Coronavirus: Social gatherings contributing to UAE’s surge in Covid-19 cases, says official
Since the start of the pandemic, physical distancing, face mask use and frequent hand sanitisation have been presented as the safest ways to protect individuals from contracting the deadly virus.
But a “minority” of people have become complacent and are gathering in larger groups again, increasing the risk of further infections, said Dr Taher Alameri, spokesman for National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority.
“Community awareness is essential and the government is working hard on ensuring that everyone is aware and complying with the rules because this is the only way we can fight this pandemic,” he told The National.
Dr Alameri said people needed to stop meeting in large numbers to prevent the spread of the virus, which has infected 72,154 people in the UAE.
“We need to believe and understand that we have a new normal where we do all our social gathering through smart applications rather than have physical contact just until we reach that point where we win the battle with this pandemic.
“The other factor is the new the disregard of hygienic and safety procedures of hand washing and wearing masks. These two factors are contributing in negative way.”
He said there was a disparity in the level of adherence to safety measures.
“We want to thank all these communities [who have committed to following procedures] but at the same time there is a minority who are not complying,” he said.
The UAE identified 614 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, after conducting 67,821 tests. It was a 70 per cent increase on the number of daily cases reported on Sunday (362).
The figure was also a significant reduction on the 735 cases confirmed on Wednesday, which was the highest number since May 27.
The average daily case total over the past seven days stands at 520.
Heavy penalties are in place to deter people from breaching safety measures, including a Dh3,000 fine for not wearing a face mask or physical distancing. People organising gatherings are fined Dh10,000, with those taking part charged Dh5,000.
On Thursday, Dr Alameri encouraged the public to call Weqaya, a platform dedicated to answering queries about regulations and safety related to Covid-19.
“The national communication centre, Weqaya, is our focal point for all concerns regarding Covid-19. Questions should be directed to 800-WEQAYA,” he said.
He reiterated that travellers whose final destination was Abu Dhabi had to undergo home quarantine for two weeks.
“There is a national protocol regarding the return of travellers to the UAE and, according to that protocol, all travellers must quarantine for 14 days. Whether they are to quarantine at home or at a hotel depends on the emirate’s guidelines.”
Officials are using smart devices and applications to monitor people under quarantine, depending on the emirate they are staying in. Some people are being asked to wear a smart bracelet for the duration of the quarantine period but all travellers must download Al Hosn app, he said.
“On arrival they are asked to sign a declaration stating their place and country of residence, where they are to head to immediately and quarantine.”
Asked when tourism would return to Abu Dhabi, Dr Alameri said authorities would want to first guarantee the health of travellers and the community.
“We love and want to welcome the world but we want to protect our community. In terms of welcoming back tourists, it will be at a time when we are almost winning the battle with Covid-19. It is not only about protecting our reputation as a tourist destination but about ensuring the health of all our travellers.
“Community resilience and co-operation with the guidance and support of the leadership has proven that we can cross these hard months and it will be the fastest way to win this battle.”