UAE Manages COVID-19 Cases by Keeping Temperatures Low & Prepping for a Re-Start - Should the U.S. Adopt a Similar Model?
How do you feel about the UAE's approach to the COVID-19 pandemic?
by Causes | 4.14.20
The UAE’s COVID-19 management model
- While it has appeared in lists of “the safest countries” during the COVID-19 pandemic, the particular mix of measures taken by the United Arab Emirates to combat the virus has so far attracted only sporadic attention. Partly this may be because there has been nothing clearly threatening or reassuring about the case: the UAE has few infections and a noticeably low mortality rate, and it is not at the heart of the outbreak.
- As the COVID-19 crisis evolves, the one factor that seems to drive the UAE approach more than any other: its unusually high degree of integration with the world economy. An oil-rich country, the UAE has successfully transformed itself over the last 50 years from a relatively quiet, regional outpost an indispensable global hub. In 2019, Dubai was the leading maritime hub across the Middle East, India and Africa, and ranked ninth for throughput globally.
- The UAE was one of the first to sound the alarm about COVID-19. On January 26, senior UAE officials announced they were “closely following the Chinese government's efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus” and were ready to provide support.
- In the following two months, the UAE and its trade hub at Dubai steadily manned the spigots, acting in concert with WHO guidelines. The country suspended tourist visas and instituted mandatory quarantines for those entering the country; then limited entry to residents, while continuing to allow transit flights to other countries, before closing all passenger traffic on March 23.
- One of the most important actions the UAE took was to institute early, widespread testing for the virus (the UAE in this respect has ranked at the very top of countries in tests per million of population, since the start of the crisis). It also guaranteed medical treatment for anyone with COVID-19.
- On the domestic economic front, the UAE was similarly prudent, announcing a 256 billion AED ($70 billion USD) stimulus package to make sure that the economy is primed and has sufficient liquidity to weather the crisis.
- The UAE has traditionally been one of the highest donors of international assistance, measured as a percentage of GNP: it provided 18% of total international aid - $7 billion – in 2018. The COVID-19 crisis is no exception: Since February, the UAE has sent over 130 metric tons of aid to more than 13 countries, in support of more than 100,000 front line medical professionals.
- Since the start of the global health crisis, the UAE’s response has been characterized by a careful balancing of its own needs and those of its neighbors and partners. If global hubs are doing their job, they act as a buffer and regulator for any slowdown and startup: shutter operations too quickly and you cause global pain; do it too slowly and you put your own population (and other countries) at risk.
- That includes the UAE's neighbors, those with whom it has disagreements, trading partners, and the nearly 8 million expatriates that call the UAE home.
- One hopes that the UAE’s experience helps drive home the lesson that no one country, regardless of size or wealth, can manage the effects of globalization on its own.
Has UAE COVID-19 aid to Iran reduced the risk of war?
- Of all the UAE's recent COVID-19 aid missions, the ones that got the most media attention were those directed to its neighbor across the Gulf, Iran.
- A regional heavyweight, Iran has been embroiled in a lengthy international standoff for years over its nuclear program, which resumed in force after the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ("Iran Nuclear Deal").
- The UAE is a strong regional ally of the U.S. and the West. While it strongly opposes Tehran's aggressive Shi’a expansionist policies, and proxy warfare in the region (notably in Yemen, where Iran has been backing Houthi forces in a devastating war with a Saudi-led and U.S.-backed Gulf coalition since 2015), its proximity to Iran means it is quite literally caught in the middle.
- Instead of contributing to calls for more pressure on Iran, the UAE took the decision to offer a bridge. The UAE’s Minister of State for International Cooperation, Reem Al Hashimi, affirmed that the effort was “completely consistent with UAE’s humanitarian principles, and that providing life-saving assistance to those experiencing distress [was] essential to serving the common good.”
- But it was also a clear signal to all parties concerned that the COVID-19 crisis is one that must be addressed collectively. For its part, Iran responded immediately and gratefully to the UAE assistance, saying the action brought “more reason and logic” to its relationship with the UAE.
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / johny007pan)
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