The UAE government’s responses to COVID-19 risk management demonstrated high testing capacity, diagnosis, and vaccination implementation, resulting in a death rate below 0.60 percent. This research addresses three questions: (1) What symbols and signals of collective cognition of risk emerged in the UAE? (2) What factors linked cognition to collective action to reduce risk? And (3) what physical distancing policies were undertaken in the varying phases of COVID-19 risk management? To identify symbols and signals of collective cognition and factors that linked or inhibited transition from cognition to collective action, the case study reviews UAE government initiatives and news sources. Publicly available data were collected from COVID-19 related sources: newspapers, websites, government spokesperson statements, Acts, and regulations. This research analyzes UAE COVID-19 preparedness and response through the lens of cognition and risk governance principles in crisis and emergency management. The UAE leadership and associated institutional responses demonstrated foresight skills in analyzing the COVID-19 situation within the country, regionally, and globally. Government authorities adopted a proactive approach in responding to COVID-19 to improve preparedness plans and adopt legislation to reduce new cases. This research adds value to collective cognition and action implementation for pandemic risk management, drawing examples from the UAE.