UAE reports 85 new coronavirus cases, 7 recoveries, as public sector begins work from home policy

Pink flamingoes feed in the mud flats at the Ras al-Khor Wildlife Sanctuary in Dubai, with the city skyline seen in the background, on March 18, 2020 as the site has been closed to the public amidst the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (File/AFP)
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Updated 27 March 2020

UAE reports 85 new coronavirus cases, 7 recoveries, as public sector begins work from home policy

  • The Ministry of Health and Prevention said the new cases involved people from a number of countries in Europe, Africa and across the Middle East
  • The increase brings the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 333

DUBAI: The UAE has reported 85 new coronavirus cases and seven recoveries, state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention said the new cases involved people from a number of countries in Europe, Africa and across the Middle East.

The increase brings the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 333.

The recovered cases are five Bangladeshi and two Pakistani nationals. The patients left the hospital after making a full recovery, bringing the total number of recovered cases in the country to 52.

Meanwhile al public sector workers in Dubai have been told to work from home from Sunday, March 29, as part of the ongoing efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, state news agency WAM reported.

So far 24 government agencies have achieved 100 percent work from home with only staff remaining in the workplace where their role necessitates it.

Medical professionals and other adults are required by law to notify the authorities of any suspected cases, failure to do so can result in prosecution.

“The detection of one infected case compels the authorities to conduct a necessary investigation among all those in contact with this one case in order to identify the source of the infection and its aftermath,” The official spokesperson of the UAE health sector Dr Farida Al-Hosani said.

“In this we usually detect additional cases. It usually starts with a person coming from abroad who then transmits the virus to others around him or her.”

“The recent precautionary measures announced are aimed at protecting society, with the law to be applied only to violators of the UAE law on communicable diseases, under which violators are subject to jail terms and fines,” she added.

The UAE will impose overnight curfews as a temporary measure this weekend, when it carries out a nationwide disinfection campaign to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.
The regional business hub, which has confirmed 333 cases of the virus and two deaths, has not announced an official curfew or work suspension but has increasingly clamped down on movement.
Authorities announced that the UAE will restrict movement of traffic and people overnight from Thursday until Sunday. The restrictions will last from 8 p.m. (1600 GMT) to 6 a.m.
Only essential service workers would be allowed out and violators will face fines, a security forces spokesman said on Thursday.
Public transport including trams and metro services will be suspended, while private cars, cabs and delivery vehicles can operate outside those hours.

— With input from Reuters


Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

Updated 11 August 2020

Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

  • Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast
  • The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors

QARTABA, Lebanon: Three firefighters. One Lebanese family. The same restless wait. Rita Hitti has not slept a wink since the Beirut port blast, when her firefighting son, nephew and son-in-law went missing.
“In one piece or several, we want our sons back,” she told AFP from the Hitti family’s home in the mountain town of Qartaba, north of Beirut.
“We have been waiting for the remains for six days,” she added, dark circles under her eyes.
Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast that killed 160 people and wounded at least 6,000 others across town.
They were among the first rescuers at the scene. They have not been heard of since.
Near the entrance to their Qartaba home, the three men are praised as “heroes” in a huge banner unfurled over a wall.
The double exposure shot shows them in the foreground dressed sharply in suits.
In the background, the blast’s now-infamous pink plume rises above their heads as they try to douse a fire.
An eerie calm filled the stone-arched living room, where dozens of relatives and neighbors gathered around Rita, the mother of Najib Hitti.
The women were mum, the men whispered between themselves, the young shuffled in and out of the room, quietly.
Karlen, Rita’s daughter, looked among the most sombre, with her husband Charbel Karam, brother Najib and cousin Charbel all missing.
Sitting next to her mother on the couch, she fought back tears and did not say a single word.
The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors.
The health ministry has said the number of missing stands at less than 20, while the army announced it had lifted five corpses from beneath the rubble.
A large blaze was still ripping through the blast site when the Hittis and other relatives of port employees dashed to the disaster zone to check on their loved ones.
But they were stopped by security forces.
“I told them I would know my boys from their smell,” Rita said she told an officer who barred her from the site.
“Let me enter to search for them and when I whiff their smell I will know where they are,” the mother said she pleaded.
Ever since, her hopes have gradually dwindled, but her anger is boiling.
Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation but the exact cause of the blast remains unclear.
Authorities say it was triggered by a fire of unknown origin that broke out in a port warehouse where a huge pile of highly volatile ammonium nitrate fertilizer had been left unsecured for years.
Whatever the cause of the fire was, the popular consensus is that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of officials in charge of the port as well those who have ruled Lebanon country for decades.
“We gave them heroes and they returned them to us as ‘martyrs’,” Rita said, scoffing at the label officials have used to brand blast casualties.
“What martyrs? What were they protecting? The noxious things (authorities) were hiding in the port?” she asked rhetorically.
“They are martyrs of treachery.”
George, father of Charbel Hitti, also rushed to the blast site to look for his son and relatives after the explosion.
“I started to scream their names: Najib, Charbel... I was like a mad man,” he told AFP.
“We waited until 6 in the morning the next day for clues to what happened,” he said.
“In the end, I started crying.”
He did manage, however, to get one piece of information from a port security official close to the family who was at the scene of the blaze when the firefighting team first arrived on August 4.
The security official had told him that the firefighters were trying to break open the door to the ammonium nitrate warehouse because they could not find the keys before the explosion ripped the whole place apart.
A week has since passed and George said hopes of finding the three men alive have faded.
Assuming they are dead, George said he now wants one thing: “We just want DNA test results that are compatible with those of Charbel, Najib and Charbel,” he said.
“Imagine. This is everything we now wish for.”