[COVID-19 Special] Interview with H.E. Abdulla Saif Al Nuaimi
1. How are you and the UAE Embassy handling this situation?
The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Seoul has been observing the situation concerning the novel coronavirus in Korea from the early days of its outbreak. The Embassy has positively responded to all the precautionary guidelines and measures introduced by the Republic of Korea’s Government and local authorities in their efforts to slow the spread of the virus. The Embassy has adhered to strict health measures to protect employees and visitors. In line with the social distancing protocol, the Embassy acted swiftly to reduce its official working hours as well as allow employees to work remotely from their homes. In the Residence, I have also temporarily suspended a casual weekly gathering in which I host fellow ambassadors, public figures, and groups from around the country.
2. How much impact has the coronavirus outbreak had thus far in your home country?
Like many countries, the UAE is no exception in having confirmed coronavirus cases. The number of positive cases of COVID-19 stands at 198 as of March 24, with two deaths and 41 recovered. The active patients are in stable condition and are receiving all the necessary healthcare services.
The UAE has also enforced strict precautionary health measures and effective monitoring methods on a national level to prevent the local spread of the virus. It has urged the general public to cooperate with health authorities and adhere to the measures announced – especially social distancing – to ensure the overall health and safety of the UAE community.
Furthermore, the UAE has made outstanding humanitarian contributions since the beginning of the outbreak by supporting nations in need. Following the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, the UAE offered continuous support to China, including the provision of medical supplies, such as face masks and gloves. The UAE was one of the first countries to stand by China in this critical period.
In Afghanistan, the UAE dispatched an urgent medical aid shipment containing 20,000 testing units and equipment to examine thousands of people.
In Iran, the UAE sent two aid planes containing 32 metric tons of medical supplies, including boxes filled with thousands of pairs of gloves, surgical masks, and protective equipment.
The flight was the second humanitarian delivery facilitated by the UAE to Iran recently. On March 3, the UAE carried out a coronavirus aid mission to Iran in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) by dispatching a UAE aircraft carrying 7.5 tons of medical supplies and five WHO experts to help 15,000 healthcare workers.
Moreover, the UAE’s humanitarian support for countries experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19 has recently come closer to home.
One of the most notable initiatives championed by the UAE in recent days is the UAE Homeland of Humanity Initiative, wherein the UAE evacuated 215 people of many different nationalities from China’s Hubei Province to the Emirates Humanitarian City in Abu Dhabi, where they underwent medical testing and monitoring to ensure their health and safety.
In addition, the UAE has been in active contact and close collaboration with international and regional organizations as well as other nations, including the Republic of Korea, in their efforts fighting the virus.
On March 19, the UAE facilitated the evacuation of 80 individuals living in Iran, among them 74 South Korean nationals, as well as six Iranian family members, in response to a request by the South Korean Government in light of the spread of the novel coronavirus in Iran.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, held a phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on March 5 to discuss the two countries’ special strategic partnership. During the call, His Highness underscored the UAE’s readiness to offer all forms of support and assistance in combating COVID-19.
H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, held a phone call with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on March 9 to discuss bilateral relations and efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
3. What are the views/lessons learned from Asia (Public health? Societal? What worked? What didn't?)
The response to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the Republic of Korea provided us with significant insight. Officially, the government responded immediately with the issuance of measures and guidelines in dealing with the outbreak, including through smart phone applications that highlighted locations that should be avoided. It used a quality public health system and worked rapidly to reach and check potential infected individuals or clusters. It has been very transparent in disclosing updates on the numbers and locations of infections. In addition, the Republic of Korea enforced measures to slow the spread of the virus at the national level. Its efforts included cooperating with international and regional organizations and other nations to curb transmissions. Such collaborations included working with the UAE.
At the societal level, the Korean people have also shown great responsibility in managing the situation. They have strictly followed precautionary health guidelines and measures rolled out by the government. At the same time, they go about their daily lives normally without any unreasonable fear or panic. People's trust in the concerned authorities has greatly contributed to efforts to contain the virus. As one of the countries that witnessed an early outbreak of COVID-19, the Republic of Korea set an example that should be followed by other nations affected by the virus.
4. What types of initiatives are you planning to develop with Korea when this crisis is over?
The United Arab Emirates and the Republic of Korea remain in close cooperation in all areas based on their Special Strategic Partnership. Bilateral cooperation in healthcare is one of these areas. The two countries have maintained a high level of communication in efforts aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. I believe that the concerned authorities on both sides should leverage the current momentum of communication and cooperation to share knowledge and expertise in the health sector as a result of confronting challenges such as the current pandemic.