UAE leading the region in fighting Covid-19 through innovation
The UAE and the Gulf at large have been arduously working with technology to combat the coronavirus outbreak in their respective countries. When the virus hit the region early March, Gulf countries were quick to close their borders followed by their schools to ensure a containment of its spread.
Later on, Abu Dhabi introduced a drive-through testing facility for residents. Last month, Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, SEHA, announced the opening of 13 additional drive-through Covid-19 testing centers within 10 days, following the directives of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, for protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of the UAE community, and curbing the spread of the virus.
Another seven centers were launched by SEHA in Port Rashid and Al Khawaneej in Dubai, as well as in Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qaiwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. With great coordination between the Ministry of Interior (MOI), NCEMA, police authorities, the Signals Intelligence Agency (SIA), a number of volunteers and the private sector, swift measures took place across the country, including thermal cameras installed in malls and smart helmets capable of monitoring those who may be infected with the virus.
The “super-intelligent” helmets helped authorities detect new cases, ensure that those who were infected were given medical treatment and put in isolation, and monitored the temperature of people within five metres. “‘The smart helmets have helped to monitor potential people with the virus and, once they enter the service, have enhanced prevention and protection efforts to achieve the highest response and readiness under the conditions of virus and epidemic outbreaks,” said Major General Dr. Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi Inspector General of the UAE MOI & Chairman of ISNR Abu Dhabi 2020 Committee. “The smart helmet is used to diagnose people from a safe distance, enabling them to handle crowds, obtain vital reading and analyze data.” He said the technology can also create and read QR codes, as they are equipped with thermal cameras and sensors that enable them to recognize faces and store and recognize vehicle licence-plate numbers. They are also capable of night vision. “There is a lot of smart technology in today's world, and it must be used to develop our strategies and performance in promoting security, safety and civil protection,” Nasser added. “As technologies continue to evolve, it is necessary to keep up with them, and to adopt what is useful and necessary to ensure the support of the UAE's efforts in enhancing its security.”
The National Disinfection Program has also provided a fertile ground for innovation and the application of advanced technologies to increase the geographic scope of the nationwide cleaning campaign. As such, the General Administration of Civil Defense in Abu Dhabi deployed robot TAF35 on the streets to support the sterilization operations. The robot can be controlled from a distance of 300 meters and is capable of pumping large quantities of sanitizing and disinfecting materials.
In Dubai, the municipality also conducted the massive National Disinfection Program with advanced technology in sterilization operations, such as drones to enhance the speed and smoothness of such operations effectively and progressively.
“In light of the current circumstances, technology has provided us with a great service in virtual communication, business administration and the accomplishment of tasks and duties, as the technological capabilities that the GCCPOL operates are derived from the vision of the GCCSG and a key part of the strategic plan to enhance security and safety in the GCC countries.” said Col. Mubarak Said Al Khyeli, Director General of the GCCPOL. “There are several advanced technologies that have been used in light of the pandemic, to name a few, a helmet technology that helps in detecting people infected with the Corona virus, in addition, using drones in national disinfection and sterilization, While the drones technology was also used for guidance purposes. The smart application that monitors infected people who are subject to health isolation”. “We will continue monitoring the collaboration between GCC counties to implement the best solution to prevent the challenges and transfer it into opportunities”.
According to the experience of Matthew Cochran, CEO and co-founder of URS Laboratories in the UAE, unmanned ground vehicles can offer both disinfection and sanitization of large areas very quickly, safely and at less cost than having people do it. “Large airports, shopping malls, warehouses, schools, and other locations could all be assisted with unmanned drones both on the ground and in the air,” he said. “New technologies are key in this fight. The virus is new, and many innovations will emerge in the next weeks, months and years as academia, industry and government all bring a focus to new technologies to keep us all safe. Khalifa University, for example, has put a large effort to apply new technologies in response to the Covid-19 crisis.”
This week, Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, said that, at a time when other countries are only grappling with domestic repercussions of the spread of the coronavirus, the UAE has developed its capabilities to not just help its citizens stranded overseas, but also to help those from various brotherly and friendly countries.
For his part, Abdul Rahman bin Mohammed Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, praised the UAE’s efforts in handling the repercussions and challenges of the pandemic. He stressed the need to come up with innovative future solutions for preventive health services and harness smart technologies, such as Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Big Data Analysis, in addition to predictive models for hospital management. “The UAE has shown exceptional management of the crisis, whilst leveraging other countries’ experiences,” he said during a UAE government remote meeting. “However, the level of response was different, given the demographic composition in the country, which is home to more than 200 nationalities, and its distinct resources, readiness and experiences in many sectors. This explains the discrepancy in world countries’ response to the coronavirus pandemic and the disparate impact on the economic, health, psychological and social levels.”
The session highlighted the positive short-term impacts of the pandemic, in terms of promoting fast-tracked global progress in healthcare technology, while reviewing global trends of the post-coronavirus era and their long-term impact on creating digital platforms for mental health, and using robots to perform certain medical tasks and AI in epidemiological investigation.