To prevent the spread of COVID-19, doctors in the United Arab Emirates have advised residents to continue wearing face masks and observe other safety precautions.
Their remarks came a day after health officials announced that the mask regulation would be aggressively enforced, with fines for anyone who break it, and that the Al Hosn green pass system would be tightened due to an increase in coronavirus infections across the country.
At a televised media briefing on Monday, the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) also said there had been cases of people infected with COVID-19 who had breached the mandatory 10-day at-home isolation period; a breach which they warned would be considered – and treated as – a criminal offense.
Across the country, health experts said it is vital that everyone followed the rules to limit the rise of new infections.
Speaking to Al Arabiya English, Dr. Niyas Khalid, a specialist in internal medicine at Burjeel Medical City in Abu Dhabi, said it is essential to follow precautionary measures amid the global rise of COVID-19 cases.
“People have been under the COVID-19 cloud for around three years,” he said. “Many people have become complacent and reluctant to follow the rules, maybe because the death rate compared to the previous wave is low now.
“But we must understand that the death rate is low because of all the preventive measures such as vaccinations, the booster doses, and the world-class treatment that have been given to the citizens of this country.
“We should adhere to precautions because it will impact the vulnerable sections of society, including those with existing diseases, the elderly or people with complex diseases or comorbid conditions.
“We must ensure that the vulnerable group doesn’t suffer because we are negligent in following the rules. To protect the entire society, we must follow the rules so that nobody is harmed.
“We should ensure that no life is lost because we don’t take precautions.”
Dr Khalid said it is the responsibility of each individual to not spread the disease to another.
“We may not develop any complications, but the other person may get into trouble. We must be careful and adhere to the precautions laid down by the authorities.
“If everyone is wearing a mask, it significantly reduces the chances of transmitting the disease from one person to another.”
Dr Pawan Kumar Shrivastava, a consultant in internal Medicine at Dubai’s NMC Specialty Hospital, also urged residents to follow UAE rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
He said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our life as we know it.
“Many had lost their family members and friends in the last wave. Once again, COVID-19 cases are increasing and we need to control the spread of disease earliest by following certain measures.
“So, make sure to wear masks correctly when you are in closed and crowded places. Wearing a mask is not a restriction of our freedom, rather helps us to regain freedom by reducing virus transmission in the community.”
Dr Shrivastava said multiple studies have shown that face coverings can contain droplets expelled from the wearer which are responsible for the majority of transition of the virus.
“It is estimated that 40 percent of persons with COVID 19 are asymptomatic but potentially able to transmit the virus,” he said. “Also remember to regularly hand wash, socially distance, avoid going to crowded places, stay at home and self-isolate with minor symptoms – mild fever, cough, or body ache – and get your COVID-19 PCR done at the earliest.
“Most importantly, make sure to complete your immunization against COVID-19.
“If anyone in your family has still not received vaccine get them vaccinated. By vaccination only we control this disease completely.
“Because of mass vaccination in our country we are observing that the disease severity also has reduced to very mild. Once again, we have to follow all measures recommended by authorities, they are for our protection.
“We have to win this battle against this deadly virus.”
Dr. Neema Madhusoodanan Nambiar, a GP at Bareen International Hospital in MBZ City, also urged against mask complacency.
“It is important to continue wearing the face mask and follow basic health and safety protocols as it can protect individuals and prevent persons from transmitting the COVID-19 virus to others.
“Most COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic but can transmit the virus to others, even to those high-risk categories. So let us be responsible, continue wearing face mask and continue adhering to health and safety rules to help reduce virus transmission in the community.”
Officials leading the NCEMA briefing on Monday said the validity of the Al Hosn Green Pass app would be reduced from 30 days to 14 days as a “precautionary and preventive measure.
The decision “aims to ensure the accuracy of the testing process and encourage more periodic checks.”
The update will be activated on Wednesday, except for employees in the education sector and students, who will have the update on their Al Hosn apps by next Monday, June 20.
This comes as the UAE’s COVID-19 cases surged dramatically, accounting for a more than two-fold increase in infections in less than a week, NCEMA said.
The UAE registered 1,319 new coronavirus cases on Monday, marking the highest number of daily recorded cases since February, but no deaths were recorded during the 24-hour period.
NCEMA said that it has recently “monitored some behaviors that have become a danger to society and public health,” referring to people not adhering to COVID-19 precautionary and preventative measures and how it has “negatively” impacted “recovery efforts.
“Negligence and recklessness in following precautionary measures, and failure in the societal role in maintaining public health and acquired immunity, has resulted in a rise in the number of infections and new waves of the virus,” the authority spokesman said in the briefing.
“Studies have proven that wearing masks is one of the most important factors in maintaining health and safety, and from the risk of contracting a COVID-19 infection,” NCEMA said.
“The effectiveness of the mask lies in reducing the speed and strength of the spread of the disease, especially in closed and crowded places.”
The authority reaffirmed the need to wear masks in closed public spaces, reiterating that it was mandatory and that not adhering to this rule would result in a fine of up to $816 (AED 3,000).