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COVID-19 tests break one million mark; recoveries increase to 1,887; 532 new cases detected: UAE Government

25 Apr, 2020: The UAE Government has announced that the number of COVID-19 tests has broken the one million mark, reaching a total of 1,022,326 screenings as part of the national plan to intensify coronavirus detection.

Speaking at the UAE's regular media briefing on Saturday, Dr. Abdul Rahman bin Mohammad bin Nasser Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, said that COVID-19 tests are available nationwide under the directives of the UAE leadership for Emiratis and residents alike at more than 14 mobile drive-through facilities, in addition to screening centres provided by hospitals and other medical facilities across the country, as well as screening services dedicated to people of determination.

The Minister attributed the success in conducting such a large number of tests to the "tireless efforts made 24/7 by dedicated medical teams."

"Even during the holy month of Ramadan, the working hours of our medical teams have not changed, and they are continuing their work with more determination to ensure public health and safety," he added.

"The more tests we conduct, the earlier we detect more cases, and the more efficiently we can contain the virus. The more tests we perform, the more proactive we can handle those proven to be in contact with confirmed cases, as well as those who don’t exhibit any symptoms and yet carry the infection."

"It is normal that we detect more cases when we accelerate screening. And herein we would like to reassure the public that this increase in the number of patients is expected and proves that we are on the right path to contain the spread of the virus."

He conveyed to the public his high regard for the country’s frontline health workers in combatting the virus.

"On behalf of all our medical teams, we thank all members of the community, including citizens and residents, for their compliance with preventative and precautionary measures and their contributions to ongoing national efforts."

For her part, Dr. Amna Al Shamsi, spokesperson for the UAE Government, said the number of recoveries has increased to 1,887 after another 127 cases were fully cured.

"Past weeks saw the recovery of an average of 100 cases daily," she said, adding that 20 percent of the total infections have recovered. Accelerated screening resulted in the detection of 532 new cases among various nationalities, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 9,813.

She explained that the decision to partially relax restrictions does not mean that the situation is back to normal. Precautionary and preventative measures are still in place, and the public must comply with all measures, including social distancing and the wearing of masks.

"On the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan, the UAE has been keen to partially relax restrictions on movement while ensuring that all people continue to abide by the relevant prevention guidelines and instructions. These new measures include allowing first and second degree relatives to visit while avoiding inviting those susceptible to infection, including the elderly and people with chronic diseases. The number of people present in a place at any one time may not exceed five individuals," Al Shamsi stated.

"Exercise should take place near one’s home for up to two hours, with a maximum of three people at any one time. Food should not be exchanged between residents of different homes. In the event that food is received from relatives or friends in the vicinity of one’s home, the appropriate handling of food in disposable sealed bowls must be ensured," she noted.

Domestic helpers are prohibited from meeting anyone outside the home. They also cannot receive food from an unknown source. They should be provided with the necessary protective equipment should they need to interact with people from outside.

They must also be advised on the necessary precautions to follow in the event of receiving any parcels or goods from delivery services.

Al Shamsi said that MoHaP, along with the Departments of Health in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, have launched an app to allow health authorities to rapidly identify cases susceptible to infection and consequently contact and test them.

"The application provides a service that shows to what extent people under home quarantine abide by the required measures in order to ensure their protection and the safety of the public. Every user will have a QR code showing his or her health condition. The app uses Bluetooth short range signals to show whether or not the person in question is near other people who had contact with previously confirmed COVID-19 cases who also should have the app installed on their mobiles."

Dr. Alawi Al Sheikh, the spokesman for the advanced science sector, said that more than 58 studies are currently being conducted in the UAE in various fields to understand the nature of COVID-19 and develop innovative treatments, diagnostic devices, and digital tools with the aim of reducing the burden on medical facilities.

"These studies are looking into ways of simulating the spread of the disease and the movement of patients and the psychological and health impact of the virus on society."

He added that the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) conducted the UAE's first full genome sequencing of the COVID-19, which will help scientists understand how it spreads.

"The study aims to fully sequence viral samples from 240 patients with COVID-19 across various age groups and at different points of this pandemic."

He highlighted another joint study in which a number of research centres in the UAE are participating, including Khalifa University, UAE University, Sharjah University, and the health departments of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, as well as the University of Western Australia and Al Ain Centre for Fertility, to understand the genetic factors that lead to the discrepancy in the severity of infections between patients in the country by studying patients' full genome sequencing.

"It is important to understand the impact of COVID-19 on people with chronic disease and smokers in order to develop precautionary plans to ensure their safety. Therefore, a team from UAE University will study factors that make some cases more critical than others to help reduce fatalities," he said.

"The study has illustrated that COVID-19 is a virus transmitted by animals to humans. A team of specialists from Khalifa University is now collaborating with UAE University and a number of global colleges, such as one in Florida and the Chinese Institute for Agricultural Sciences, Murdoch University, and University of Western Australia, to look into how an animal virus has been transmitted to humans.

"A team from Khalifa University is working on two projects: the first to accelerate screenings by developing devices that require less time than the internationally recognized PCR tests," he noted.

He added that researchers from Khalifa University have also developed a simple, cost-effective device for effective artificial respiration in emergencies. The new device uses 3D printing techniques to meet the growing demand for artificial respirators.

"The new device can be further developed on a wider scope, which means that more can be produced at a lower cost to meet growing demand."

For his part, Abdulrahman Saeed Al Shamsi, the spokesman for the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments, said the Authority is providing all support to ensure mosques will continue to be "an oasis of safety and tranquility for worshippers to perform their rituals."

"The decision to close mosques is being reviewed regularly in coordination with the National Emergency and Crisis and Disasters Management Authority and Ministry of Health and Prevention according to official reports to contain the spread of the virus," he added.

"It’s quite difficult now to re-open mosques and other places of worship where safety guidelines cannot be ensured, including social distancing and the difficulty to avoid getting in contact with those more susceptible to the virus, including elderly people, children and people with chronic and respiratory disease.

"The nature of congregational prayers cannot be controlled to ensure the safety of all worshippers," he explained.

He expressed the Authority’s hope that the coming period will bring in more hope in light of the ongoing efforts to accelerate screening in a way that can ensure mosques can reopen.

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