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UAE conducts over 47,000 additional COVID-19 tests; announces 603 new cases, 1,277 recoveries, one death
The announcement was made during the regular media briefing held in Abu Dhabi, wherein Dr. Amna Al Dahak Al Shamsi, the official spokesperson of the UAE Government, provided an update on coronavirus-related developments and measures taken to mitigate its impact.
Also speaking were Dr. Fatima Al Kaabi, Consultant and Head of Hematology and Oncology Department at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, and Senior Specialist in Research Related with the Stem Cell Project, and Dr. Farida Al Hosani, official spokesperson for the UAE health sector.
Dr. Al Shamsi noted an additional 1,277 individuals have fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to more than 24,000 adding that a total of 16,206 individuals are still being treated.
She also announced the death of one person as a result of COVID-19 complications, taking the total number of fatalities in the country to 284.
Dr. Al Shamsi expressed her sincere condolences to the families of the deceased and wished current COVID-19 patients a speedy and full recovery.
She said that thanks to the leadership's continuous support and to the excellent capabilities of the country's healthcare system, the working teams continue to expand the National Screening Programme for COVID-19 to screen the largest possible number of citizens and residents, and to complement the precautionary and preventive measures, taken by the Government to maintain the health and wellbeing of the community.
"Tests are conducted daily at the COVID-19 test centres and mobile drive-thru COVID-19 screening centers across the UAE, which are equipped according to the highest standards and run by highly qualified and well trained staff and volunteers," she added.
Al Shamsi noted that the world is currently witnessing disparities in COVID-19 infections and recoveries. This is due to several factors, such as competence of medical staff, the degree of patient’s adherence to medical and home quarantine and to following guidelines for prevention and social distancing.
"The UAE is no exception. Some days, we see an increase in recoveries versus a drop in new infections. Some other days, it is vice versa. This also applies to fatalities. These disparities coincide with widely believed expectations in media outlets, social media accounts, and even among individuals, that the pandemic is fading away."
She said that the positive signs observed through the daily briefings on COVID-19 situation, do not necessarily mean that worst is over. They do not mean either that we go back to our normal life.
"Those signs may reflect the positive outcome for the strict precautionary measures and the efficiency of our healthcare system. However, it is very difficult to draw any conclusions at this time because we need longer periods to trace the numbers of infections and recoveries and to ensure viability of precautionary measures taken with the partial ease of some measures."
Al Shamsi stressed the shared responsibility of the community members at this stage "which requires that we continue to adhere to preventive and precautionary measures and keep distance, while gradually returning to our normal life and to adopt a new lifestyle that relies on such measures and on healthy behaviours."
Dr. Fatima Al Kaabi gave an update on the progress of the stem cells supportive treatment for COVID-19, which was announced by the UAE last May.
"The treatment has secured intellectual property rights protection, which paves the way for sharing it at a wider scale to benefit more patients. Initial results are promising after it was administered in the UAE to 73 COVID-19 patients who moderately or severely ill before treatment. They responded very well which means it is an effective therapy," she said.
She added that all tests showed that the therapy is safe and effective as an add-on to standard treatment protocols. The patients that received stem cells therapy improved faster than those who received the conventional treatment only. The former showed clinical improvement within four days of administering the therapy, while it took the latter and average eight days to show similar results. The seriously ill patients needed only six days to recover, which is less that the time taken by normal patients to recover who spent 22 days in hospital. All the patients who were treated with stem cells, recovered in less than seven days, three times faster than those treated with conventional methods."
According to Dr. Al Kaabi, 67% of the patients receiving stem cell therapy were completely cured. The research team looked for side effects and monitored fatality rates within 28 days, while evaluating reaction of the patients' immune systems, severity of illness and watching for any blood clotting.
She added that the patients with hemoglobin levels of less than 10, those suffering Inflammation in the blood vessels or those who receive chemotherapy for cancer, were excluded, along with patients whose age is below 18.
Dr. Al Kaabi concluded by saying that the research team is currently working on several experiments in preparation for the third stage which involves determining the ideal dose and how effective the treatment for other respiratory diseases like asthma.
Dr. Farida Al Hosani fielded questions about COVID-19 information circulating in social media. She urged the public to avoid false and unsubstantiated information about COVID-19 that could cause confusion and panic.
"The novel coronavirus is a new virus and so far, only three studies were conducted, which are yet to get confirmed or accredited. Therefore, it is important to rely only on confirmed information and to continue the precautions, including social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands regularly, but most importantly, treating people around us as potential COIVID-19 infected.
She advised the COVID-19 patients who have no symptoms to adhere to home quarantine and to strictly avoid contacts with others.
On the circulating information about a quick COVID-19 test through the blood, Dr. Al Hosani revealed that the test has not been approved in the UAE, nor in any other country, as a reliable diagnosis, adding that it lacks accuracy and is still in trial phase.
Asked on how effective the gloves are in protection from COVID-19, she said it is important for the people who wear gloves for long times, like supermarket staff, to replace them in regular and safe manner. She also emphasised the importance of washing and disinfecting hands.
Replying to a newspaper reporter’s question on the need for the people over 60 years to remain at home, she said the current time is very crucial in the fight against COVID-19 and therefore, it is important for the people who are likely to be affected by the virus, like elderly and people with pre-existing diseases, to avoid public places.
"The UAE Government has given a priority to the elderly citizens and residents and focussed its precautionary and preventive measures to care for them and to ensure their wellbeing."
On the recent reports about the Hydroxychloroquine as an effective treatment for COVID-19, Dr. Al Hosani said the medical and scientific community worldwide is engaged in a continuous pursuit for a treatment to the virus.
"There are conflicting studies as to whether Hydroxychloroquine is effective in treating COVID-19 but most of them lack accuracy, which prompted us to review the national protocol for treatment in the UAE and based on international practices, limit its use for simple and moderate cases and stop its use for serious cases."
She added that the current dose of Hydroxychloroquine is safe and without side effects.
"We are studying all data about the use of Hydroxychloroquine in the UAE and will announce the results soon," she concluded.