A key part of the glitzy Gulf emirate’s fight is its COVID-19 Command and Control Centre, set up to coordinate the efforts of Dubai’s doctors, epidemiologists and other professionals.

It is hosted within the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) in Dubai’s Healthcare City, also home to state-of-the-art hospitals, labs and research centres.

“For several years, Dubai has endeavoured to put in place solid digital infrastructure, and this has contributed to the fight against the coronavirus”, said Amer Sharif, who heads the multidisciplinary centre.

It was established at the start of the health crisis by Dubai Crown Prince and social media star Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

In one room, young mask-wearing men and women sit at carefully separated desks crunching data on laptops and coordinating with workers on the ground.

The initiative includes a scientific team whose role is “to stay abreast of the latest advances in research and scientific evidence, both in the country and elsewhere in the world”, team head Alawi Alsheikh-Ali told AFP.

‘Data and science’

The United Arab Emirates has carried out more than 1.6 million coronavirus tests, and has officially declared over 28,700 infections, including 244 deaths.

This high-tech approach, Sharif said, including “the complete digitisation of the health system”, has prevented a greater spread of the virus and made the lockdown easier.

Tom Loney, associate professor of public health and epidemiology at MBRU, said the coronavirus was an opportunity for Dubai to put its capabilities to the test.

“It’s the ability to react, to make quick decisions based on data and science” that sets Dubai apart, said Loney, who is also an adviser to authorities in the city-state.

According to him decisions were made by order of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, whose portrait is featured on the MBRU building.

Dubai is one of seven emirates in the UAE, a key Gulf state with big technological and scientific ambitions.

The emirate lacks the oil wealth of its neighbours, but has the most diversified economy in the Gulf, building a reputation as a financial, commercial and tourism hub.