Middle East & Africa

Daesh and Muslim Brotherhood criticize Arab Governments for closing mosques among coronavirus
Middle East & Africa

Daesh and Muslim Brotherhood criticize Arab Governments for closing mosques among coronavirus

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the propaganda of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliated terrorist groups is unleashed: online magazines, news sites, newsletters, and social channels celebrate an epochal victory: that of the new coronavirus. COVID-19, say the pro-Daesh and Al-Qaeda channels, marks the defeat of the whole disbelieving and oppressing West. And in particular of the far enemy, the United States.

“We lost completely control, now the solution depends from the Sky”. These words totally false were attributed to the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, from the weekly Ebaa of the jihadist group Organization for the Liberation of the Levant, an acronym for the crowded front of the conflict in Syria, where it controls part of the Idlib governorate, northwest of the country.

After Turkey announced the reopening of its mosques, Libyan and Tunisian medias criticize the choice of their Governments. ISIS, as well, are disapproving Arab leaderships for closing mosques as a preventative measure against the spread of the virus. “Those who sided with the shutdown of mosques are a group associated with government entities…” ISIS spokesman Abu Hamza al-Qurashi said in a recording released Thursday. “Coronavirus is a pretext to shut down mosques…we have evidence that this is the main reason.” Since the coronavirus pandemic began, senior Muslim scholars have urged worshippers to heed medical and government guidelines, to suspend mosque services and activities, and to pray at home. The Muslim Brotherhood propaganda channels attack scholars and experts suggesting the closure of mosques, describing them as clients and traitors of Israel.

Controversial Kuwaiti imam Hakem al-Mutayri echoed the sentiment, saying the National Assembly in Kuwait should be investigated for its decision to close mosques, in a post on Twitter. Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League (MWL), called on communities to follow “all health guidelines” during the crisis and said the temporary closure of mosques in some countries across the Islamic world is considered a “religious duty” in light of the pandemic. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh asked Muslims to pray at home during Ramadan, and the Saudi Arabian government suspended mosque services. Meanwhile ISIS issued its own preventative measures against COVID-19 to its followers in mid-March. Al-Arabiya reported today.

ISIS was among the first groups to calibrate the communication pull, as explained by researcher Ayman Jawad Al-Tamimi, who has been studying jihad for years. First, on 11 March, the weekly newsletter in Arabic al-Naba published the Sharia Directives to deal with the epidemic. These include: do not enter the infected territories for the sick, avoid leaving it; clean your hands well, etc. Practical indications of containment, but associated with the hadiths, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Because the disease does not affect itself but depends ‘on the orders and ability of Allah’.

The United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner, Michel Bachelet, accused ISIS earlier this month of taking advantage of the pandemic to step up violence on civilians. ISIS appears “to view the global focus on the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to regroup and inflict violence on the population” in Syria and Libya. In the North African country, thanks to support of the Government of National Accord (GNA) the group targeted two times military bases in the southern region last week. ISIS gunmen executed 11 people during two attacks on a desert highway in eastern Syria in mid-May, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. At least 10 Iraqi militiamen were killed by jihadists, on May 2nd, in a coordinated attack near the Iraqi city of Samarra.

Corona Pandemic: Doctors in Egypt warn healthcare system might ‘collapse’
Middle East & Africa

Corona Pandemic: Doctors in Egypt warn healthcare system might ‘collapse’

Egypt’s healthcare sector is reeling under crisis as doctors’ protest against the health ministry’s casual approach towards safety measures for healthcare staff amid COVID crisis.

Doctors have accused the ministry of being “negligent” and “responsible” for the death of medics’ deaths.

A statement from a doctors’ union on 25 May said that so far, 19 doctors have died due to COVID-19 infection. In addition to this, about 350 doctors have been infected with the deadly virus.

The union warned that the healthcare system might “collapse” if there is a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). There is a shortage of beds for COVID patients.

The health minister retorted that medic staff have been provided “best care” possible and have “sufficient protection kits”.

The number of COVID infected cases in Egypt has risen to 17, 967, with more than 750 deaths.

The doctors’ union reminded the ministry that they have a duty to protect those who are frontline warriors to fight the novel coronavirus. It appealed to the department to provide urgent help with safety kits.

The Health Minister Hala Zayed responding to the current situation said that the ministry has allotted one floor in 20 beds capacity hospital, meant for treating COVID patients, for medics.

Ms. Zayed said all staff while entering and leaving the hospital are being tested for coronavirus. She also assured that there is a “sufficient” stock of protective gear.

She also added that COVID related fatality among doctors is 11 and not 19.
The latest protest comes after a 31-year-old doctor died in Cairo. The doctor could not be admitted to a hospital due to a lack of bed in a quarantine facility.

The deceased doctor’s brother wrote a critical post on Facebook, criticizing the medic’s lack of adequate steps.

Ten of the deceased doctor’s colleagues at the Al-Munira hospital resigned by sharing a mass letter on Facebook on 25 May, demanding better facilities. The hospital officials, however, have denied any such act.

As per reports, another doctor from Al Shoroukh Hospital has resigned recently complaining over the lack of PPE and testing facilities.

Egypt’s doctors are fighting the coronavirus on several fronts
Middle East & Africa

Egypt’s doctors are fighting the coronavirus on several fronts

Egyptian doctors are seeing increasing COVID-19 infections amongst them even as the government falls short on ensuring their safety.

As frontline workers against the coronavirus, Egypt’s ‘White Army’ of doctors are pleading for better protective gear. They are also working under the strain of reduced testing capabilities for both them and their patients.

Currently, doctors are in the same boat as patients who come in with symptoms; they are not tested and simply asked to go home and quarantine themselves. Earlier this month, the health ministry had admitted to a parliamentary committee the 30 or so quarantine wards were full and potentially infected people are being turned away. Many of these include medical staff.

As of now, Egypt has registered 14,229 cases of the coronavirus and 680 deaths. The World Health Organization has pointed out that 13% of those infected in Egypt are medical professionals. According to the Egyptian Doctors Syndicate, 95 doctors have been infected so far and 5 have died. They claim the infection among other medical staff may also be high. Several hospitals had to close down temporarily because of infection spreading among its staff.

Doctors say that the government doesn’t care about them as they no only have failed to provide adequate PPE kits to ensure their safety at work, but also continually denies them testing so that they can keep their families safe. The State Information Service recently said that the country had conducted more than 105,000 tests, much lesser than the “over a million tests” that a senior Egyptian official had claimed earlier.

Many feel that those who exhibited symptoms earlier are the “lucky” ones as they got access to treatment in the early days of the virus. Further, they decry Egypt’s apparent generosity in supplying PPEs to other countries when their own hospitals are running on an acute shortage of such equipment. Egypt sent medical aid including masks and PPE kits to the US, Italy and China as political gestures and in order to sweeten trade deals even as doctors back home are falling prey to the virus due to lack of proper infrastructure and equipment.

Pope Francis also against Israel’s annexations of the West Bank
Middle East & Africa

Pope Francis also against Israel’s annexations of the West Bank

Palestinians asked the Vatican for help after Israel announced a few days ago that it would annex parts of the occupied West Bank. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas replied that he considered all agreements signed with Israel and the United States null and void. Saeb Erekat, Chief Negotiator and PLO Secretary-General, made a phone call to the Vatican yesterday to inform Pope Francis about recent developments in Palestinian territories and the possibility that Israeli sovereignty will be applied unilaterally to many areas. One step that would further compromise the peace process.

In a statement, the Vatican repeated that international law and the United Nations resolutions must be respected: “indispensable elements for the two peoples to be able to live side by side in two states, with internationally recognized borders before 1967”, Pope Francis says. Commenting on Israel’s decision to annex parts of the West Bank, the Holy See ensured that it was following the situation carefully, and expressed concern about any acts that could further compromise the dialogue. The Pope hopes that Israelis and Palestinians will find it again, and soon, the possibility of negotiating an agreement directly, with the help of the international community, and peace may finally prevail in the Holy Land, so loved by Jews, Christians, Muslims.

The Vatican’s statement comes with those of the international community, which on Wednesday rejected Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank by July, while the United States said UN Security Council (UNSC) statements had become a little bit repetitive. The European Union members of the UNSC urged Israel against any unilateral decision to annex any occupied Palestinian territory, adding that these acts are contrary to international law. Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany and Poland voiced their serious concern of the plans announced by the new Israeli government earlier this week when Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said that with a new government, he could apply Israeli law on Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in occupied West Bank “where the Jewish nation was born and rose.” During his speech to parliament, he said that it was time to apply Israeli law on the planned annexed lands to “write another great chapter in the annals of Zionism.”

Under the United Nations Charter, the Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Since 1948, the Council has addressed the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian question on many occasions. When fighting broke out, the Council has called for, or ordered cease-fires. It also dispatched military observers, and deployed UN peace-keeping forces in the region. The Council has set the basic principles for a negotiated peaceful settlement, known as the “land for peace” formula, by its resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). The Council has, on numerous occasions, expressed concern about the situation on the ground, declared null and void the measures taken by the Israeli Government to change the status of Jerusalem, called for the cessation of Israeli settlement activity, which it determined to have no legal validity, reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention and called for the return of Palestinian deportees.

UAE shows solidarity towards migrant workers stuck in coronavirus outbreak
Middle East & Africa

UAE shows solidarity towards migrant workers stuck in coronavirus outbreak

Amidst many tales of ill treatment of migrant workers in the Middle East at Coronavirus times, the United Arab Emirates has ensured it can show its solidarity of all those that work in its land.

Confirming its commitment in a letter to Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, ILO, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic threatens the health, safety and welfare of all people around the world and necessitates a comprehensive global response addressing health, labor, the economy, and human rights.”
Showing his sense of responsibility to protecting the rights of migrant workers, he has said that UAE continues to uphold a commitment to protect the rights of all workers in the country and ensuring their health and safety in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sheikh Abdullah has sent many examples of showing international solidarity in the past when he went out of his way to speak to Syria and Singapore about ways UAE could contribute in mitigating a fight against the virus.

The UAE Central Bank has implemented a US$27 billion targeted economic support scheme to alleviate liquidity issues faced by businesses and ensure that migrant workers could be paid and taken care of, unless they are repatriated by their respective nations.

Furthermore, the UAE Foreign Minister described a series of measures to promote worker safety, noting that the UAE is partnering with private sector employers to provide protective equipment, ensure social distancing and encourage remote work, sterilize work facilities, and issue mandatory certification prior to restarting economic activity.

The UAE Government has also outlined requirements for private sector workplaces, transport, and accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic and is conducting inspections to ensure compliance.

By providing a bilingual information centre especially for COVID-19, the government has ensured migrant workers get the required information and can seek help if need be. A proactive educational outreach program is ongoing to provide information to workers on COVID-19 safety and healthcare options.

Sheikh Abdullah affirmed that the UAE Government is committed to the Sustainable Development Goals principle of “leave no one behind,” noting the country’s support for assistance programs among vulnerable communities. H.H. referenced the 10 Million Meals campaign; the provision of support for medical, food, education and other basic needs; and the provision of support to the families of those who succumb to COVID-19, regardless of nationality and for the
duration of the pandemic.

Other measures include the automatic renewal of work permits, free COVID-19 testing and treatment for those who require it, and voluntary repatriation to workers’ home countries with no impact on employment.

To go one step further, UAE is not shying away from teaching itself about best practices as its administration is undertaking study from UN agencies, civil society, businesses, and local administrations that has helped it form an Ad Hoc Working Group to strengthen partnerships in advance of the Global Forum on Migration and Development Summit in 2021.

How Middle East and North Africa is emerging from the coronavirus pandemic
Middle East & Africa

How Middle East and North Africa is emerging from the coronavirus pandemic

Countries all over the world are announcing their strategies to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Middle East and North Africa region is no diverse. Even countries like Tunisia and Algeria, which have not suffered a heavy infection rate or death toll, are eager to cautiously reopen their activities and get people back to work. Here is a roundup of the latest developments from countries in the MENA area.

Tunisia has announced a reduction of its nocturnal curfew hours after three consecutive days without recording any new coronavirus cases. The North African democracy imposed the curfew in March, aiming to reduce the spread of the virus by keeping people at home, combined with a lockdown that shuttered all but key shops and services. President Kais Saied has cut the curfew hours from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. instead of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., 10 days after the start of a gradual reopening of the administration and economy. It follows the government’s decision that no new coronavirus cases have been recorded for three days in a row, with 1,032 confirmed cases in total and 45 deaths.

Algeria has started producing rapid test kits for the novel coronavirus, with a detection time of 15 minutes and a production capacity of 200,000 units per week, the government said on Monday. The laboratory in the capital Algiers develops the test kits in partnership with Canadian and Jordanian firms, a junior minister in charge of pharmaceutical production Lotfi Benbahmed said on state television. The country has allocated $100 million to import medical equipment and pharmaceutical products to counter the virus. It has also received medical donations from China over the past days. The government has imposed a nationwide curfew, ordered the closure of most businesses, and suspended public transport to slow the spread of the virus. Algeria has so far reported 5,891 confirmed infections, with 507 deaths and 2,841 recoveries

According to the Ministry of Health in Egypt, COVID-19 cases have reached 11, 228 with a death toll of 592 on Friday. The government agency also announced that 2799 cases people have recovered from the disease in Egypt since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. With approximately a week left in Ramadan and many aspects of everyday life expected to resume normally, the Ministry announced a three-phase plan to tackle the rapidly increasing cases of infections. The first phase, which will see more strict measures, will go on until the total number of coronavirus cases faces a downward trend for at least two weeks. The second phase will gradually see an ease in restrictions and start after 2 weeks of a reduction in cases and will go on for 28 days. The third phase will have the lightest precautions and continue until further announcements are instructed by the World Health Organization. Recently, the Egyptian government has been facing mounting public pressure to redress its COVID-19 response, with many, including the president of the country’s Medical Syndicate, calling for a full lockdown.
Currently, the government is maintaining a partial lock-down from 6,00 am to 9,00 pm until further notice.

UAE Department of Economic Development (DED) issued last week new coronavirus-related guidelines to allow businesses to re-open and employees to resume workplace attendance. The guidelines state that low risk individuals are eligible to be in the workplace, but those who can effectively do their jobs remotely should continue to work from home. The criteria for low risk individuals eligible to be in the workplace: Aged 18 – 55, live alone or with low risk individuals, and not suffering from any chronic diseases. People above the age of 55, pregnant women, and those living with anyone suffering from chronic diseases or living with anyone above the age of 60 are not eligible to return to the workplace. The DED said that employers are required to accommodate their staff’s needs, including allowing parents who choose to work from home while schools are closed to do so and not pressuring or penalizing those who are not eligible to return to work. The guidelines include measures to be implemented in each workplace, in addition to sector-based measures for construction, manufacturing and utilities, financial services, retail and wholesale, transportation, and restaurants and hospitality. All businesses must implement social distancing, sanitization of work and communal spaces, and capping attendance capacity at 30 percent.

Oman confirmed 404 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, raising the total to 5,029 as the death toll climbed to 20, according to a health ministry statement. Meanwhile, the Sultanate’s number of recoveries increased to 1,436 as more patient continue to recover. Most of the newly recorded cases are non-Omanis and 67 are Omani nationals, the health ministry said. The ministry continued to urge individuals to maintain social distancing and adhere to preventative measures implemented to slow the spread of the deadly virus. “With our commitment to health isolation and social distancing, we will prevent ourselves, our families, and our community from the spread of the coronavirus,” the ministry said in a statement. Oman announced its first two cases of the virus on February 24 after two Omani women were infected during a trip to Iran. Strict measures were imposed throughout Oman to prevent the further spread of the virus. A lockdown had been implemented in the capital Muscat and was extended until the end of May. Ramadan mass gatherings were also banned throughout the Sultanate.

A group of Saudi researchers at the Research Center of King Faisal Specialist Hospital (KFSH) in Riyadh developed a diagnostic test to detect coronavirus infection. The test is based on analysing the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of the COVID-19 virus and has been approved by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (FDA). Malls and shopping centers in Saudi Arabia will remain open until May 22 (Ramadan 29), said Commerce Ministry Spokesman Abdulrahman al-Hussain on Thursday. The spokesman listed four coronavirus-related precautionary measures the public must follow while shopping: Wearing a face mask at all times, sanitizing hands before and after using shopping carts or other shop amenities, shopping alone or with one other person only while adhering to the ban of the entry of children under the age of 15 and the ban of shopping in groups, and social distancing.

Saudi Arabia had shut down all malls across the Kingdom on March 15 as part of the government’s measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus. However, on April 25, during the early days of the Holy month of Ramadan, King Salman bin Abdelaziz ordered partially easing the coronavirus restrictions implemented by the government.

Qatar reported on Friday 1,153 new cases of coronavirus infection, raising the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country up to 29,425. The Ministry of Health said most of the cases were expat workers who contracted the virus after coming into contact with previously infected individuals, as well as detecting new cases among groups of workers in different regions. “Cases of infection have also increased among citizens and residents as a result of contact with infected family members who had been infected in the workplace or through visits and family gatherings,” the ministry said. It added that Qatar “has now entered the peak phase of the virus outbreak, which is seeing a rise in the number of daily recorded infections.” The ministry stressed the importance of following precautionary measures such as social distancing during this phase. It called on the public to refrain from social visits during the rest of the holy month of Ramadan and in Eid Al-Fitr.

How the Emirates protect workers amid coronavirus
Middle East & Africa

How the Emirates protect workers amid coronavirus

The United Arab Emirates represents a worldwide model in protecting workers during the pandemic of COVID-19. Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), in collaboration with local authorities, has introduced a new screening facility and medical centers in industrial areas, such as Musaffah, to further support the National Screening Project to facilitate extensive COVID-19 testing.

The National Screening Project is an initiative launched to test 335,000 residents and employees in the Musaffah area and increase their awareness of the preventative measures needed to minimize the risk of contracting the virus, as well as what to do if they start experiencing symptoms. To protect migrant workers, the initiative also ensures that they have access to trained medical teams and volunteers who speak their languages.

All the screening facilities in the Musaffah area work together to ensure that all those who present symptoms, have associated risk factors such as age or chronic diseases, or have come into contact with a confirmed case have quick and easy access to safe testing facilities and world-class, quality care. According to the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, ADDED, these services are free of charge and available to everyone, including those who violate the residency regulations.

Other initiatives, introduced by UAE in the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, include the establishment of mobile clinics that examine residents and workers in their areas, and three field hospitals in readiness for a potential influx of confirmed cases, the establishment of Al Rahba Hospital and Al Ain Hospital as facilities to exclusively treat coronavirus and quarantine patients, and the development of a dedicated WhatsApp bot, to immediately respond to the community’s coronavirus-related concerns or inquiries.

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the Emirates have invested great efforts to make everyone feel like at home and to make sure that local communities and workers know the risks, the preventive procedures and the services available, by sending text messages on their phones and instructions in all languages. Institutional sites and major public interest activities have also been translated into 14 languages.

Workers living in Abu Dhabi are also set to benefit from a range of in-kind contributions coordinated by the Authority of Social Contribution – Ma’an’s ‘Together We Are Good’ programme. UAE authorities announced on Wednesday meals will be provided to workers during Ramadan, thanks to Ma’an’s ‘Together We Share’ initiative launched this week. The programme will provide nutritious meals to workers across 35 complexes in Abu Dhabi.

In addition, Ma’an will organise the distribution of 6,410 blankets generously provided by Etihad Airways, as well as thousands of boxes of tissues for workers living in Workers Residential City in Mussafah and a complex in Hameem. Four fully kitted-out caravans will also be provided for use as office space to enable staff to adhere to social distancing measures more easily. The gift bags include hygiene kits, towels and other items that will improve workers’ morale. The products supplied by Fine Hygienic Holding will benefit 15,000 labour workers in Mussafah and 9,000 labour workers in Hameem.

30.000 medical masks manufactured by inmates have been distributed to workers and healthcare facilities in the UAE. This initiative was launched to mark the ‘Zayed Day for Humanitarian Action’ and to contribute to the ongoing efforts aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus. The masks, manufactured as per the highest international standards and specifications of the Ministry of Health and Prevention, were produced as part of the Interior Ministry’s rehabilitation programmes, to the workers in industrial areas.

Workers in the UAE have access in their phones to free entertainment applications, including switch TV to watch programs, series and movies. Local authorities provided free TV screens to workers in industrial areas to protect their mental health during the curfew. Many online initiatives were also launched during the pandemic, such as series of live streaming concerts with Bait Al Oud, Instagram photo contests, virtual tours of museums, festivals, natural and heritage attractions in the Country.

Schools in UAE settle into the new normal
Middle East & Africa

Schools in UAE settle into the new normal

With e-learning likely to continue into the next academic year, UAE’s schools are preparing to embrace a new educational paradigm.

In March this year, with the coronavirus pandemic beginning its sweep across the globe, schools and universities across UAE shut their gates while continuing to teach classes online. While there was uncertainty about till when this distance education would continue, the Ministry of Education carried out mass sterilisation drives across 620 schools and 6,000 school buses. School staff and nurses were being specially trained to deal with COVID-19 related emergencies. It seemed the schools were preparing to open imminently.

But two months on, they still haven’t. And it has become clear that the e-learning model that schools and students have been forced to adopt for the past few weeks will continue well into the next academic year. While the Ministry of Education said that this decision is still under review and would depend on the ongoing efforts to combat the virus, schools are already thinking about how they can most effectively continue educating the children next year while minimising risks to their health.

Many say they are awaiting the official decision but are preparing for a “blended” model where smaller groups of students split their time studying between school and home. This would mean fine-tuning the combination of live classes, online lessons and homework that has been carried out since March.

This has thrown up a unique set of challenges like complaints about workloads, technical glitches, distractions at work and the lack of social support of learning together. Consultants are continuing to work with teachers and parents to help students navigate these trying times by recommending fixed schedules, regular exercise, engagement with peers and create the right physical environment.

With schools suddenly being propelled into embracing these new technologies and innovations, it was also decided to ensure they are doing this right. So starting from May, public and private schools in the UAE will undergo an evaluation to assess their strength in distance education. The Distance Education Evaluation is a joint initiative between the Ministry of Education, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Abdhu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge and the Sharjah Private Education Authority. The schools will be evaluated on students’ distance learning and wellbeing, teaching and monitoring of students’ learning and leading and managing students’ learning.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education in partnership with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has been working with service providers to ensure uninterrupted connectivity and services for all those studying from home. Free internet data via mobile phones was made available to over 12,000 students whose families did not have home internet services. Apps and services needed for distance education – like Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Blackboard, Avaya Spaces, and more – were made available for all with fixed and mobile networks.

At the same time, UAE is also preparing their schools for a possible return of students in some scope and scale from September onwards with a massive sterilisation and awareness drive. The Ministry of Education has announced a comprehensive sterilisation plan for schools and universities in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Prevention and within the guidelines of the World Health Organisation.

Specialised companies have been roped in to carry out effective disinfection, with the whole process taking between 6-48 hours depending on the size of the institution. It will remove debris, organic matter and anything else that could pose a threat to the students but acting as a conduit of viral transmission. The sterilisation also includes controlled fumigation to disinfect AC units.

UAE made great efforts to protect workers during Coronavirus pandamic
Middle East & Africa

UAE made great efforts to protect workers during Coronavirus pandamic

NCEMA launched the Business Continuity Readiness Guidelines for UAE Organisations aiming to sustain business continuity

United Arab Emirates performed great efforts to guarantee that employees received adequate protection during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing them with the needed medical care and all other necessities. UAE officials spent particular attention defending migrant workers in the private sector. Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation ensured that employees of private sector establishments, infected with COVID-19, were considered as sick cases entitled to ill leave, calling on companies and employers to not terminate the co-operation with any employee for this reason.

According to the UAE Federal Law No. 8 of 1980, an employee who has completed more than three months of service, after the completion of a probation period, is entitled to sick leave for a period not exceeding 90 days for every year of service, wherein he should be paid a full salary for the first 15 days and half salary for the subsequent 30 days. The country showed great keenness on getting the worker to obtain a wage even in case the worker got infected with the virus and receiving treatment.

UAE provided comprehensive and free healthcare services to citizens and residents alike during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local authorities called upon the private sector to document employee leaves, note any amendments to business contracts, and ensure the payment of salaries through the Wages Protection System (WPS). The MoHRE granted early leave as part of COVID-19 countermeasures to document leaves as a temporary amendment to business contracts available through its website and smartphone’s app. The option of taking an early leave allowed migrant workers to return to their country temporarily until the end of the crisis.

The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) developed a national plan for responding to the pandemic, focusing on the consolidation and maintenance of laws, policies, and procedures of emergency and crisis management at the national level. On March 14th, the NCEMA launched the Business Continuity Readiness Guidelines for UAE Organisations aiming to sustain business continuity for organizations across preventive measures, preparing and increasing readiness, and handling of cases, while planning for business continuity. During outbreaks features leadership, remote work strategy, staff distribution, flexibility of procedures, monitoring and evaluation of suppliers, and supply chain readiness.

The guidelines clearly explained ways to address the risks arising from the outbreak of epidemics in the organizations that may directly affect business continuity and community stability. UAE organizations at federal, local, and private levels adopted this approach by assessing risks, threats, weaknesses, and consequences thereof.

Scenarios, assumptions, and considerations were developed in an integrated manner to guide the process of planning at all levels as related to points of improvement, and the potential impacts of risks and threats. NCEMA also launched a new website, Weqaya, providing information to workers and local communities, on preventative health and safety measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Through this platform, users have the opportunity to communicate with medical and health experts by sending their questions.

At the same time, to support the workflow and its efficiency in the government, taking advantage of the sophisticated technological infrastructure available, the UAE Federal Authority for Government Human Resources (FAHR) has issued five guidelines for employees working remotely. Employees covered under the system include pregnant women, mothers of children under grade nine whose duties do not require their presence in the workplace, people of determination, and those with chronic diseases, immune system dysfunction, and respiratory symptoms, as well as employees who are 60-years-old and above. Employees operating via the remote work system in the UAE demonstrated strong work ethics, maintaining the confidentiality of information and documents, and using their work hours to accomplish the tasks required.

The UAE Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) has introduced several measures to reassure investors and support the stability of the local financial markets, as well as providing listed public joint-stock companies (PJSCs) with further flexibility and relief from certain reporting and meeting requirements in light of current quarantine and social distancing rules.

The Integrated Transport Centre, ITC, implemented a large number of precautionary actions since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, including the extensive cleaning and sterilization of the public transport modes and its facilities to protect the society and public transport users.

To guarantee social distance in public transportations, authorities in the UAE added hundreds of buses and trips to their public networks on routes with high demand during peak hours. ITC, for example, introduced five services during morning and four services during evening peak hours in Abu Dhabi City, adding 36 buses and 122 trips to its public bus network on routes with high demand.

Operating additional buses and improving the number of trips, reduced the crowding and helped passengers in maintaining social distances. The supplementary services also diminished their frequency and decreased waiting times.

The UAE leadership proved readiness and expertise in managing the crisis. UAE authorities put workers protection and everyone’s health at the top of their priorities, while ensuring the country’s production continuity and minimizing the related-pandemic financial risks. That’s why the UAE is overpassing the global emergency stronger than before.

UAE extraordinary aid saved millions lives worldwide from COVID-19
Middle East & Africa

UAE extraordinary aid saved millions lives worldwide from COVID-19

For the past several years, the UAE’s global stature in the humanitarian field has grown steadily, enhanced by its generous distribution of international aid. The UAE has consistently topped the rankings of generous donor aid. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the UAE is the world’s largest donor of official development aid, relative to its national income when the country spent 1.31 percent of its gross national income (GNI) on foreign developmental assistance. They gave 1.01 and 1 percent of their GNI respectively, contributed AED 173 billion in foreign aid, also ranking second among the largest donor states in the Official Development Aid (ODA). To date, the UAE has provided more than 320 metric tons of relief to over 30 countries, supporting nearly 320,000 medical professionals in the process.

The numerous initiatives undertaken by the UAE leadership, to globally combat the spread of COVID-19, confirm that UAE’s assistance has only humanitarian purposes. To date, the UAE has provided more than 320 metric tons of aid to over 30 countries, supporting nearly 320,000 medical professionals in the process. On April 6, an aid plane carrying approximately 10 tonnes of medical supplies was dispatched to Italy, benefitting over 10,000 healthcare professionals. UAE also sent an aid plane containing 14 metric tons of medical and food supplies to Pakistan, assisting approximately 7,000 medical workers. The UAE delivered the first batch of critical medical supplies to Pakistan on April 2. On April 5, the second batch of 11 metric tons of medical supplies provided by Abu Dhabi arrived in Islamabad. Previously, the UAE government has announced the provision of $200 million in financial assistance to the Prime Minister’s Kamyab Jawan program for youth development.

The Gulf Country also provided 11 metric tons of medical supplies to Ukraine, after the aid plane succeeded in repatriating 113 Ukrainian citizens from the UAE, as a result of coordination between Emirati and Ukrainian authorities to ensure their safe return. From the beginning of the pandemic, several aid planes took off from Abu Dhabi to Iran, offering over 32 metric tonnes of supplies, including boxes filled with thousands of pairs of gloves, surgical masks, and protective tools. On 3rd March, an Air Force special plane carried a coronavirus aid mission to Iran, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO). The mission delivered 7.5 tonnes of medical stocks with five WHO experts, helping 15,000 healthcare specialists.

Following the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, the UAE provided help also to China. In Afghanistan, the UAE dispatched an urgent medical aid shipment containing 20,000 testing units and equipment to examine thousands of people. The humanitarian flights also followed the UAE’s Homeland of Humanity Initiative. In March, an Air Force special plane evacuated 215 students of different nationalities, including Syria, Iraq, Mauritania, Sudan, Brazil, Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan, from China’s Hubei Province to the Emirates Humanitarian City in Abu Dhabi. The students received the best medical attention before their return home.

A United Arab Emirates aid plane carrying approximately 13 tonnes of medical supplies was dispatched to Kazakhstan, helping over 10,000 healthcare professionals. The UAE offered an extraordinary helping hand to Britain, helping local authorities to set up a field hospital in London. ExCel London events space, owned by the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, plays now a crucial role in the United Kingdom’s efforts to counter the novel coronavirus with a 4,000-bed hospital called NHS Nightingale. UAE donated 11.5 tonnes of medical equipment, including face masks, to Croatia following a devastating earthquake described as the strongest to strike the country in 140 years. The Croatian government cancelled a deal to buy protective masks worth US $2.7 million following the UAE’s donation.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, recently sent a message to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, reaffirming the country’s commitment to providing medical assistance for any private American citizen or member of the US armed forces, residing in the Emirates. The UAE’ technology sector also leveraged existing Artificial Intelligence and cloud computing technology, to ensure medical supplies reach the areas where they are most needed worldwide.

The Emirates offered their genuine and unconditional help to all populations in need, without considering the political orientation of their governments. UAE leadership efforts show how nations should be driven by a moral duty to help where they can. It’s the UAE spirit that makes a difference to millions of lives. By driving the global approach in fighting the novel coronavirus, the UAE disclosed all its beauty and solidarity. A model to follow by other Nations to make the world a better place for everyone.

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