Indicators measuring the impact of the extended sterilisation programme being reviewed to deliberate on future course of action
Residency visas that have expired after March 1 will remain valid till end of year and no penalties will be imposed
Post-pandemic plan to revitalise the tourism sector being drawn up
GDRFA is working with other concerned entities to help expatriates wishing to leave the UAE return to their home countries
Increased testing is integral part of the strategy to limit the spread of the virus
All people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms urged to approach healthcare facilities for assistance
Prominent officials leading Dubai’s fight against the COVID-19 outbreak commended all nationals and residents of the emirate for their strong commitment to staying at home and observing restrictions on movement. Dubai authorities are closely monitoring indicators measuring the impact of the comprehensive measures put in place to combat COVID, to decide on the future course of action.
The officials were speaking at a remote press conference organised by the Government of Dubai Media Office in cooperation with Dubai TV. The event broadcast today on Dubai TV and Dubai One channels featured a Q&A session on the measures being taken to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19). Major General Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, Director General of General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai, and Dr. Amer Al Sharif, Head of COVID-19 Command and Control Centre and Vice Chancellor of the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU), answered a series of question posed by senior officials from major Arabic and English media in the UAE.
Major General Mohammed Al Marri said that under the directives of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, all residents in the UAE whose visas are expiring between March 1 and the end of the year will be able to stay in the country without penalties and will continue to be legal residents in the UAE.
Major General Mohammed Al Marri said as part of the decision issued by the UAE cabinet concerning residents in the UAE, all residency visas that have expired after March 1 will remain valid till the end of the year and no penalties will be imposed. Residents will be able to stay in the country as legal residents, he said.
If those who have lost their jobs find alternate employment, the GDRFA will support them in transferring their visas or enable them to work for their new employers while remaining on existing visas. The GDRFA will continue to provide services to facilitate smooth visa transfers between companies in Dubai as well as between emirates. He said the Authority is working to ease any challenges related to immigration procedures for residents during the current period.
Al Marri further said the GDRFA, in coordination with other concerned entities, is working to enable expatriates who wish to leave the country return to their home countries. He said the strong coordination between the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and airline companies like Emirates and flydubai have helped to create a smooth process for expatriates to leave the country. He underlined the key role played by DHA in ensuring all precautionary measures are observed with regard to departing expatriates, including medical tests. In addition, the GDRFA ensures passengers are provided with masks, gloves and disinfectants.
Speaking about the COVID-19 Command and Control Center established by Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dr. Amer Al Sharif said the Centre was established to develop a strategic plan for combating COVID-19 based on global best practices and medical protocols, and outline clear indicators for measuring the results of counter-COVID-19 measures. The Center also seeks to coordinate efforts between the public and private sectors, other entities involved in safeguarding public health and federal bodies such as the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA). The Center also seeks to align the emirate’s measures to combat COVID-19 with that of the Ministry of Health and Prevention to support national objectives for protecting the community.
He said the Centre has a two-fold strategy - reduce the spread of the virus through measures such as stringent social distancing and increase the number of medical tests in Dubai while raising the emirate’s healthcare capabilities in coordination with the private and public sector and medical and pharmaceutical companies.
Dr. Al Sharif stressed that the public and private sectors must work closely with each other, in line with global best practice, to combat the pandemic. He thanked all those who have contributed to raising the emirate’s healthcare capacity. He noted that the private sector in Dubai is actively contributing to support the healthcare sector’s efforts.
Speaking about the plans and procedures being followed to combat the spread of the virus in densely populated areas, especially among blue-collar workers, Dr. Amer Al Sharif said Dubai’s Permanent Committee of Labour Affairs is exerting concerted efforts to manage the situation. The Committee’s efforts in this regard is a continuation of measures taken even before the pandemic. The Chairman of the Committee has directly contacted large companies to discuss measures aimed at ensuring workers continue to enjoy a good standard of living
The Committee has also carried out awareness campaigns on health, nutrition, transportation and precautionary measures in high-density areas. He further said all key entities including the Permanent Committee of Labour Affairs and the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management, in collaboration with the DHA and Dubai Municipality are working closely to safeguard the health and wellbeing of blue-collar workers. Teams from these organisations have implemented comprehensive precautionary measures and conducted awareness campaigns in coordination with clinics providing healthcare services in these areas. Those who test positive are quarantined in medical facilities where they receive the highest level of care.
In response to a question on whether increased testing will bring a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, Dr. Amer Al Sharif said global studies suggest extensive tests must be conducted to limit the overall rise in cases of infections. Work is ongoing to conduct more extensive testing in specific high-risk segments like people returning from other countries, those who have been in contact with confirmed cases and people with symptoms. He said expanded testing will be conducted among people suffering from chronic diseases since they require rapid intervention if infected. Increased testing is an integral part of the strategy to limit the spread of the virus, he said.
Al Marri elaborated on measures being taken to ensure the virus is not spread through ports of entry. Precautionary measures, including extensive on-site tests, have been implemented in air and sea ports and border crossings in collaboration with the DHA. Medical equipment has been installed in these ports and medical teams are available to carry out tests. Precautionary measures are in place not only to monitor people entering the country but also protect frontline personnel. Employees of GDRFA are subjected to regular precautionary tests.
Dr. Al Sharif urged all people experiencing symptoms typical to COVID-19 to approach healthcare facilities for assistance. He noted that hospitals have created separate buildings or sections and put in place comprehensive preventive measures to avoid the spread of the virus. He said those having symptoms should not hesitate to visit hospitals. The Centre has created a full-fledged plan in collaboration with the healthcare sector and DHA to strengthen the sector’s capabilities to manage the COVID-19 crisis. Rashid Hospital continues to be the main hospital for emergencies as it has a strong set of protocols to deal with COVID-19 patients. He emphasised that people should not hesitate to visit specialised clinics if they have health problems. Children’s hospitals do not deal with COVID-19 cases, he clarified.
Speaking about the post-pandemic plan to help key sectors up and running, Al Marri said Dubai Tourism is working with tourism companies and airlines like Emirates to draw a plan to revitalise the tourism sector.
Talking about the impact of the sterilisation programme and the possibility of its extension. Dr. Al Sharif said all indicators to measure the impact of the extended sterilisation programme will be shared with the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management to decide on a course of action for the upcoming period.
Dr. Al Sharif also spoke about the first full genome sequencing of the COVID-19 virus conducted by researchers at the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU). An important tool to study the outbreak in the region, the genome sequencing will help develop vital treatments and help ensure Dubai occupies a prominent global position in scientific research on the virus.