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Coronavirus: Dubai says it has carried out full genome sequencing of COVID-19

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Dubai announced on Wednesday that it has carried out its first full genome sequencing of the new coronavirus, in a post by Dubai Media Office on Twitter.

Genome sequencing is the process by which scientists identify thole DNA sequence of an organism - in this case a virus - in one go. Within the genome of the virus causing COVID-19 (known by scientists as SARS-CoV-2), there are 30,000 genetic bases or letters.

Studying the genetic sequence of the virus and how it changes over time allows scientists to better understand how the virus spreads. Genomic sequencing has been carried out on COVID-19 in other countries already, but Wednesday's successful sequencing of the virus from a patient in Dubai is the first time it has been done in the UAE.

The sequencing was performed by Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) researchers, alongside the UAE's wider testing program aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.

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UAE aims to expand DNA testing

UAE officials tasked with slowing the spread of the virus in the country said the new research was important and would be expanded.

"Scientific research is a critical resource to inform the Center’s strategies & actions against this virus. We are fortunate to have academic institutions that can join other sectors in #Dubai in fight against COVID-19," said Dr. Amer Sharif, who heads the country's COVID-19 Command and Control Center.

The aim is to fully sequence viral samples from 240 patients with COVID-19, including samples from different age groups and at different stages of coronavirus' spread, added Professor Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, the MBRU’s Provost and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Group for the Command and Control Center.

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UAE expands testing

The UAE has also been working on expanding its testing capabilities and can reportedly test 15,000 people a day for coronavirus.

Following the establishment of a drive-thru testing center in Abu Dhabi, authorities have rolled out similar centers across the country, including most recently in Fujairah.

Authorities have been using chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to successfully treat COVID-19 patients, according to the health ministry.

The UAE has also been proactive in its enforcement of preventative measures to curb the outbreak and has imposed a 24-hour curfew in Dubai and extended a national disinfection campaign across the emirates.

A family medicine doctor with the Ministry of Health and Prevention told Al Arabiya English earlier this week that the UAE could flatten the curve within two to three weeks if people continue to adhere to preventative measures.

The UAE has reported 4,933 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 28 virus-related deaths.