COVID-19 is an unprecedented global challenge, requiring unprecedented global cooperation. The UAE’s response to the pandemic both domestically and internationally has been guided by its founding principle that we are stronger united than apart. During 2020, in the first phase of response to the pandemic, the UAE has airlifted critical medical supplies to over 128 countries under bilateral partnerships, as well as provided planes for the UN’s air bridge operation and testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) for the World Health Organization (WHO). The Dubai International Humanitarian City – one of the world’s largest humanitarian hubs – has handled over 80% of the PPE for the WHO’s global relief efforts. At home, the UAE has guaranteed free testing and treatment for all, including citizens, residents, and visitors without discrimination, with a focus on customized services for the elderly, persons with disabilities, and migrant workers. It has also introduced major stimulus packages to protect employment and offer liquidity for the broader regional market.
COVID-19 does not discriminate by national origin, ethnicity, or religion—and these circumstances are a reminder that nations must work together to coordinate their responses, share lessons learned, and help the most vulnerable.
As of February 2021, the UAE has provided more than 1,742 tonnes of aid to 128 countries to assist 1.7 million medical workers in the COVID-19 response. The UAE has also converted some of its state-owned companies’ overseas assets into treatment and quarantine centers at the service of the local government, notably including the 4,000-bed ExCeL London, the UK capital’s largest venue for exhibitions and conferences. The UAE has also worked closely with the United Nations on the multilateral relief effort.
In May 2020, the UAE partnered with the World Food Programme (WFP) to launch an international air bridge operation using Emirati aircraft to provide essential health and humanitarian supplies across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and in June 2020, the UAE provided testing kits worth $10 million to the WHO. The UAE has also co-arranged flights and supplies with the WHO for relief in Iran, Somalia, and Ethiopia and in December 2020, established a 100-bed field hospital to treat COVID-19 patients in Darfur, Sudan. UAE funding through the UN to prevent sexual and gender-based violence has also been used in the COVID-19 response.
In January 2021, DP World and UNICEF announced a wide-ranging partnership to support the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and related immunization supplies in low- and lower-middle-income countries. This partnership leverages the global logistics infrastructure and services of DP World on a pro-bono basis in support of COVID-19 vaccine logistics needs, including transport, port and storage requirements in countries where DP World is present.
At the UN in New York, the UAE was among the co-sponsors of the first resolution calling for global solidarity to fight COVID-19 and a resolution on vaccine and medical supply equity. The UAE has also endorsed the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire in order to facilitate humanitarian operations and mitigate the spread of the disease and has joined statements on open markets and supply chains.
The UAE also launched an informal discussion series between frontline leaders in the international COVID-19 response and Permanent Representatives to inform Member State priorities and actions. Guests have included Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the IMF; Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of Red Cross; and David Nabarro, WHO’s Special Envoy for COVID-19.
Through research, artificial intelligence and diagnostic tools, the UAE is bringing technological sophistication to bear in working to stop the spread of COVID-19 and find treatments and cures.
At the G20 Summit, the UAE joined the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, spearheaded by the World Bank. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has also consulted with religious leaders including the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb and His Holiness Pope Francis to express the UAE’s solidarity with all faiths during this challenging period.
The UAE is conscious that the COVID-19 pandemic represents more than a public health emergency and is well aware of the significant and unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, which can only be overcome through shared determination and global cooperation…We also understand the critical importance of protecting the human rights of all people in the UAE, irrespective of citizenship or status. Accordingly, consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals principle of ‘leave no one behind,’ the UAE Government has adopted a multifaceted response to the COVID-19 pandemic, grounded in the principles of public trust, transparency, and the provision of testing and treatment for all. Highness Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
The UAE has made notable progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19, using a multi-pronged approach to identify infections early, conduct widespread testing and tracing, prioritize assistance for vulnerable segments of the population, and invest in innovation.
The UAE has a comprehensive, country-wide testing strategy that allows us to identify new cases early and minimize the risk of spreading. The UAE has one of the highest per capita testing rates in the world, with more than 2 million people tested across the seven emirates in a population of less than 10 million. Importantly, testing is free, including through drive-through testing facilities and at-home services for older persons and persons with disabilities. UAE leaders have encouraged use of these services through public messaging and personal example (leading by example).
The UAE has also enacted gender-sensitive policies during the pandemic, including launching remote work programs for pregnant women and mothers with young children, and offering increased social services.
I would like to thank the African Union, the governments of UAE and Ethiopia, the Jack Ma Foundation and all our partners for their solidarity with African countries at this critical moment in history. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization
Research and Innovation
The UAE is investing to understand, mitigate and stop the coronavirus outbreak through medical and technological advances. A new COVID-19 testing laboratory, the first facility of its kind and scale outside China, was built in Masdar City in two weeks and has the capacity to process tens of thousands of tests daily. Emirates Airlines has also served as a source of innovation for the industry, with pre-boarding testing.
Th Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Center, in cooperation with Israel’s Pluristem Therapeutics Inc is developing a promising treatment for COVID-19 using stem cells. Researchers at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi are working on a prototype for ventilators that cost only 2% as much as existing models. A UAE-led study determined the specific vulnerability of cancer patients to the virus (about twice that of the general population), and the Ministry of Health and Prevention quickly adapted to virtual health services. Health officials are also using drones and robots to help efficiently disinfect and fumigate spaces, limiting human exposure to the virus.
The UAE continues to be a leading first responder to global crises, especially now with COVID-19. This new Dubai air bridge will help speed up the international community’s response and surely help us to save lives. Thanks to the UAE for their critical partnership! WFP Executive Director, David Beasley
The UAE is confronting the novel coronavirus with the spirit of innovation and collaboration that guides our approach to the world. And we are inspired by the global community of doctors, scientists, health workers, policymakers, civil society leaders, young people and others around the world who are working to protect their communities, as well as collaborating across borders toward a shared, inclusive and equitable recovery.