Dubai ramps up healthcare capacity to deal with rising COVID-19 cases

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Dubai has had to implement a “surge” in its healthcare capacity, recruiting workers from abroad and increasing beds for coronavirus patients, as infections rise despite a vaccination rush, a senior official told AFP.

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The emirate, one of the first destinations to reopen to tourism last year, became a magnet for visitors escaping dreary winter weather and harsh Covid-19 restrictions.

But the open-door policy has been in the spotlight in recent weeks as some 500,000 tourists flocked to its luxury resorts and sunny beaches over the end-of-year holiday period, triggering a sharp spike in cases.

While the UAE, of which Dubai is a member, doesn’t give a breakdown for each of its seven emirates, the Gulf nation has recorded more than 128,000 coronavirus cases since the beginning of 2021, compared to just 52,000 in the last 40 days of 2020.

The number of deaths has also jumped, with 125 in the past 10 days, out of 974 since the crisis began.

Despite having some 80 major healthcare facilities in the city of 3.4 million, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has had to increase its medical capacity, its deputy director general Alawi Alsheikh-Ali said in an interview this week.

“Recently when the numbers started to rise again... the health system has managed to surge its capacity to stay ahead of the curve and make sure that every patient today in Dubai... who needs care, gets it without any interruption,” he said.

At the start of the pandemic, Dubai’s sprawling World Trade Centre was converted to a 3,000-bed field hospital to treat coronavirus patients.

Authorities have said the pop-up facility can be “reactivated within hours” if needed.

“The capacity in Dubai now is ahead of the surge, and has been able to absorb the rise in numbers appropriately,” Alsheikh-Ali said, dismissing suggestions that the medical system was straining to cope.

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