How Is The UAE Coping With The COVID-19 Pandemic?

Across the globe, each country has been dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak in its own unique way. Not only has this epidemic shone a light on existing systems and their integrity, it has forced creative new solutions to be developed to handle this unprecedented situation. The UAE is no exception, as we look at how it has coped with Coronavirus and how it will affect the country going forwards.

How has trade been affected in the UAE?

Many countries have strong ties with China when it comes to trade. The UAE is one of these partners and the links with China in terms of trade, in both its supply chain of goods as well as tourism has caused a massive impact due to the downturn of shipping and movement.

Going forwards, the UAE may look internally to find ways to boost domestic manufacturing of its most important supplies which are currently imported from not just China, but overseas in general.

It may look to expand its efforts as to where it currently advertises it’s tourism offerings. That said, any tourism is currently on hold, regardless of the origin of the visitors and therefore the UAE may look to diversify the sectors it relies on most heavily, shifting the onus away from purely tourism.

There have been silver linings for the UAE during this period. The Emirates are very heavily technology focused and innovative in the sector. During difficult times such as the outbreak of COVID-19, a strong entrepreneurial spirit has flourished through the struggles. Also, the renowned communications networks in the country have supported citizens and businesses alike, enabling as many processes as possible to continue.

How has healthcare been handled during COVID-19?

The UAE has shown itself to be a leading light in humanitarian aid where other, larger economies have been seen to isolate themselves. The Emirates have supplied aid to many countries including Kazakhstan and Mauritania, where they recently delivered 18 metric tons of medical and food aid to Mauritania alone. To date, the UAE has sent more than 239 metric tons of aid to over 22 countries, benefiting over 240,000 medical professionals in the process.

Once the crisis eases, countries will remember who came to their support and the UAE can be proud of it’s efforts, showing itself to be a real global friend.

Everyone has access to healthcare in the UAE, with it being a legal requirement for employers to provide cover for all of its employees. The strain on the private health system has been minimised due to the governments quick reaction to the pandemic, implementing lockdown measures across the Emirates.

Citizens are now only allowed out of the house with a permit for essential journeys. The UAE is also leading the way in its testing for COVID-19, which will in turn dramatically slow the spread, as well as a citywide disinfection process across Dubai.

How has employment coped in the country during the outbreak?

One of the struggles during the pandemic has been felt strongly by the large expat community in the country. Due to the lack of taxation paid by expats and the swift implementation of the lockdown, many people have been stuck in the country on unpaid leave or vastly reduced salaries with little communicated as to how the UAE government can help.

On Sunday 19th April, Sheikh Mohammed made an announcement that the government has launched a 10 million meals campaign to provide meals and food for those most hit by the current situation. This will be great relief for families currently struggling to afford the basics.

There have been some measures put into place with loan holidays and reduced utilities bills, however there has been little guidance for businesses themselves. This has resulted in business owners attempting to figure out their own strategy to cope with the downturn, leaving many former employees either laid off or without enough salary. 

It it however impossible in this situation to criticise the government for not stepping in financially in ways other countries have been seen to step in. The UAE is not a welfare state and one of it’s main draws for expats is the lack of taxation. This does however create an issue when the tides change quickly and finances dry up.

Life in the UAE for expats during the lockdown

Vital Consular has an office in the centre of Dubai, which is staffed by a team of multi-national expats. Our Dubai manager Chris gives us his insights on life in Dubai at the moment:

Our Dubai Manager, Chris Miller

“From a personal perspective we have seen a real community spirit emerge and where possible, neighbours have found ways of helping each other out and offering assistance.  The real difficulty has been the restriction on being able to go out for exercise as this has an impact on mental health and is particularly difficult for children.

There hasn’t been as many cases of COVID-19 in the UAE compared to other countries and relatively few deaths, so there is a definitely a feeling of the “right thing” being done. Of the 75,000 US expats in the UAE all but a couple of hundred chose to remain rather than go back to the US. This shows the faith in the UAE government and the fact that expat citizens are more confident in how things are being handled in the country rather than at home.

The general feeling amongst the expat community is that the government has responded quickly and effectively, drip feeding changes but implementing them quickly when required. The UAE has the ability to make fast decisions, reacting quickly to changing circumstances and to have a large and generally compliant expat population who are able to adapt quickly to new circumstances.

During this pandemic, areas of concern have certainly come to light for the economy including the reliance on tourism, and particular trade partners.  Coming out of COVID-19 will be tricky, as it will for every country affected. But with the UAE coming up to it’s 50th anniversary, the entrepreneurial spirit of the population and the generosity of the country to those in need, the prospect of 2021 will see the UAE set to take advantage of its own “new normal”. ”

Our offices in Dubai are still operating throughout this period, so if you would like any advice or assistance on document legalisation, please do get in touch.

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