With mass vaccinations in full swing and yielding positive results, the UAE is optimistic that Expo 2020 will be welcoming millions from around the world. There are no plans of cancellation — Dubai is all set to host the mega event, UAE minister Reem Al Hashimy reiterated.
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“We are hopeful that in the next five months we are going to see a better and stronger overall picture,” Al Hashimy, Director-General of Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau and UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, has said in a CNBC interview.
“With a strong vaccination rollout in different parts (of the world) we are actually beginning to see finally the strong impact of vaccination and reduced … prevalence of disease in society.”
On whether the Expo site would be open to vaccinated visitors only, the minister said no such decision has been made yet. “We are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. All of our workforce will be mandatorily vaccinated before the opening, but we are not enforcing this for the regular tourist or the visitor today.”
The organisers will be putting in place several layers of preventive measures including rapid testing and requirement of RT-PCR tests, but the general Covid-safety protocols — which includes wearing of masks and physical distancing — will still be implemented at the Expo.
Besides, the organisers are not looking at singling out or planning to shut doors to any nationalities based on the pandemic situation in different geographies.
“We continue to believe that vortexes might emerge and decline as they have been during the course of this difficult journey. So, things will continue to be fluid. Now we are looking more at variants rather than geographic locations; you know variants move in different locations. However, to date we understand that vaccination has been able to mitigate the variants that are emerging, and we are hopeful that we will be able to continue to that path and vaccinate more people in general, not just for the Expo but for world health,” Al Hashimy explained.
On whether the 25 million visits target of Expo2020 will be hit considering the high rate of infection in India and Brazil, the minister said: “There are still five months to go, and we are confident that our Indian colleagues and friends will be able to pick themselves up and be able to address the pandemic that they are seeing. And who knows, there might be other vortexes that might emerge. Our approach is to reach out to everyone.”
The minister cited the UK as an example which has had a turnaround of sorts in just three months. From complete and strict lockdown to now, the country is hoping to return to normalcy.
“We are confident that we will be able to pull through together in the coming months, if we continue to focus on the importance of getting everyone vaccinated.”
The UAE has been able to run a successful vaccination campaign in the emirates. It is in fact among the top nations to have inoculated more than half of its population since the drive began last year.
This has given the UAE the confidence to host a physical gathering of more than 370 delegates from across the world in Dubai on May 4 and 5 for the sixth International Participants Meeting. This is the final gathering of nations, multilateral organisations, academic institutions and corporations before Expo 2020 Dubai opens.
“The world is recovering… and we are ready to welcome 190 countries to the world’s greatest event,” His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, tweeted.
Talking about the preparedness in Dubai, Al Hashimy said: “We are more optimistic now than we were a few months back. But we are also very practical and responsible, and we want to do this in a safe way. The IPM meeting that we are hosting in. Dubai speaks of our ability and our consciousness to bring everybody together in a safe and responsible fashion.”
Dubai is all prepared to welcome the world. “We are going to host this event; it will be a spectacular and great event. We are watching the data, and we have measures in place. This has been a 10-year journey. And it is not only about Dubai or the UAE, but also about all our participating countries. Everyone is keen on having this Expo.”