Face masks worn in public will be around for the foreseeable future as a tool to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, say UAE doctors.
Facial coverings have been mandatory in the UAE since the height of the pandemic. A 3,000 Dirham fine remains for anyone not adhering to safety regulations.
Rules have since been relaxed allowing no facemask requirements whilst a person is exercising. People with certain medical conditions are also exempt.
The new normal
Face masks are the new norm, and medical professionals speaking to Al Arabiya English say the trend is here to stay during 2021.
Dr Ravi Arora, of Abu Dhabi’s NMC Hospital, said wearing face masks for another year is likely, as the authorities track the new strains of virus.
“With new variants keep popping up which could minimize the impact of vaccines – it could be between six months to a year before not wearing masks becomes a possibility.”
Dr Saheer Sainalabdeen, Specialist Respiratory Medicine Medeor Hospital, Abu Dhabi, noted that the majority of available vaccines have an efficacy of around 95 percent, but their “effectiveness to prevent transmission [of Coronavirus] even if it does will be something less than that.”
“So, until we build up the immunity in the public to around 70 percent we have to wear masks and follow other precautions.”
"With new variants popping up which could minimize the impact of vaccines, it could be between six months to a year before not wearing masks becomes a possibility,” Dr Arora said.
A second internal medicine specialist emphasized the importance of following all guidance to prevent viral transmission. Dr Sawsan Humaida, from Abu Dhabi’s Bareen International Hospital, said: ”From a medical standpoint, we encourage the community to remain vigilant and continue to follow the standard precautionary and preventive health measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 virus.”
“Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the UAE - where we see a massive turnout from the public to achieve herd immunity - wearing a facemask, continuous hand washing and sanitizing hands, as well as maintaining physical distance of two meters are still effective tools in curbing the spread of the virus,” Dr Humaida added.
'A long way to go'
Dr Abner Rivas Abejo, a specialist in Internal Medicine at Dubai’s Medeor Hospital, said: “Even with the presence of vaccines against COVID-19 which has shown great efficacy and safety profile, we still have a long way to go until we can stop wearing masks.
“Wearing a mask properly has been one of the effective barrier that keeps a person from getting infected not only with the COVID-19 virus but from other respiratory viruses as well. It prevents these microscopic organisms to enter and invade our bodies and cause disease by preventing entry from our airways.
“This is why it is very important to use and wear masks properly.”