UAE: How high Covid vaccination rates helped ease mask rules
Doctors urge government trust to help return to pre-pandemic normalcy
The newest announcement that indicates that the UAE is making a speedy recovery from the pandemic is the eased mask rules in certain public places.
The country managed to keep its head above water during the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, and life is gradually returning to normal. Healthcare professionals credit the UAE's visionary leadership, who laid down the effective initiatives, plans and recovery strategy that included massive vaccination drive and mass testing, which, they say, played a pivotal role in achieving normalcy.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) jointly announced that it is not mandatory to wear a face mask in certain places while keeping a safe physical distance of two metres.
This decision, they stated, came after a "noticeable decrease" in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country. According to the new decision, face masks will no longer be mandatory when exercising in public places, commuting in private vehicles for those who live in the same house as well as at open beaches, beauty salons and swimming pools.
Calling the move a significant one, Dr Nayzak Raoof, chief medical officer at Burjeel Hospital, Dubai said: "The announcement has come up at the right time, giving a sense of relief and positivity to the public."
"It has been about 18 months since face masks have become a part of our life. These eased mask rules reflect the confidence of the UAE authorities. We have tackled the pandemic and contained the virus successfully to a great extent. The number of cases has dipped to all-time low levels. This news gives us hope… that we are recovering and returning to our normal lives like in the pre-pandemic world."
Enumerating the factors that helped the country reach this level, Dr Raoof said: "High vaccination rate, including the administration of booster dose, has been the central pillar. Also, relentless tracing of contacts, testing, and strict enforcement of precautionary measures have played a crucial role.
However, he added, it does not mean that we let our guards down against the virus.
"These are minor relaxations but crucial at this point. People should continue to follow the precautions in public spaces and while interacting with people outside the family."
Calling it UAE's success story, Dr JM Gauer, CEO of RAK Hospital said the new eased rules are typical of a structured, well-thought strategy to return to normal.
"There is no doubt that masks are the single most effective measure to mitigate the risks of infection. However, it is also clear that with the success of the vaccination campaign and reduction of potential exposure, the obligation to wear masks at all times, can be dropped under certain circumstances, especially when outdoors."
"However, the inherent danger is that people may become careless. We are definitely on the good way, let us make sure that we remain disciplined and stay focused on the basic rules of social distancing and hygiene in order not to jeopardise what has been achieved so far."
Supporting the move and calling it promising, Dr Dirar Abdallah, consultant and chair of Internal medicine at Prime Hospital, this announcement renews our trust in the government that is putting in a lot of effort to bring normalcy back.
"This is good, positive news and shows that Covid situation in the UAE has greatly improved with the dropping Covid rates and high vaccinations. We support such a move and it stems from the fact that the UAE has achieved herd immunity with more than 80 per cent of the country's population fully vaccinated."
"When we look at other countries, who are less vaccinated than UAE, and yet have done away with mask and social distancing measures, we can see the UAE's measured approach as it is treading with caution and is easing rules in phases and gradually."
Urging people to trust the government, he added: "We should trust our government that if has made this announcement then it must have done so after gathering all the required scientific evidence and after monitoring the pandemic situation closely. This will help the country move from seeing the disease as pandemic to endemic, which will continue to be around for some time and would be treated like the normal influenza virus."
"The government must have made this announcement after taking into account scientific evidence and after monitoring the situation closely. We are looking forward to soon having the same normal life we did in pre-Covid times."
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