While it appeared on the “safest nations” lists during the Covid-19 pandemic, the unique combination of measures taken by the UAE to fight the virus has so far drawn only scattered scrutiny.
This may be partially because there was nothing immediately alarming or encouraging about the case: the Emirates has illnesses and a relatively low mortality rate, and it is not at the center of the outbreak; the UAE has complied with all of the global good practices, but has not had to respond with drastic measures.
UAE and the Covid crisis
But when the world bounces back from the Covid-19 crisis and the responses of countries are dissected for what they have done well and what they have not done, the UAE’s approach will probably be one of the most interesting cases, because it balances multiple interests behind the scenes, local, regional and global, and – and its use of foreign aid to mitigate friction and bring the world a little closer together in its response to the virus
As the Covid crisis unfolds, the one aspect that seems to motivate the UAE approaches more than any other: its unusually high extent of engagement with the global economy: an oil-rich country, the UAE has effectively transformed itself from a relatively quiet regional outpost into an important business hub over the last 50 years, based on its ability to predict and fill global logistics requirements.
The UAE has actually learned from the observations of other “core” states like Singapore in this regard.
The early alarm
The UAE was one of the first on Covid-19 to sound the alarm. Senior UAE officials declared on January 26 that they were “close to supporting the attempts of the Chinese government to curb the spread of coronavirus” and were ready to provide help. The UAE has certainly already shared information on how to handle the crisis with its Asian counterparts in China, Singapore and South Korea. Because then both these countries have given important lessons in how to cope with the pandemic.
In the next two months, the UAE and its Dubai trade hub slowly staffed the spigots, acting in accordance with the directives of the WHO; the government revoked tourist visas and developed compulsory quarantines for those coming into the country; then restricted access for locals, while continuing to allow transit airlines to other countries, until all passenger traffic was closed on March 23.
Among the most important actions taken by the UAE was to initiate early, comprehensive virus testing (in this respect, since the crisis began, the UAE has been ranked among the top countries in testing per million population). Testing combined with close monitoring of those with whom infected individuals had contact has proved to be one of the most successful ways to control the outbreak.
How Emirates dealt with the outbreak
And it has increased those activities recently, setting up a laboratory in the capital. That will monitor tens of thousands of individuals a day. UAE was similarly vigilant on the domestic economic front. Proposing a stimulus plan of AED 256 billion (USD 70 billion) to ensure the economy is well positioned and has ample resources to withstand the crisis. And with Covid-19 it assured free attention to everybody.
Traditionally, the UAE was one of the largest foreign aid donors as a percentage of GNP. And received 18 percent of overall foreign funding. $7 billion – in 2018). And the Covid catastrophe is no exception. UAE has sent more than 130 metric tons of aid to over 13 countries since February to help. More than 100,000 medical professionals on the front line.
Aids to all
Any of this latest assistance went to Serbia, Greece, Colombia, Afghanistan and the Seychelles. And the UAE delivered 10 tons of medical assistance to Italy and Pakistan in the last week; it sent 500,000 test kits to Brazil. A nation especially prone to the disease outbreak, and extra kits to Afghanistan.
The UAE, along with WHO advisors, sent 7.5 metric tons of medical supplies to Iran on March 3.
Two weeks back, the foreign ministers of the two countries had a remarkable call. Shortly before a second supply of 32 tons of supplies for 15,000 frontline healthcare staff in Iran. It has provided its facilities as quarantine institutions and field hospitals abroad.
In London, the UAE converted the city’s biggest conference centre. Run by the government of Abu Dhabi, into a hospital with a bed area of 4,000. UAE has carried out a variety of humanitarian repatriations of citizens displaced by the crisis. Including a group of 215 students stuck in Hubei Province, China. Whom it took to the Emirates for quarantine in a pre-constructed building.
Then in early April. UAE announced that it had made the Abu Dhabi-owned ExCeL Convention Center in London, the biggest in the world. Open at no expense to turn into a field hospital with 4,000 seats. Yet help services, to Italy and other destinations, began.