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Coronavirus: UAE studies converting government buildings into medical facilities

Published: Updated:

The United Arab Emirates’ leadership set up on Tuesday a taskforce to study the optimal use of government buildings and facilities and the possibility of converting them into medical facilities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"All government capabilities will be utilized to rapidly overcome this unprecedented time," Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai said while chairing a virtual meeting of the UAE Cabinet.

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The cabinet ordered the formation of a team to study the optimum use of vital facilities during emergencies and crises. The team is tasked with preparing a relevant plan and studying ways of utilizing these facilities to best serve various national strategic sectors.

The tasks of the team include establishing mechanisms and procedures to convert public and vital facilities in the country, such as warehouses, exhibition halls, schools and others, to health facilities to ensure health prevention, treatment, and diagnosis services are in place across the country when necessity arises.

Coronavirus testing in UAE

During the meeting, Abdul Rahman bin Mohammad Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, said: "We are constantly developing proactive detection mechanisms to test patients, using state-of-the-art-technology to prevent infections and save time and accelerate measures.”

"A record 790,000 tests have been conducted until early this week at a rate exceeding 82,291 tests per million people, which makes the UAE among the top world countries for testing in terms of population. Also, periodic field reports have shown that most cases are stable and receiving the necessary healthcare," he added.

The authorities had also opened at least 14 drive-thrus capable of screening hundreds of people on a daily basis.

The UAE’s first drive-thru center was established in Abu Dhabi on March 28. Following the success of the first center, Abu Dhabi authorities announced they were rolling out ten more drive-thru centers across the country, including Fujairah.

Dubai launched its third testing center on April 7.

In addition to mobile testing centers, the UAE has also established a massive testing laboratory in coordination with genomics company BGI and Abu Dhabi technology company Group 42 (G42). The country has also launched a home-testing service for people with disabilities.

The increase in testing means the UAE could flatten its curve – the number of new cases recorded daily – within two to three weeks, according Dr. Adil Sajwani, a family medicine doctor with the Ministry of Health and Prevention and a member of the national awareness team for COVID-19 in the UAE.

“We hope that we will contain the disease in the next two to three weeks,” Sajwani told Al Arabiya English. “But people are still going out, they’re still gathering, some are still having parties, so this is also a challenge. Containing or flattening the curve is a challenge.”

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