Coronavirus news bulletin from UAE: 460 new cases confirmed; flexible visa schemes offered; free testing for workers; movement permit only once in 3 days
A round-up of major developments related to Covid-19 across the country.
The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention on Thursday announced 460 new cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus along with 61 recoveries. More than 25,000 tests were conducted to detect the new cases. The total number of cases in the country stand at 5,825 with 1,095 total recoveries. MoHAP also reported deaths of two Asian nationals due to complications, taking the death toll to 35 as of April 16.
Flexible visa schemes to deal with job losses
Expat residents in Dubai need not worry about their visa status if they have faced unemployment during the coronavirus crisis while Abu Dhabi said blue collar workers would be tested for Covid-19 free of charge. Dubai is ensuring that resident visas of expats who have lost their jobs are transferred to a new employer or they can continue to work under the same sponsor in a new company.
The flexible visa extension plan would help people who have lost their jobs and cannot return to their home countries. The expats whose residence visas have expired after March 1 could stay in the country till the end of the year. They can stay till the end of year without paying any fines. They will be allowed to live legally in the UAE. Major-General Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, Director-General of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, answered some pressing questions regarding facilities for individuals who've suffered job losses. "The UAE is capable of containing this pandemic. We are working remotely, and I would like to pay tribute to the UAE nationals and residents for adhering to the precautionary measures and staying at home."
Also read Q&A: Emergency relief to help expats | Public and private sectors are together
We will overcome coronavirus: Sheikh Hamdan
His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, has assured the people of UAE that the country will 'overcome' the 'challenging' coronavirus situation soon if they stay united.
In a tweet late on Thursday evening, he said:
Today I chaired a virtual meeting of the Supreme Committee for Crisis and Disaster Management in Dubai and was briefed on the committee's efforts and coordination with government entities to ensure a robust mechanism in dealing with developments linked to COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/zzLlblPrMb- Hamdan bin Mohammed (@HamdanMohammed) April 16, 2020
Free testing facilities for workers
The Abu Dhabi Media Office has announced the availability of Covid-19 testing facilities that will offer free of charge testing for workers. The clinics are located in Mussafah and have been set up as part of the precautionary measures the country has put into place to ensure the health and safety of the community. The authority recommended that those over the age of 50, or those displaying symptoms of the virus, such as coughing, high fever, and breathing difficulty, should avail of the service and get themselves tested at the clinics. The department also reaffirmed that the testing facilities are being made available to everyone, including those who do not have a valid residence visa.
Movement permit only once in 3 days
The Dubai Police have updated the move permit system in the emirate, limiting the timeframe of issuance of permit for specific purposes. The move permit is essential for people to step out to buy groceries, visit pharmacies or hospitals ever since movement restrictions have been put in place across the UAE to combat Covid-19.
According to an update on the Dubai Police's move permit website, such permits will now only be given once in three days.
Here are some new updates:
Cash Withdrawal: This permit is issued only once every five days and for no more than one hour during which the applicant should not leave their residence area.
Medical visits: No longer available. Applicants can now apply for medical visits through the medical emergency category.
Grocery shopping: A permit is issued only once every three days. Additional requests will be rejected.
Emirates adds three flights to Manila; Etihad eyes return to fuller schedule
UAE carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways are slowly adding new destinations for special flights with the aim of gradually returning to a fuller schedule when situation improves.
On Thursday, Emirates airline said it will operate three more flights from Dubai to Manila next week - on April 20, 22 and 24. Only citizens of the Philippines and those who meet the entry requirements of the destination will be allowed to board.
Emirates' check-in counters will only process passengers holding confirmed bookings.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad also plans to operate a reduced network of scheduled passenger services from May 1 to June 30, with the aim of gradually returning to a fuller schedule as and when the global situation improves.
Etihad is also continuing to operate a growing schedule of special passenger flights allowing foreign nationals in the UAE the opportunity to travel out of the country, and to carry essential belly-hold cargo such as perishables, pharmaceuticals, and medical supplies.
Firms asked to list above-50 expats who want to return
Companies in Abu Dhabi have been asked to provide details of their employees aged 50 or above who are wanting to return to their home country amid the Covid-19 crisis.
To facilitate and expedite coordination, the DED asked the firms to access the link https://survey.ded.abudhabi.ae/index.php?r=survey/index&sid=955521&lang=en and fill out information related to the workers they have nominated.
Companies have also been asked to grant the aged employee indefinite leave so that authorities can enumerate them and determine their travel destinations to their home countries.
Don't sack teachers or slash their pay, schools told
Strict penalties, including revoking licences, will be taken against school managements that are sacking teachers, slashing salaries or forcing them to go on unpaid leave without their consent, the Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA) has warned. The authority has sent a circular to all private schools in the emirate after receiving a number of complaints from teachers in this regard. Some of the teachers were sacked, forced to go on paid leave or made to sign documents reducing their salaries by 50 per cent, including allowances, according to an SPEA official.
20k kids to benefit from Gems package
Over 20,000 students across the Gems Network will benefit from Gems Education's Covid-19 relief package, the leading education group in the UAE announced on Thursday. The relief package offers respite for the current term's (Term 3 for most schools/Term 1 for Indian schools) tuition fees to those parents who have experienced income reductions, lost their jobs or businesses, or been placed on unpaid leave and who therefore now have limited means to settle tuition fees during this period of uncertainty. Apart from the graded relief earlier provided by the education giant, it's said the current relief package will also in some certain cases of 'extreme hardship', provide discounts of "50 per cent or more".
Parents' concerns: The relief package comes at a time when many parents have flagged continuous concerns, asking for greater relief from the education provider, to provide greater fee waivers, as many are facing difficult financial conditions.
Meanwhile, several Gems parents seeking support on the matter have already proposed to execute a social event on Twitter on Friday from 3-6pm and all of the following weekend, to make collective voices heard by their schools.
Plan to help low-income families
A new initiative to support low-income families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic has been rolled out by the Family Development Foundation. Apart from social protection, it will also offer them much-needed psychological help and facilitate access to services of organisations and agencies.
The initiative, 'Greetings, We Are At Your Service', was launched by the foundation in collaboration with Social Care and Minors Affairs Foundation - Abu Dhabi, Department of Community Development - Abu Dhabi, Dar Zayed for Family Care and Abu Dhabi Social Support Authority.
Besides the low-income residents, the targeted groups include families under social care and minors' affairs programme and foster care. They will receive assistance according to their needs amid the coronavirus crisis.
Those seeking support may contact family call centre 80033322 between 8am and 8pm and email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
'Atmah' to empower people of determination
World's first social impact bond (SIB) to aid people of determination was launched on Tuesday. Under the SIB, a new vocational pilot training programme 'Atmah' will be introduced next month to increase employment opportunities for people of determination.
SIB is a unique way to finance the delivery of public services. The pilot project is part of an agreement signed between the Department of Community Development, the Authority of Social Contribution-Ma'an, Aldar Education, Aldar Properties and Zayed Higher Organisation for People of Determination. Atmah will equip people of determination with skills that will help them secure permanent work.
The guide highlights how the programme affects their commercial and investment activities, working hours, employee movement and exit permissions. It also highlights introducing vital sectors that are excluded from movement restrictions.
Companies can download the guidelines by visiting Dubai Chamber website, where the chamber is constantly updating the guide in accordance with the regular announcements and instructions issued by the government agencies involved in the National Disinfection Programme. The guide also aims to urge employees and companies to adhere to government instructions and procedures to enhance compliance with public safety standards and thus reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Varsity students in UAE stay put at hostels as learning goes online
On-campus residents in the UAE hostels are busy adapting to social distancing norms. Physical classes have been suspended at universities and schools across the country as a precautionary measure against the spread of Covid-19 and learning has gone online. While many students have stayed home after the spring break, others who remain on board are adeptly adjusting to the new schedules.
Sharjah Police issue face masks to officers
Sharjah Police are providing their officers with face masks to protect them and the community from the coronavirus and other infectious diseases. The force say this preventive measure allows police to perform their duties with the highest level of efficiency without fearing about the risk of transmission of Covid-19.
Dubai ensure faster delivery of goods, essential commodities
The Department of Economic Development, Dubai, announced that it had coordinated a strategic collaboration between Dubai Taxi Corporation, DTC, at the Roads and Transport Authority, RTA; Aramex; and Carrefour, operated by Majid Al Futtaim in the UAE, to support delivery of essential supplies to the community. The collaboration will see DTC and Aramex working together to deliver various basic commodities to consumers across Dubai who shop electronically using the Carrefour website or via its smart mobile app, said a statement issued by the Government of Dubai Media Office on Thursday. The initiative comes in response to the high volume of demand for food and consumables ordered through online stores.
Abu Dhabi carries out 31,223 inspection visits in 15 days
The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) has issued 30 violations and 375 warnings to various commercial facilities for failing to comply with the decisions and circulars recently issued by the department covering the price monitoring of fruits, vegetables and consumer goods. The issued violations and warnings are the result of the 31,223 inspection visits conducted by the ADDED to commercial establishments in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, including commercial centers, restaurants, mobile food outlets, coffee shops, sales outlets, vegetables, fruits and fish stores, and beauty salons. A total of 815 counterfeit products were also confiscated by the department during the inspections. These results were revealed by the ADDED's commercial activity report for the period from March 30 through April 15.
Four popular Pakistani restaurants in Dubai have teamed up to provide meals for the needy in the wake of Covid-19. The initiative called Rizq - Centre for Hope was launched under the slogan "no one sleeps hungry". After receiving a number of calls from people affected directly or indirectly by the Covid-19 situation, such as those on visit visas or people who lost their jobs or did not receive salaries, friends and owners of four restaurants - Bhaijaans Biryani, Delhi Nihari, Delicacy Bakers & Sweets and Mumtaz Darbar - teamed up to provide free meals to people in need.
100,000 food baskets getting ready in Capital
More than 100,000 food baskets, with a month's worth of essentials, will be delivered to Abu Dhabi residents whose earnings have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Eligible applicants will be provided with baskets of high quality, nutritious and healthy essential food and kitchen cupboard items including rice, pasta, dates, beans, tea, jam and noodles. For those with young children, baby supplies will also be provided. Applications will be open from April 19 through the 'Together We Are Good' website until the end of April. Applicants will fill their details and provide documentation proving their income and expenses. Deliveries of food baskets will begin from May 1, with items sourced from local supermarket suppliers - Lulu, Abu Dhabi Coop and Al Ain Coop. Ma'an will bear the cost of the food baskets through its 'Together we are Good' programme
Look for credible info, official tells youth
Dr Farida Al Hosani, official spokesperson for the UAE health sector, has called on the nation's youth to volunteer in all fields, and raise awareness about Covid-19 based on scientific facts and credible information. During a virtual talk organised by Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah (SYL), she urged the youth to counter misinformation and rumours often circulated on social media, which have been triggering needless fear and panic in people. Noting that it was a privilege and an honour to be bestowed a crucial responsibility by the UAE's wise leadership, the mother of four spoke about her current duties in the wake of the pandemic. "My role under the given circumstances is quite challenging. As I address all segments of society, the information that I present needs to be direct and easily understandable for all.
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