To go through the final phase of the pandemic without further spikes in cases, people will need to exercise caution during daily activities
The end of the coronavirus pandemic is near, but Covid-19 is still around. Recently, head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, asserted that "being able to see the end, doesn't mean we are at the end."
UAE’s frontline doctors concur with the WHO chief and have warned residents against complacency in the fight against Covid-19. On Monday (September 26), the country relaxed several rules, including the requirement of wearing masks in most public places, schools, and malls.
With the caseloads continuing below 1,000 since August 5 and dipping towards the 300 mark – a figure last seen in May this year, the local authorities announced the loosening of Covid-19 protocols from Wednesday. However, doctors have reminded residents “not to let down their guards completely” as coronavirus “is still around”.
In the past, Covid-19 protocols had been eased and reimposed following a spike in the number of new infections. For instance, in April, the validity of Green Pass on Al Hosn app was increased to 30 days in line with the number of new cases dropping below 300, but it was reduced again to 14 days in June when the caseloads exploded by more than four times to about 1,350.
“The Covid-19 pandemic lasted for the last three years, but we managed to fight with our strong healthcare system. Thanks to the measures to combat Covid-19 put in place by the authorities and the people who followed the rules, the pandemic is coming to an end. To go through this final phase without further spikes in cases, we all need to exercise caution during our daily activities,” said Dr Razaz Sayed Ibrahim, specialist, internal medicine, Burjeel Royal Hospital, Al Ain.
Dr Ibrahim stressed on generous use of hand sanitisers and being responsible towards the community – a factor highlighted by the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority.
“Make sure to sanitise your hands before consuming food or touching your face. If you have symptoms, wear a mask even if it is not mandatory in your area. You must keep your mask on, maintain social distancing, and be careful until you get tested and seek medical advice. If you realise someone else has symptoms, maintain social distancing and frequently use sanitisers.”
While welcoming the decision of masks becoming optional at most public areas, Dr Ravi Raj, specialist, internal medicine, Aster Clinic, Abu Hail and Muteena, urged people to continue personal etiquette to stay healthy and prevent any recurrence of respiratory illness on a mass scale.
“Continue personal hygiene such as using a tissue while coughing or sneezing, washing hands after going to public areas, and avoiding overcrowding wherever possible.”
Dr Raj said that people who feel Covid-19 symptoms must exercise self-restrictions.
“Avoid going to public gatherings and functions if they feel unwell with a respiratory infection. This single act can prevent the spread of infection to a great extent. Seek medical attention as and when necessary. Avoid delays in consulting a doctor if one feels he/she is not doing well. Proper medical attention and treatment at the right time will prevent one from losing quality time due to illness.”
Dr Raj said that the vulnerable population should wear masks in public places wherever possible.
“Seniors above 70 years and people having multiple comorbidities and those on immunomodulatory medications and on chemotherapy should take extra precautions while going to public places. They should continue using masks wherever possible.”
Positive patients hydrate, take rest
Authorities have halved the isolation period for positive cases.
Offering tips to patients recovering from Covid-19, Dr Remya Rajan, specialist, pulmonary disease, Medeor Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said: “Those infected with Covid-19 should isolate for five days. Follow frequent hand washing, using alcohol-based hand sanitisers, maintaining cough hygiene, and social distancing are other measures to be followed.
"It’s necessary to ensure adequate hydration and rest while following the recommended course of antipyretics, vitamins, and supplements. If the patient has any breathing difficulty, chest pain or syncope, he should report to a healthcare facility immediately.
"Elderly patients, those who are immunocompromised, patients with uncontrolled hypertension and cardiovascular comorbidity, other chronic illnesses and those who are pregnant must be more careful as they have more chances of developing complications.”
Teachers, parents take precautions
Students and teachers will no longer be required to wear masks.
Dr Abhijeet Trivedi, specialist paediatrics, Aster Hospital, Mankhool, noted it would bring much-needed relief to students, especially the younger ones.
“They can now see the full face of their teachers and friends. In the younger classes, faces and expressions play a critical role in the child’s development.”
Dr Trivedi highlighted that Covid-19 “has not disappeared” and teachers and parents must continue to take extra precautions.
“Parents should not send their children to school if they are sick. With the winter months coming in, children are likely to get the flu. So, parents must vaccinate their children against the flu virus. If the child is sick, do not send them to school. It will stop the spread of the infection.”
Worshippers must follow rules
Meanwhile, masks are mandatory at healthcare facilities, places of worship and public transportation.
Dr Ibrahim added that despite the new relaxations, “prevention is always better than cure”.
“The authorities have stated that there is no longer the need to maintain social distance in places of worship. However, wearing a mask is still mandatory. People have also been asked to bring their own prayer mats.
"We need to follow these rules for the benefit of the community by preventing the spread of infections to the elderly and those who are immunocompromised. If you have symptoms, it is better to maintain social distancing from others and keep your mask on.”
General tips for community members
Eat Healthy: A healthy diet is one of the foremost requirements for maintaining a good immune system. Fresh fruits, vegetables, pulses, foods rich in vitamin C, especially citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables and salads will improve immunity.
Regular Exercise: Exercise helps keep your mind and body fit and improves your immunity, which is a medically proven fact. Breathing exercises help improve vital capacity as well as keep the whole respiratory tract healthy.
Adequate sleep: Lack of sleep can weaken the immune system and make people more vulnerable to infections. If possible, one must have at least 6-8 hours of quality sleep to stay healthy. Studies during the pandemic showed that people with less sleep were vulnerable to severe infection and recovery from disease was affected.