Dubai has succeeded in its Covid-19 strategy where Hong Kong and Shanghai have failed
- By becoming an early adopter of vaccines, keeping borders open, and facilitating technological innovation, the UAE has seen swift economic recovery
- Hong Kong and Shanghai’s Covid-19 policies did not have the same results with Omicron as they did early in the pandemic, and have an adverse economic impact
Dubai shares many characteristics with Hong Kong and Shanghai. All three aspire to be a bridge between East and West, and strive for efficiency and openness, while politically not opting for a Western liberal democracy. Their recent performances on the global stage, however, could not be more different.
The UAE has proved one of the most resilient places globally in the face of Covid-19. It was ranked third in Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience ranking published last month, which ranks 53 countries on 12 indicators like quality of healthcare, virus mortality and ease of travel. It has become a role model for many countries aiming to fully reopen their economies by managing, so far, to stay open to visitors while keeping infections low.
As of writing, the UAE has a Covid-19 death rate of around 230 per million people, one of the world’s lowest. By comparison, Hong Kong’s is about 1,200 per million people. China’s death rate may be significantly lower, but comes at the cost of being isolated for the last two years.
Currently, quarantine-free entry to the UAE is open to all travellers inoculated with a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization or the UAE. For most, testing on arrival is not required. Unvaccinated travellers must provide a valid negative PCR test within 48 hours before arrival. These measures have rejuvenated Dubai’s economy and the UAE government is now hopeful of reaching 5-6 per cent GDP growth in 2022.
Another factor in Dubai’s success is its receptiveness to international cooperation. Before the rise of China, the UAE, a traditional US ally, had been “looking West” in its economic model and, like Hong Kong, pegged its currency to the US dollar. It quickly diversified its strategies, however, to embrace growth in Asia. China is now its largest trading partner.
Like China, Dubai has perfected the strategy of partial liberalisation through the creation of “special economic zones”. Despite US pressure, it chose Huawei to develop its 5G capabilities.
This vaccine cooperation has transformed Dubai into a global vaccine logistics hub, giving the UAE a diplomatic boost. The country has pledged to provide 25 million doses of vaccines to the WHO-led Covax initiative. Hong Kong missed this opportunity.
Willingness to experiment to develop the right solutions and a commitment to attracting overseas talent are key traits for global leadership. From its progressive Covid-19 strategy to future-oriented outlook on digital technology, Dubai has delivered.
Chee Yik-wai is a Malaysia-based intercultural specialist and the co-founder of Crowdsukan, focusing on sport diplomacy for peace and development