ABU DHABI, The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) and the New Zealand Embassy in the UAE organised an interactive panel discussion held virtually in response to the COVID-19 pandemic with the participation of Matar Ali Al Mansouri, Charge d’Affaires at the UAE Embassy to New Zealand, and Matthew Hawkins, New Zealand Ambassador to the UAE, and a number of officials and academics from the UAE and New Zealand.

The panel highlighted UAE and New Zealand COVID-19 response experiences in different sectors as well as focusing on both countries efforts and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants in the panel reviewed the developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, precautionary and preventive measures in the two countries and joint action measures to address the developments and emergency repercussions of the pandemic.

Additionally, panelists discussed a number of themes of the national response strategy in the two countries, including emergency and crisis management, medical research and health sciences as well as research and studies of disaster science.

Dr Saif Al Daheri, Spokesman for NCEMA, confirmed during his speech at the panel discussion that the UAE has a national response strategy that has contributed to strengthening the country's leading position in many indicators of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing its repercussions efficiently and professionally with the participation of various national sectors efforts.

Al Daheri also pointed out that solidarity and community awareness during the COVID-19 pandemic while adhering to precautionary and preventive measures was an important motivation for national efforts to address the repercussions of the pandemic and overcome its health and social effects.

Additionally, Sarah Stuart Black, Secretary General of the New Zealand Red Cross and former Director of Civil Defence and Emergency Management at the National Emergency Management Agency, said that the ‘stay at home’ message at the beginning of the crisis had reduced the number of cases, with all precautionary measures in place and measures continuing to be put in place by the government to ensure the health and safety of the community.

Ali Rashid Al Neyadi, Director of Operations Management at NCEMA, highlighted the national efforts and the UAE’s successful management of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the national response that came under the direction of the UAE leadership to provide medicine and food, and the prioritisation of human health.

Al Neyadi stated that the UAE's success in overcoming many challenges was based on a clear vision and strategy for crisis management, as he praised the cooperation of all sides during the crisis to overcome those challenges. That success was achieved through activating national plans and frameworks to deal with the pandemic, in addition to emphasising the documentation of all operations and procedures carried out by the state, whether at the local or national level.

Al Neyadi also stressed the importance of the strategic sector balance approach, specifically in the planning phase of recovery from the crisis. Vital sectors that support and enhance the efforts of the health sector in the country, most importantly education, security, society, aviation and the economic sectors. Accordingly, the National COVID-19 Crisis Recovery Management and Governance Committee has been formed to strengthen the strategic balance in the state.

Dr Siouxsie Wiles, Assistant Professor at the University of Auckland, said the application of precautionary measures during the closure period contributed significantly to reducing the spread of the virus. Dr Wiles highlighted the work she had done with New Zealand illustrator Toby Morris to explain the science behind the pandemic and the impact that precautionary measures could have on preventing the spread of COVID-19. She also underlined the importance of vaccines in reducing the spread of the virus.

Dr Farida Al Hosani, the Spokesman for UAE's Health Sector, addressed the UAE's active efforts to maintain the health and safety of the UAE community through providing the COVID-19 vaccine free of charge to all those living on the country's soil to ensure the equitable distribution of the vaccine among different segments of society.

Al Hosani stressed that the UAE leads many countries in the world in conducting COVID-19 tests, as well as its participation in clinical trials of a number of vaccines. This had resulted in the rapid adoption of some vaccines worldwide, through a scientific and orderly approach as part of the measures to address the Corona pandemic and support international efforts to overcome its repercussions.

Dr Maureen Mooney, a research officer in psychology and sociology at Massey University, said psychological support to community members during the COVID-19 pandemic is a vital element in integrating efforts to address the consequences of the pandemic. Dr. Mooney also focused on the importance of providing all scientific and health information to the public in order to overcome the psychological impact of the COVID-19 challenges.

Matthew Hawkins, New Zealand Ambassador to the UAE, said that while New Zealand and the UAE had taken different approaches to tackling COVID-19, both countries had been praised internationally for the success of their science based response and management of the pandemic.

Ambassador Hawkins highlighted the success of the UAE’s vaccination program and noted that the UAE had ranked 17th, alongside New Zealand in 16th place, in the Brand Finance Soft Power rankings for 2020. Ambassador Hawkins said that a factor in the rise of both countries on the index had been the success of respective pandemic responses.

Source: Emirates News Agency