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Coronavirus news bulletin from UAE: HAO backs Saudi Haj 2020 decision; rules issued to reopen schools; 4 hospitals are Covid-free; new system for overseas Dubai residents

Ismail Sebugwaawo /Abu Dhabi
ismail@khaleejtimes.com Filed on June 23, 2020
haj 2020, hajj 2020, saudi limits pilgrims, uae cancels haj, coronavirus, covid19

(Reuters file)

A round-up of major developments related to Covid-19 across the country.

Here's a round-up of all the latest Covid-19 developments you need to know:

UAE issues guidelines to reopen schools, colleges
As part of a broader plan to bounce back to normalcy, the UAE on Monday issued a set of guidelines for a possible reopening of schools, universities and nurseries in the next academic year in September. Officials also clarified that outbound travel from the UAE is not applicable to all citizens and residents. Travel is allowed for particular categories and based on the risk classification of the destination country. Anoud Abdullah Al Hajj, official spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, said a plan has been developed to discuss the possibility of resuming studies in all governmental and private educational institutions by adhering to strict precautionary measures. She said all schools must commit to checking the temperature of all administrative staff, students and teachers on a daily basis. "Schools will have to maintain social distancing recommended by the health authorities and reduce capacity in classrooms," said Al Hajj. There will be no student gatherings, assemblies, trips and group activities.

UAE will not participate in Haj 2020 after Saudi decision
The UAE Hajj Affairs Office (HAO) announced on Monday that it will not participate in this year's Haj, following Saudi Arabia's decision to limit the Muslim pilgrimage to pilgrims who already reside the Kingdom. The HAO made the announcement after consulting and coordinating with the Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah.The UAE lauded the sincere efforts made by Saudi Arabia, under the wise leadership of the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, in serving the pilgrims to the Holy Land in Makkah and visitors to the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah. "The Kingdom's decision stems from the preventive and precautionary measures taken to contain the spread of the pandemic and to keep all humans protected and safe from its risks and in accordance with the teachings of Islam in preserving the lives," the HAO said in a statement.

We cannot defeat the pandemic in a divided world: WHO chief
Preparedness to battle a pandemic and a public health crisis like the Covid-19 coronavirus is not a one-time investment, but an ongoing one that all countries across the globe must invest in, said the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued a firm warning that global solidarity is required to battle the pandemic during his keynote address of the 'Virtual Health Forum', held under the guidance of the World Government Summit. On Sunday, the WHO reported a record increase in global cases with the total number of Covid-19 cases rising by 183,020 in a 24-hour period. The previous record for new daily cases was 181,232 on June 18. Dr Adhanom said: "A devastating epidemic can start in any country, any time and it can kill millions because we are not prepared. The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated we are not prepared."

UAE reports 378 new Covid-19 cases, 631 recoveries
The Ministry of Health and Prevention in UAE on Monday reported 378 new cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, along with 631 new recoveries. This brings the total number of cases to 45,303 in the country and the total recoveries to 33,406. The authority also announced one death as a result of the illness, which brings the total deaths to 303 in the country. The total number of active cases in the country are 11,954. In the latest step to indicate that the UAE is right on track to flattening the Covid-19 curve, Abu Dhabi has announced the easing of travel restrictions between its regions from June 23. The Abu Dhabi Emergency Crisis and Disaster Committee for the Covid-19 pandemic, in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Police and Department of Health, announced that all residents of Abu Dhabi will now be allowed to move between Abu Dhabi's regions (Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafra) from 6am on Tuesday, starting June 23.

Abu Dhabi lifts travel restrictions between regions, emirate entry ban extended
Abu Dhabi has announced the easing of travel restrictions between its regions from June 23. The Abu Dhabi Emergency Crisis and Disaster Committee for the Covid-19 pandemic, in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Police and Department of Health have announced that all residents of Abu Dhabi will now be allowed to move between Abu Dhabi's regions (Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafra) from 6am on Tuesday, starting June 23. The easing of restrictions follows the promising indicators regarding the number of Covid-19 cases found through testing in Abu Dhabi. Restrictions on entering the emirate are being extended for another week, with exemptions for all types of goods and mail, and permit holders. Movement within the emirate is to follow National Sterilisation Programme timings (10pm - 6am). Movement of workers into Abu Dhabi is still prohibited. To apply for a permit, visit https://es.adpolice.gov.ae/en/movepermit .

New approval system for Dubai residents stranded abroad to fly back
A new system has been set up to facilitate the return of Dubai residents stranded abroad. Dubai's Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management had announced yesterday that the emirate's airports would start receiving residents from Monday (June 22). Residents are required to get an approval from Dubai's General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) before booking flight tickets. The approval can be secured from here. Earlier, they were required to get an approval from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship. According to an updated list of guidelines for returning residents posted by Emirates, if the application is approved, residents will "receive an instant response". "If the application can't be processed, you can try again later," the airline advised.
 
New UAE tool helps travellers assess possible virus exposure
A new tool that can help travellers assess their probability of having contracted the Covid-19 virus is the latest safety project of Etihad Airways. The UAE's national airline partnered with Austrian-based healthcare technology company Medicus AI to develop the risk assessment tool that will help its guests make informed decisions about travelling. Powered by Medicus AI's technology, the tool will guide Etihad's guests in evaluating their 'probability of having contracted the virus' by responding to a set of 22 questions. The self-administered assessment, which takes less than five minutes to complete, is based on World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines that are updated daily. It is now available to guests on etihad.com and soon on the Etihad Airways mobile application. It will be accessible in English, with additional language editions such as Arabic, French, German and Portuguese being added in phases.

UAE consumers go cashless as trust in digital payments surges
Some game-changing shifts on payment behaviour in the UAE since the Covid-19 outbreak are expected to be the "new normal" as more consumers gain confidence in digital payments, according to the findings of a survey. The survey released by Dubai Police, Dubai Economy, and digital payments platform Visa said while 71 per cent of consumers reported increased use of digital payments when shopping in-store, one in two consumers (49 per cent) shop more online with 61 per cent of them using cards and digital wallets to pay instead of 'cash on delivery' (COD) in the wake of the pandemic. The survey, which also looks at consumers' general views, preferences and concerns related to digital payments, found that 68 per cent of respondents have reduced shopping in-store since the outbreak of the pandemic. "When they do shop at stores, 71 per cent are using digital payments over cash with the majority using contactless cards (54 per cent) and mobile wallets (46 per cent) more."

Emirates, flydubai ready to serve tourists visiting Dubai
With all the safety measures it has adopted on the ground and in the air, Emirates and flydubai are ready to serve travellers who will be visiting Dubai from July 7, the airlines' chief has said. Both airline companies have developed a clear set of protocols to safeguard the health and safety of all passengers and both ground staff and aircrew, said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline and Group, and Chairman of flydubai. "We are confident that the multi-layered measures that have been put in place in the air, on the ground, and throughout our city, enables us to mitigate risks of infection spread and manage any required response effectively," Sheikh Ahmed said in a statement released on Monday. "We believe that cities around the world are conducting ongoing reviews and will soon follow suit to update their border entry requirements for international travellers."

Restrictions by countries during pandemic to be key factor for future investments: UAE minister
Many countries put up restrictions on exports of food products during the coronavirus pandemic and this will be a key factor when it comes to investing in foreign countries to ensure that investments are not blocked in future during such a crisis, said a UAE minister of Monday. "A lot of countries do come to us and say we have land and logistics channels, so why don't you invest in our country. There are a lot of back checks that we have to do. One is that B2B deals should make sense, whether they are profitable. Secondly, what we have seen in this (Covid-19) crisis is that many countries suddenly put up restrictions. Some of them were announced at WTO and some were not. We need to make sure that whenever we do an investment abroad. in an emergency situation, we should be able to access those investments as well," said Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, the UAE's Minister of State for Food Security.
 
Some Abu Dhabi hospitals are now free of Covid-19 cases
As the UAE enters a new phase of its Covid-19 response, the Abu Dhabi Media Office announced that Mediclinic hospitals in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain are free of Covid-19 cases.

Over 612,000 coronavirus tests carried out in Dubai hospitals, healthcare centres
As part of the relentless efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, Dubai authorities are continuing to increase provision of Covid-19 testing across government and private hospitals and drive-through centres. The emirate's various testing facilities have completed a total of over 612,000 Covid-19 tests as of June 19, according to the Covid-19 Command and Control Centre. Ensuring the widespread availability Covid-19 testing is part of an integrated plan to further curb the spread of the virus and offer immediate medical care to infected people at hospitals, accredited facilities and quarantine centres. Comprehensive measures undertaken by the emirate to fight Covid-19 and the concerted efforts of the public and private sector and the community over the past few months have helped Dubai achieve marked progress in curbing the spread of the virus.
 
New initiative to keep tabs on Sharjah shoppers
Volunteers will be deployed in malls, shopping centres and food outlets to raise awareness about Covid-19 among shoppers and keep a check on them to ensure that preventive measures and physical distancing norms are adhered to under a new initiative 'Sharjah Covid-Free'. It has been launched by the Department of Sharjah Social Services (DSSS), in cooperation with Sharjah Department of Economic Development. The initiative comes following announcement of reopening of businesses in Sharjah. Hessa Al Hammadi, director of the Department of Community Solidarity at DSSS, said: "Under the initiative, the volunteers will interact with visitors and shoppers and make sure that precautionary and preventive measures to stymie the spread of Covid are followed."
 
Abu Dhabi issues safety guidelines for food trucks
The Abu Dhabi Economic Department (ADDED) has issued a circular setting out guidelines for food trucks in Abu Dhabi to practice their activity, as part of precautionary measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, in collaboration with the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA). The guidelines state that:- All food truck employees must undergo Covid-19 testing- The number of employees inside food trucks should be limited to two- Operators should ensure the use of single-use cutlery and packaging materials- Delivery drivers must adhere to social-distancing measures - Employees must wear face masks and gloves- The use of credit cards or electronic payment methods is encouraged.

Ismail Sebugwaawo


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