assistant undersecretary of Health Regulations Sector, UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention, said: “The UAE government’s support of healthcare services and commitment to community is great. [When faced with the pandemic] His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, told the entire UAE ‘latsheloon ham’, which means ‘do not worry’.”
He went on to highlight the country’s swift decision-making throughout the pandemic.
“We secured approval for the Moderna vaccine within four hours, and we were the only country in the Middle East and North Africa that started clinical trials for the Sinopharm vaccine.
“The beauty of this country was that we had great support from the community as well, with 54,000 volunteers in the trials… and people of over 200 nationalities live here, all of whom adhered to the guidelines and rules. You helped us make sure that we were able to protect your health – and this is what set Expo 2020 up for success, with millions coming to visit.”
Gizem Akalin, vice-president & general manager – Gulf, Glaxosmithkline, highlighted how collaboration with the pharmaceutical sector was critica.
“Partnerships make for successful management not only of pandemics, but different diseases or prevention of diseases in general, and the UAE provided a great example of this. It was the second country in the world to give access to a medicine that was a life-saving product, within 24 hours – a great illustration of how a government can partner with the pharmaceutical industry to create a solution.”
Mohamed Ez Eldin, president & head, Gulf Cluster, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, said the UAE has created an environment where there is access to innovation.
“A great example was a partnership that multinational companies had with the Ministry of Health and Prevention to ensure that vaccines are available in UAE almost at the same time that they were available in the country of manufacturing.
“Hand-in-hand with availability of vaccines is awareness – making sure the public understands the importance of getting vaccinated and seizes the opportunity to do so as soon as possible. We worked with the Ministry of Health and Prevention on programmes to drive this awareness.”
Ez Eldin also praised the efforts of the UAE to maintain and strengthen its other healthcare services during the pandemic.
The Business Forum was held in association with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, as part of Health and Wellness Week – one of 10 Theme Weeks held under the Expo 2020’s Programme for People and Planet.