It has been a year since the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the end of the Covid pandemic, and yet experts are already considering the timing of the next one. Dr Mahra Khalifa Al Hosani, from the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, stated, “We know another pandemic is going to come but we don’t know when.” Her remarks were made during a panel discussion on the UAE’s readiness for future pandemics at the University of Birmingham in Dubai.

The Covid pandemic, claiming the lives of nearly 7 million people globally, is deemed one of the deadliest in history. An expert mentioned that it is only “a matter of time” before the next pandemic emerges. Dr Ahmed Alhammadi, President of Emirates Infectious Diseases Society, highlighted potential scenarios for the next pandemic, including a respiratory viral illness, a zoonotic infection, or a vector-borne disease.

Dr Ahmed emphasized that the growing human population heightens the risk of zoonotic diseases, especially in countries like India and China where deforestation exposes people to new strains. Despite the challenge of predicting the occurrence and nature of the next pandemic, Dr Mahra, Section Head of Preparedness and Response in Communicable Disease Sector, Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, affirmed the UAE’s full readiness to handle any eventuality.

She expressed confidence in the country’s preparedness and its continuous evolution, citing advanced technologies, testing, and specialized expertise as vital assets. Additionally, Dr Ahmed noted that the UAE has a comprehensive action plan for managing another pandemic, encompassing patient admission, transportation, and medication storage.

Dr Imane Boudellioua, Senior Researcher at the Technology Innovation Institute, Abu Dhabi, stressed the importance of leveraging the latest technology, such as artificial intelligence, to enhance readiness by modeling disease spread and enabling early detection.

Dr Mahra underscored the crucial role of the general public in containing a future pandemic, emphasizing the necessity for people to comprehend the significance of providing information for effective containment measures. Dr Ahmed also emphasized the importance of maintaining good hygiene practices and taking necessary precautions beyond the pandemic period, particularly when traveling.