The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global health crisis that changed the lives of people all over the world. The pandemic broke out in China in December 2019, and by March 2020 has affected almost all countries around the globe causing national governments to introduce a range of drastic measures. Almost half of the world’s population has spent several weeks on lockdown endorsed to limit the spread of the virus. As of June 2020, the infection rates are slowly decreasing, and many countries have started to ease quarantine restrictions, preparing for a gradual return to normal life. Both national governments and international organizations strive to develop recovery strategies that would not only allow countries to bounce back but also provide a ground for future economic and social development. For the UAE, the pandemic poses a serious economic challenge that now requires the country to rethink its priorities to deal with the crisis without risking public health. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the United Arab Emirates’ national and international response to the pandemic and propose a list of recovery measures aimed to deal with its consequences.
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International Response to the Pandemic
As a first response to the virus outbreak, many governments and air carriers canceled and reduced the number of flights to and from the affected regions and imposed travel restrictions of varying intensity, up to a total border closure. As the virus was spreading, more severe measures were introduced, including self-isolation, cancellation of all public events, flexible work arrangements, distant learning, closure of non-essential facilities and services, and movement restrictions. Many businesses switched to remote work, reduced their working hours, introduced social distancing measures on worksites, and cut down the number of employees. During the quarantine, international production and consumption rates decreased, gas prices dropped, and many countries’ economies faced a severe crisis that prompted governments to launch a range of drastic economic measures.
The UAE’s National Response to the Pandemic
The United Arab Emirates was the first country in the Middle East to report a coronavirus case at the end of January 2020, followed by a steady increase in the number of positive cases. In March 2020, the government introduced a range of initiatives to control the spread of COVID-19, including the cancellation of sports events, festivals, and religious services, and the closure of schools, retail outlets, and public spaces. Many businesses and transportation services throughout the country were forced to close or highly impacted by shutdown restrictions. The country’s economy experienced a slump as oil prices dropped down amid the quarantine. To support people and businesses, the country launched a range of economic initiatives, including measures to ensure an uninterrupted supply of consumer goods and prevent unfair pricing practices. As of June 2020, the country has returned to normal life, but its economy is still in the grip of the global pandemic.
The UAE’s International Response to the Pandemic
The government’s international response to the virus outbreak was first focused on aid and repatriation initiatives. The state-organized repatriation flights for people stranded in Wuhan—both the citizens of the UAE and the neighboring countries, charted planes with Emirati nationals from China and the UK, and arranged flights for foreign citizens stranded in the UAE and wish to return to their countries. Residence permits for foreign nationals were extended for a period of three months. For the whole duration of the quarantine, the UAE has been working with other national governments and international organizations to deliver assistance to the countries most affected by the pandemic. It supplied medical and protective equipment to regions in need, donated coronavirus test kits to the US, and collaborated with the World Health Organization on COVID-19 testing initiatives. In the UK, the ExCeL conference center owned by the Abu-Dhabi-based company was converted into a temporary coronavirus hospital.
Recommendations for the UAE’s Recovery on the International Level
As of June 2020, the world is starting to slowly recover from the pandemic, as the quarantine restrictions are gradually being lifted all over the globe. The measures aimed to control the spread of the virus are slowly giving way to recovery strategies. Both international organizations and national governments are introducing initiatives to come out of the crisis with minimum damage to the economy, businesses, and healthcare. A coordinated and comprehensive strategy is required for each country to address the global consequences of the pandemic and collaboratively prepare the world for recovery. The proposed course of action for the United Arab Emirates on the international level includes:
- Collaborating with the world’s countries and international organizations on vaccine development.
- Providing aid to the UAE’s citizens abroad, particularly in the hardest-hit countries.
- Supporting the countries that have been most affected by the pandemic or are still in the middle of the virus outbreak.
- Collaborative efforts aimed to support and stabilize global financial markets and the economy.
- Collaborating with national governments to support major international corporations.
National Recovery Recommendations for the UAE
The UAE’s COVID-19 measures proved to be effective, as indicated by the current recovery rate. The country’s further domestic strategy should focus on the development of health security measures to prevent the second outbreak of the viruses, providing aid to local businesses and the population, and the initiatives intended to support the country’s economy. The proposed recommendations for the United Arab Emirates to recover after the pandemic include:
- Public health safety measures, including the development of guidelines for businesses to ensure security at workplaces, public transport, and public spaces restrictions, and individual infection prevention measures. The proposed restrictions should be lighter than those active during the peak of the outbreak, but, nevertheless, strictly observed. For example, the guidelines for businesses should include the introduction of flexible working hours, reducing the number of employees, sterilization, provision of disinfectants to customers and employees, and measures to ensure social distancing. People at higher risk of getting infected should continue working from home.
- Supporting health care practitioners and increasing the number of online consultations provided by health care institutions to reduce the number of patients coming to hospitals.
- Checklists and guidelines for people returning from other countries, including the provision of COVID-19 negative certificates.
- Financial support to families most affected by the pandemic.
- Financial support for organizations, businesses, and institutions hardest hit by the pandemic.
- Financial measures are aimed to facilitate long-term economic recovery.
As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is slowly starting to improve, international organizations and national governments start to develop a new range of measures to prepare the world for recovery. It is now clear that the economy is the most affected sector, with the decrease in production and consumption and the drop in oil prices affecting many countries’ financial stability. The new strategies should focus on preventing the second outbreak of the virus, ensuring public health safety, supporting local businesses and organizations, and developing financial measures aimed at answering the pandemic’s consequences. National governments should work collaboratively on vaccine development, providing support to hardest-hit countries, and economic measures to help the global economy recover.
Alsuwaidi, A. R., al Hosani, F. I., ElGhazali, G., & al-Ramadi, B. K. (2019). The COVID-19 response in the United Arab Emirates: challenges and opportunities. Nature Immunology, 22(9), 1066–1067. Web.
al Hosany, F., Ganesan, S., al Memari, S., al Mazrouei, S., Ahamed, F., Koshy, A., & Zaher, W. (2019). Response to COVID-19 pandemic in the UAE: A public health perspective. Journal of Global Health, 11. Web.