Dubai ‘surges’ health care capacity as virus cases spike

Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, deputy director general of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), speaks during an interview with AFP in the Gulf emirate, on February 10, 2021. Dubai has had to implement a "surge" in its healthcare capacity, recruiting workers from abroad and increasing beds for coronavirus patients, as infections surge despite a vaccination rush, Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, deputy director general of (DHA) told AFP. (AFP)
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Updated 11 February 2021

Dubai ‘surges’ health care capacity as virus cases spike

  • “The capacity in Dubai now is ahead of the surge," says DHA deputy director general Alawi Alsheikh-Ali

DUBAI: Dubai has had to implement a “surge” in its health care capacity, recruiting workers from abroad and increasing beds for coronavirus patients, as infections rise despite a vaccination rush, a senior official told AFP.
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 health care 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 Center 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.
International flights, tourism and investment are vital to the wealthy desert emirate, where people come for leisure but also for business opportunities and employment prospects.
After a months-long lockdown last year that decimated the economy, many in the city were eager to return to normality, although some restrictions have been reimposed in recent weeks.
The Gulf city, which has invested tens of billions of dollars in its leisure sector, is seen by some as an example of how certain economies are seeking to find a balance.
Alsheikh-Ali described it as “what we need to do to control the pandemic, and also what we need to do to keep life going.”
As infections soared since the New Year period, Dubai had to scrap its famous party scene in luxury hotels, close its bars, ban music in restaurants, and limit the numbers of visitors to entertainment venues.
Hospitals were told to suspend non-essential surgery, and the DHA started a recruitment campaign for three-month contracts for nurses — many of whom come from Asian nations, including the Philippines and India.
“We’ve been very active trying to make sure we’ve recruited, and make sure that we have enough manpower to take care of any further increase in numbers” while racing to vaccinate everyone, Alsheikh-Ali said.
The UAE, home to a population of around 10 million, has administered some 4.6 million doses of vaccine, making it the second-fastest per capita delivery in the world, after Israel.
Shortages in supplies, which have hit many countries, have forced authorities to postpone the rollout after residents swamped vaccination centers.
“We have a very aggressive plan to make sure that we make it available to 100 percent of all eligible people,” Alsheikh-Ali said. “The timeline is as soon as possible.”

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Yemen has enough wheat for two-and-a-half months, document shows

Updated 7 sec ago

Yemen has enough wheat for two-and-a-half months, document shows

  • Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, and 45 percent of its wheat needs came from Ukraine and Russia
  • Importers are unable to store significant amounts of wheat due to infrastructure limitations at Yemeni ports
ADEN: Yemen has secured enough wheat to cover two-and-a-half months of consumption, a commerce ministry document dated Aug. 4 showed, as global disruptions and local currency instability risk deepening the war-torn country’s hunger crisis.
A review by the internationally recognized government in Aden showed 176,400 tons of wheat available — 70,400 stockpiled and 106,000 booked for August/September delivery — according to the document.
This is in addition to 32,300 tons of wheat available from the United Nations, which feeds some 13 million people a month in Yemen, the document showed.
Yemen is grappling with a dire humanitarian crisis that has left millions hungry in the seven-year conflict that divided the country and wrecked the economy. Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, and 45 percent of its wheat needs came from Ukraine and Russia.
HSA Group, one of Yemen’s largest food conglomerates, said it had booked around 250,000 tons of wheat from Romania and France, sufficient to supply the market until mid-October, and that it is looking to secure a further 110,000 tons.
“Following the announcement of the Ukraine grain deal, we are currently looking to secure Ukrainian wheat for the Yemeni market if it remains affordable and accessible,” an HSA spokesperson, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
The United Nations and Turkey brokered a deal last month to restart exports from Ukraine, cut off since Russia’s February invasion, which could ease grain shortages that have driven up global prices. So far, however, there have not been any shipments of wheat.
Yemeni importers are unable to store significant amounts of wheat due to infrastructure limitations at Yemen ports and the country’s limited storage capacity, the HSA spokesperson said, and therefore the firm books new shipments every 2-3 weeks depending on availability and global prices.
Another issue facing importers is Yemen’s foreign reserves shortage and a serious devaluation of the currency in some parts of the country, where food price inflation has soared.
The Aden-based central bank has put in place an auction mechanism to ease access to foreign currency, but no import financing mechanism is currently in place to support the market.

Order to seize Lebanon MPs’ property over port blast

Updated 1 min 29 sec ago

Order to seize Lebanon MPs’ property over port blast

  • The decision was issued in the context of a complaint filed by the Beirut Bar Association to question the two MPs
  • Compensation of 100 billion Lebanese pounds is being sought

BEIRUT: Judicial authorities in Lebanon Wednesday ordered the temporary seizure of the property of two deputies in the case of the deadly explosion which destroyed Beirut port two years ago.
“Judge Najah Itani has issued a temporary seizure order worth 100 billion Lebanese pounds on the property of MPs Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zeaiter,” a judicial source told AFP.
The source said the decision was issued in the context of a complaint filed by the Beirut Bar Association to question the two for having “used their rights... in an arbitrary manner by filing complaints intended to hinder the investigation.”
Compensation of 100 billion Lebanese pounds is being sought.
On Thursday, crisis-hit Lebanon marked two years since the massive port blast ripped through Beirut.
The dockside blast of haphazardly stored ammonium nitrate, one of history’s biggest non-nuclear explosions, killed more than 200 people, wounded thousands and decimated vast areas of the capital.
After the tragedy, the bar launched legal proceedings against the state on behalf of nearly 1,400 families of victims.
However, an investigation into the cause has been stalled amid political interference and no state official has yet been held accountable over the tragedy.
Khalil and Zeaiter, of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal party, filed a total of 20 complaints against Judge Tareq Bitar for obstructing the investigation which he himself was carrying out.
Politicians on all sides have refused to be questioned by the judge.
Officials close to the powerful Hezbollah movement have also curtailed Bitar’s work with a series of lawsuits.
His investigation has been paused since December 23.
On Thursday’s second anniversary of the blast, relatives of victims demanded an international inquiry.


Syria says Daesh leader killed in south

Updated 10 min 18 sec ago

Syria says Daesh leader killed in south

  • Security forces carried out a "special operation" in the Daraa area that led to the death of "the terrorist Abu Salem al-Iraqi"
  • The security source said Iraqi had been the military chief of the extremist group in the country's south

DAMASCUS: A leader of Daesh group blew himself up in southern Syria after being surrounded by government forces, state media reported on Wednesday, citing a security source.
The official SANA news agency said security forces carried out a “special operation” in the Daraa area that led to the death of “the terrorist Abu Salem Al-Iraqi.”
Iraqi “triggered his explosive belt after being surrounded and wounded,” the agency said.
The security source said Iraqi had been the military chief of the extremist group in the country’s south.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, which has a vast network of sources on the ground, said Iraqi died on Tuesday.
It said he had been hiding out in the area since 2018, and had taken part in killings and attacks there.
Daraa province has mostly been under regime control since 2018, but rebel groups still control some areas under a truce deal agreed with Russia, an ally of Damascus.
After a meteoric rise in 2014 in Iraq and Syria that saw it conquer vast swathes of territory, Daesh saw its self-proclaimed “caliphate” collapse under a wave of offensives.
It was defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria two years later, but sleeper cells of the extremist Sunni Muslim group still carry out attacks in both countries.
Syria’s war began in 2011 and has killed nearly half a million people and forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.


Israeli transport firm apologizes after Palestinians kicked off bus

Updated 55 min 27 sec ago

Israeli transport firm apologizes after Palestinians kicked off bus

  • 3 Jewish passengers refused to travel with Arabs
  • Company: Driver swayed by ‘racist manipulation’

LONDON: An Israeli public transport firm has issued an apology after a racist incident in which 50 Palestinian workers were removed from a bus following complaints from Jewish customers. 

The incident in Tel Aviv sparked controversy after reports that three Jewish passengers boarded in an ultra-Orthodox suburb of the city and refused to share the bus with Arabs. 

The bus firm, Tnufa, said one of the Jewish passengers conned the driver into believing that he was an official from the Transport Ministry, and threatened the driver.

Israelis and Palestinians use the bus to go to and from the West Bank, the BBC reported, adding that Israeli law prohibits segregated services.

Tnufa said the driver was inexperienced and had been swayed by “racist manipulation.” It added that one of the Jewish passengers falsely claimed that the Transport Ministry had ordered that Arabs needed to be kicked off the route.

“The new driver said he argued with the imposter, but he told him that he could lose his job or receive a large fine if he did not follow the instructions immediately,” Tnufa said.

“The company apologises to the passengers for the unfortunate incident,” Tnufa’s CEO Mikhael Kopilovsky said in a statement, adding that “many of our drivers and workers at the company are Arabs.”


New buyer sought for first grain to leave Ukraine under deal

Updated 10 August 2022

New buyer sought for first grain to leave Ukraine under deal

  • The Sierra Leone-flagged vessel Razoni left the Ukrainian port of Odessa on August 1
  • A five-month delay after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “prompted the buyer and the shipping agent to reach agreement on the cancelation of the order”

BEIRUT: A new buyer is being sought for the first grain shipment to leave Ukraine under a hard-won deal with Russia after the original Lebanese buyer canceled its order, the Ukrainian embassy said.
The Sierra Leone-flagged vessel Razoni left the Ukrainian port of Odessa on August 1 carrying 26,000 tons of maize and had been expected to dock in the Lebanese port of Tripoli at the weekend.
But now the keenly anticipated shipment is looking for a buyer after the shipping agent agreed to a request to cancel the original order in the light of the long delay in delivery.
A five-month delay after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “prompted the buyer and the shipping agent to reach agreement on the cancelation of the order,” the Ukraine embassy said in a statement late Tuesday.
The agent is now studying alternative bids for the maize before deciding on its destination, the embassy added.
The Razoni is currently anchored off the Turkish port of Mersin, according to the Marine Traffic website.
Another ship docked in Turkey Monday with a cargo of 12,000 tons of Ukrainian maize, becoming the first to reach its destination under the deal with Russia brokered by the United Nations and Turkey.
The agreement lifted a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports and established safe corridors through the naval mines laid by Kyiv to ward off any amphibious assault by Moscow on its coast.
Ukraine said Monday it was “optimistic” that the millions of tons of wheat and other grain that had been trapped in its silos and ports could now be exported, in a major boost for world food supplies.

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