Dubai’s efforts to combat COVID-19 guided by comprehensive framework for mitigating COVID-19: Officials

DUBAI, The Government of Dubai Media Office in collaboration with Dubai TV today held a remote press conference where Dubai’s efforts to combat the pandemic were reviewed by a number of heads of government organisations on the frontlines of countering the crisis.

During the conference, Major General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, the Commander in Chief of Dubai Police and Sami Al Qamzi, Director General, Department of Economic Development (DED) fielded a series of questions posed by senior officials from major Arabic and English media in the UAE. The media interaction, broadcast on Dubai TV channels, provided the latest updates on the COVID-19 situation in the emirate and measures being taken to control the pandemic.

Answering a question on whether Dubai has seen the peak of the coronavirus crisis, Major General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri said that similar to any city or country, Dubai faces risks of the spread of the virus. All government bodies, both local and federal, are doing their best to contain the pandemic, he said. The government has partially eased restrictions to allow the public greater freedom of movement in Dubai. However, the phased rollout of easing of restrictions depends on the impact of preventive measures and the level of control achieved on the situation.

Speaking on the possible restoration of normal economic activity in Dubai, Sami Al Qamzi, Director General, Department of Economic Development (DED) said it is important to ensure that Dubai does not go back to more stringent controls after the easing of restrictions. To ensure sustained progress in the fight against COVID-19, it is necessary that businesses and consumers, particularly in the retail sector, have a high level of awareness about critical preventive measures that should be followed.

He said it was crucial to conduct awareness campaigns. Some strict actions were required to ensure certain retail outlets, especially those outside malls, stringently implemented precautionary measures, he said.

However, he noted that penalties such as fines had a limited impact on businesses compared to awareness campaigns, which were able to significantly raise the level of compliance among consumers and retail merchants. Awareness campaigns were conducted through traditional and social media as well as through emails, SMS alerts and direct engagement. DED gathered the feedback of diverse retail businesses into consideration before announcing the first phase of easing of restrictions.

Following the reduction of curbs, a no-exchange policy was put in place in all retail outlets except in case of defects or contamination. Use of fitting rooms was also prohibited to prevent any risk of infection.

Al Qamzi affirmed that broadly, the retail sector has responded positively to the directives issued and showed strong commitment to preventive measures, except for businesses in some areas that did not understand the guidelines. Recent reports showed that 80% of businesses showed strong commitment to precautionary measures. Al Qamzi believes this rate will improve with more awareness campaigns and inspections in the sector.

Major General Abdullah Al Marri spoke about the success of efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic in Naif and Al Ras. Under the directives of the leadership, the measures being undertaken in all areas including in Naif and Al Ras are part of a comprehensive integrated system created to combat COVID-19.

The cooperation of the residents of Naif and Al Ras played a major part in the success of measures to counter the spread of the virus in these areas. He said the efforts of major organisations both federal or local, that include not only Dubai Police, but also Dubai Health Authority (DHA), the combined ambulance services, Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Dubai Municipality, Dubai Civil Defense and all frontline workers and volunteers played an instrumental role in the progress achieved in these areas.

Answering a question on whether another area in Dubai could face such a lockdown, he said all actions are taken by the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management on the basis of a clear framework and plan, and after assessing data and analysing the situation. He expressed optimism that such stringent measures will not be put in place elsewhere in Dubai or anywhere in the UAE.

Major General Al Marri said the people of Dubai surprised officials with their high level of compliance with preventive measures. Fines were issued to some people only to send a strong message to the community about the importance of following precautionary measures and protecting the safety of the community.

Al Qamzi said from a very early stage of the crisis, the DED placed a high priority on ensuring fair pricing of essential items, especially food and personal protective equipment such as masks, sanitisers, and disinfectants. Businesses were monitored to ensure no one takes advantage of the situation. Initiatives were launched to identify violations and channels were opened for complaints. DED launched a ‘Price Monitor’ to help track prices of essential items.

Major General Al Marri noted that Dubai Police, like other government entities, has a strong technology infrastructure to monitor movement. He said HH Sheikh Mohammed’s message “Today, we are all responsible” has had a strong positive impact on the community. Ensuring the safety and health of the community is the shared responsibility of both members of the public and relevant authorities. The cooperation and commitment of all are critical to achieve desired results. He thanked members of public for their commitment to preventive measures, which he said has yielded good results.

He noted that the government has issued guidelines to limit social gatherings and visits during the Holy Month of Ramadan in order to safeguard the health and safety of the community. However, there is no monitoring to ensure these guidelines are not violated. “We trust members of the public and we can overcome this crisis only with their help,” he said.

Answering a question on Dubai’s efforts to maintain high levels of FDI in the emirate Al Qamzi said foreign investment depends on the confidence of investors. In recent years, Dubai has been ranked among the top global cities for foreign investment growth. Like all cities across the world, Dubai is seeking to overcome challenges. Under the leadership of HH Sheikh Mohammed and HH Sheikh Hamdan, Dubai has successfully weathered many past economic crises and won the trust and confidence of global investors. The government is studying plans to create new opportunities in the post-pandemic phase to enhance FDI growth.

The flexibility and resilience that Dubai has demonstrated time and again in dealing with major challenges will stand it in good stead amidst the current crisis. Al Qamzi said. Its ability to deal with changes and problems and respond quickly with effective solutions will support its efforts to over the repercussions of the pandemic. Dubai will revise its strategies and may come up with a new economic model to deal with the unprecedented challenges based on how the situation develops in the coming months.

Speaking further on the restoration of normalcy in various sectors, especially those significantly affected like tourism, Al Qamzi said it depends on the rate of infections and the overall health situation in the emirate. The ability of the healthcare sector to deal with infected cases will be critical to the restoration of normalcy. In the first phase of partial easing of restrictions, 30% of the economy has been opened up. Moving to the next stage of easing of restrictions will depend on the commitment of the people and businesses to observe precautionary measures. Dubai and the UAE will also draw from the experiences of other countries in this respect.

Further lifting of controls like opening of beaches and parks also depend on the overall pandemic situation and an assessment of the health of the community. The government has a clear framework for moving to each new phase, but the timing of this depends on a variety of factors, the DED chief said.

As for tourism sector, the situation is more complex, he said. The resumption of normal activity depends on the opening up of airports and worldwide markets. As tourism is a major sector, the renewed influx of tourists is critical for Dubai. Achieving this depends on the success of global efforts to control the pandemic and discover a vaccine. The tourism sector worldwide will have to negotiate critical challenges before it is on a firm path to recovery. However, he hoped that full activity can be restored in the sector in stages.

Answering a question on further stimulus packages for businesses, Al Qamzi said preventing loss of jobs and ensuring the sustainability of businesses is a key focus for the government. It is important that this health crisis does not turn into a prolonged economic crisis, he stressed. The UAE and Dubai have launched many stimulus measures to reduce the pressure on businesses. He mentioned Dubai’s AED1.5 billion stimulus package to support companies and the business sector in Dubai. The purpose of the package was to enhance liquidity and reduce the impact of the current global economic situation.

Further stimulus packages are being studied by the government in the upcoming period. It is closely monitoring the situation as it develops. Dubai is looking to launch more initiatives in cooperation with the private sector to enable businesses to continue operating profitably and to prevent loss of jobs, he said.

Source: Emirates News Agency

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