More on the Covid-19 pandemic

 

There UAE reported 873 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday (May 19) as the country's total infections have now reached 25,063. There were also 1,214 recoveries and three deaths from the disease. A total of 10,791 individuals have now recovered from the infection, while the UAE's death count is at 227.

The UAE government announced that sterilisation measures will be in effect from 8pm to 6am starting Wednesday (May 20). The new timings will be observed throughout the Eid Al Fitr holidays. The UAE had earlier announced an Eid break from Ramadan 29 to Shawwal 3, which is expected to fall on Friday until Tuesday (May 22-26), although the exact dates will depend on the sighting of the moon.

Essential services will continue to operate 24/7 during the holiday, including food shops, cooperatives, groceries, supermarkets and pharmacies, according to Dr Saif Juma Al Dhaheri, spokesman of the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA).

Al Dhaheri said commercial centres and malls will open from 9am to 7pm, although new opening hours for malls will be announced after Eid. The working hours of butchers, mills and cafes will be from 6am to 8pm.

The malls will continue to be off limits to seniors above 60 years old and children below 12. Moreover, only 30 per cent of a mall’s capacity will be allowed at any one time. "Relevant authorities have circulated restrictions to be applied by the commercial centres, including denying access to people over 60 years old and children below 12," said Al Dhaheri. "It has been made clear that a shopping trip for any person should not exceed two hours in order to avoid overcrowding and maintain the 30 per cent cap on malls’ capacity."

Avoid family gatherings

Family gatherings and visits, which are an Eid tradition for many households, are also being discouraged. Instead, the government encourages families to use other means of communications to convey Eid greetings, such video or phone calls.

Al Dhaheri said eidiyah, the giving money gifts to children during Eid, must also be avoided, as well as withdrawing money for this purpose. Instead, he encouraged residents to use electronic methods to hand out money.

Dh100,000 fine

Meanwhile, Counselor Salem Al Zaabi, acting chief of the Emergency and Crisis Prosecution, said the Attorney General has issued an updated list of the penalties for those who violate the government’s preventive and precautionary measures.

These violations include not wearing a face mask in closed public places, shopping malls, public transport, crowded public places, private vehicle with two or more occupants or in shared labour accommodation. There will also be fines for not taking appropriate distance when conducting sport or recreational activities in open places, hotel beaches or public parks. Those who refuse to take a medical test when asked by a competent authority may also be penalised.

Al Zaabi also reminded residents that giving, organising or facilitating private tuition to students is not permitted and will incur a fine. Those who publish information about infected persons or those under treatment will also be penalised.

Repeat violators may be sentenced to imprisonment of no more than six months and/or fined Dh100,000. Photos of violators may also be published in newspapers as per the Public Prosecutor's decision.

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UAE conducts 32,000 additional screenings

More than 32,000 new Covid-19 screenings were conducted in the past few days, according to the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention, as part of intensified efforts to limit the spread of infections.

This as the UAE announced 783 new cases on Tuesday (May 12), all of whom now receiving the necessary care and in stable condition, according to a MoHap statement. The total cases in the UAE has now reached 19,661.

There were also 631 cases of full recovery from the disease reported, bringing the total number of people who have recovered to 6,012. Two fatalities were also announced. The UAE’s death count is now at 203.

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Health Ministry directs seniors, kids to stay away from malls

There were 502 Covid-19 cases reported in the UAE on Thursday (May 7) as the country's total infections have reached 16,240. There were also 213 recoveries and eight deaths from the disease. A total of 3,572 individuals have now recovered from the infection, while the UAE's death count is at 165.

The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHaP) and the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) have released an advisory prohibiting people above 60 years old and children under 12 from going to shopping malls, cooperative societies and supermarkets. In a joint statement, the authorities also requested older adults and children to not enter retail stores outside shopping centres.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), older adults have increased risk of developing severe illness when infected with Covid-19. And while children are reportedly less vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus, they could serve as silent carriers of the virus.

Several malls and other business establishments in the UAE have started to open since May 1, prompting authorities to announce precautionary measures to prevent the further spread of coronavirus.

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Free online courses from Yale, Duke, Google for UAE residents

There were 462 Covid-19 cases reported in the UAE on Tuesday (May 5) as the country's total infections have reached 15,192. There were also 187 recoveries and nine fatalities reported from the disease. Some 3,153 individuals have now recovered from the infection, while the UAE's death count is at 146.

A digital learning initiative will provide UAE residents free access to more than 4,000 courses from over 190 of the world’s top universities and learning institutions, including more than 300 courses in Arabic, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) has reported. Spearheaded by the Abu Dhabi School of Government (ADSG), the Digital Learning for All initiative will also provide learners international certificates and degrees in fields such as business, health, technology, data science, artificial intelligence, arts and humanities.

The courses will be available on ADSG’s e-learning platform and will include programmes developed by institutions such as Yale University, Duke University, Imperial College London, Google and IBM. However, ADSG has yet to provide details on how to register and access the e-learning platform.

"As the world adapts to remote working and physical distancing, digital learning has never been more accessible. This initiative provides the opportunity for all UAE residents to build the skills required to navigate evolving market conditions,” said Ali Rashid Al Ketbi, chairman of the Department of Government Support in Abu Dhabi. “The leadership has moved quickly to ensure the stability of the national economy through its stimulus packages, and it is vital that our institutions also play a central role in providing additional technology and digital infrastructure so that the people of the UAE can upskill themselves in the most in-demand skills of the future."

ADSG is a Department of Government Support entity.

The programme has three pillars: Virtual Experiences, Community Solidarity and Constant Innovation. The Digital Learning for All initiative is in line with the aspirations of the Abu Dhabi Inspires campaign, launched by Sheikh Khalid Bin Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office.

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UAE firm develops robot for sterilisation drive

The UAE reported 564 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday (May 3), bringing the total infections in the country to 14,163. There were also 99 patients who were reported to have recovered from the disease. A total of 2,763 persons have now recovered from Covid-19. There were also seven fatalities reported, with the UAE's death toll now at 126.

A UAE company has developed a disinfection robot that can be used in sterilisation and anti-virus campaigns, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) has reported. The robot, called CoDi BOT UGV, was launched by Abu Dhabi Airports, in cooperation with the Tawazun (balance) Fund for Strategic Sectors Development, for its operations against Covid-19 starting this month.

The self-driving device can be controlled remotely using video technology. Developed by Marakeb Technologies, the robot will be used in sterilising various areas inside the airport’s buildings and it can also work in aircraft compartments.

"The provision of Abu Dhabi airports for this new robot within its facilities at Abu Dhabi International Airport reflects our commitment to adopting innovative technologies, which contribute to enhancing our efforts to maintain the safety of travelers and employees," said Sherif Hashem Al Hashemi, CEO of Abu Dhabi Airports.

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UAE works to keep infection rate under control

There were 557 new Covid-19 cases reported in the UAE on Friday (May 1), bringing the total infections in the country to 13,038. Of this number, some 2,543 patients have recovered after 114 new recoveries were announced also Friday. Six deaths were also reported. The UAE’s death toll from Covid-19 now stands at 111.

The infection rate in the country, however, had not exceeded 0.12 per cent of the UAE population, according to Dr Amna Al Dahak Al Shamsi, spokesperson of the UAE Government, in a media briefing last Wednesday. ''We reassure the general public that we will spare no effort to address this crisis and curb the spread of the virus,'' she said.

Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokesperson of the UAE health sector, noted in the same briefing that the UAE had not yet seen any cases of reinfection. ''The UAE did not record any such case, but there were some cases in other countries because such cases may not have recovered completely or were not subject to thorough testing before leaving the hospital to ensure they were asymptomatic," she said.

The effects of infection generally vary in each case depending on the strength of one’s immune system and lifestyle, she said.

Explaining the various stages of infection, Dr Al Hosani said, "The first stage is the incubation period, when the virus enters the cells of certain parts of the body, such as the throat, trachea, and lungs. This is the period between infection and the onset of symptoms. During this period, a person does not feel sick and may not develop any symptoms at all. The incubation period varies from person to person but ranges from one to 14 days, with an average of five days."

This stage is followed by a minor illness, which may be accompanied by any of the known symptoms, which are generally treated by bedrest and a high liquid intake. The infected person does not need hospital care at this time, according to Dr Al Hosani.

However, a small percentage of people could develop severe symptoms, such as inflammation of the lungs, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, she added. These patients may require medical intervention on a ventilator, especially those suffering from chronic diseases, heavy smokers or the elderly. A few patients may also develop other complications.

"Therefore, we constantly stress the necessity of following all preventative measures, as well as the importance of self-quarantine and wearing face masks,” said Dr Al Hosani. “Although restrictions have been relaxed and we can go outside if necessary, this does not mean that we can be negligent because prevention is mandatory for every individual to protect themselves and those around them. With awareness and a commitment to responsibly following instructions, we can all succeed."

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UAE screenings reach over 1.1 million

Some 541 new Covid-19 cases were reported in the UAE on Tuesday (April 28), bringing the total infections in the country to 11,380. The government also announced 91 recoveries and seven deaths. The total number of people who have recovered from the disease has now reached 2,181, with 89 fatalities.

The Covid-19 screenings in the UAE have reached over 1.1 million. The tests have been ramped up with the addition of mobile drive-through testing centres as well as priority testing for people of determination. Tests are also being conducted in various health care centres. According to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), a total of 1,122,000 Covid-19 tests have been conducted in the country.

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58 studies by UAE researchers aim to develop treatment, new medical tools

The UAE reported 536 new cases and 91 recoveries from Covid-19 on Sunday (April 26). The total number of infections in the UAE has now reached 10,349 with 1,978 recoveries. There were also five deaths reported. The death toll has now reached 76.

The UAE is conducting at least 58 studies all in pursuit of a treatment for Covid-19, according to Dr Alawi Al Sheikh, UAE spokesman for the advanced science sector. The studies are conducted by various research institutions and top universities, seeking to “understand the nature of Covid-19 and to develop innovative treatments, diagnostic devices, and digital tools with the aim of reducing the burden on medical facilities”.

One of the recent breakthroughs of these studies was when Mohammad Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) conducted the UAE's first full genome sequencing of the Covid-19, which, among other things, will help scientists understand how the virus spreads.

"These studies are looking into ways of simulating the spread of the disease and the movement of patients and the psychological and health impact of the virus on society," said Dr Al Sheikh.

Talking about the genome sequencing of the virus, he added: "The study aims to fully sequence viral samples from 240 patients with Covid-19 across various age groups and at different points of this pandemic."

Another study jointly conducted by Khalifa University, UAE University, Sharjah University, the health departments of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and the University of Western Australia and Al Ain Centre for Fertility, aims to understand the genetic factors that lead to the discrepancy in the severity of infections between patients in the country by studying the patients' full genome sequencing.

"It is important to understand the impact of Covid-19 on people with chronic disease and smokers in order to develop precautionary plans to ensure their safety,” said Dr Al Sheikh. “Therefore, a team from UAE University will study factors that make some cases more critical than others to help reduce fatalities."

Revealing some of the findings of these studies, Dr Al Sheikh said researchers are also looking into how animals are able to transmit the virus to humans. "The study has illustrated that Covid-19 is a virus transmitted by animals to humans. A team of specialists from Khalifa University is now collaborating with UAE University and a number of global colleges, such as one in Florida and the Chinese Institute for Agricultural Sciences, Murdoch University, and University of Western Australia, to look into how an animal virus has been transmitted to humans.”

There is also research on how to reduce the time to complete Covid-19 tests. "A team from Khalifa University is working on two projects: the first to accelerate screenings by developing devices that require less time than the internationally recognised PCR tests," he said.

Meanwhile, researchers from Khalifa University have developed a 3D-printed device for effective artificial respiration in emergencies. Describing the artificial respirator as simple and cost-effective, Dr Al Sheikh said: "The new device can be further developed on a wider scope, which means that more can be produced at a lower cost to meet growing demand."

UAE reaches 1 million Covid-19 tests

Covid-19 testing in the UAE has now exceeded the one-million mark, as health officials reassured the public that the increase in the number of cases is an expected result of the government’s aggressive testing programme.

Dr Abdul Rahman Bin Mohammad bin Nasser Al Owais, the UAE’s Minister of Health and Prevention, announced a total of 1,022,326 screenings in Saturday’s media briefing.

"Even during the holy month of Ramadan, the working hours of our medical teams have not changed, and they are continuing their work with more determination to ensure public health and safety," he said. "The more tests we conduct, the earlier we detect more cases, and the more efficiently we can contain the virus. The more tests we perform, the more proactive we can handle those proven to be in contact with confirmed cases, as well as those who don’t exhibit any symptoms and yet carry the infection."

The UAE has expanded its Covid-19 testing programme to include drive-through facilities in addition to screenings in hospitals and other health centres. There is also a dedicated testing service for people of determination.

"It is normal that we detect more cases when we accelerate screening,” said Al Owais. “And herein we would like to reassure the public that this increase in the number of patients is expected and proves that we are on the right path to contain the spread of the virus."

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You can now step out of your house, but first read these guidelines

The government has partially lifted restrictions on travel within Dubai starting Friday (April 24), which coincides with the start of Ramadan. The public is now allowed free movement without a permit from 6am to 10pm, however, from 10pm to 6am residents will only be allowed to travel from their homes for medical emergencies.

Residents are also required to strictly follow precautionary measures such as maintaining physical distance from others and wearing a face mask. Those who do not wear a mask in public will be fined Dh1,000.

Buses and the Dubai Metro will resume services starting Sunday (April 26) with passengers required to follow social distancing and other precautionary measures. The Red and Green lines will operate from 7am to 11pm.

Restaurants and cafes (except for buffet and shisha), retail establisments such as malls, high-street outlets and souqs, wholesalers and maintenance shops will also be allowed to operate under certain conditions. Hotels will also open but their swimming pools, gyms, sauna and massage parlours will be off limits to the public. Companies can also start to operate, but only a maximum of 30 per cent of the workforce will be allowed in their offices. The rest must work from home.

Meanwhile, family entertainment venues, cinemas, changing rooms and prayer rooms will remain closed. Public or private gatherings are also not allowed. Violators risk legal action.

The lifting of restrictions was in line with the decisions of the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHap), the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) and the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management headed by His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

"Despite the difficult circumstances the world is facing today, the UAE has set an example for dealing with the crisis. The guidance and follow up of the leadership, the combined efforts of all stakeholders and the close integration of various measures and initiatives helped the country deal effectively with the crisis. This was also made possible through the commitment of all individuals and institutions both in the private and public sector. All measures undertaken by the country have been driven by the objective of safeguarding everyone’s safety and wellbeing,” the Committee said in a statement.

The full guidelines released by the Dubai Media Office

Exercising outside the home

Members of the public are allowed to exercise outside their homes provided they do not leave their area of residence. They can undertake activities such as walking, running or cycling for 1-2 hours each time. Only a maximum of three persons can exercise at the same time. Individuals must follow preventive measures including ensuring two-metre distance from other individuals and wearing face masks.

Family visits

Considering the advent of Ramadan and the social customs and traditions surrounding the Holy Month, members of the public are permitted to visit first and second degree relatives. Gatherings should be restricted to not more than five people. However, visiting high-risk individuals (individuals above 60 years and those with underlying medical conditions) should be avoided. It is prohibited to hold gatherings in public or private places.

Ramadan tents and majlises are not allowed within homes and in public places.

Shopping malls and commercial outlets

•             Shopping malls, markets and commercial outlets will be open daily to the public from 12pm to 10pm. Furthermore, restaurants and shops are allowed to operate at a maximum of 30 per cent capacity at the shopping malls.

•             Malls and retail outlets are not allowed to hold entertainment events to avoid congestion and crowding.

•             There will be no valet parking at malls and restaurants. The first hour of parking in shopping malls will be free.

•             Only 25 per cent of the parking spaces will be open in order to reduce overcrowding in malls. The public should visit a mall only when absolutely necessary.  

•             Sterilisation operations will continue inside malls. Visitors will be subject to temperature checks at entrances and will be required to wear masks as a condition for entering a mall. Malls are also required to make sterilisers widely available to ensure the highest level of protection for visitors and workers.

•             All shopping malls will have a medical isolation room for emergency purposes in case someone in the mall is suspected to be infected with the virus.

•             Individuals above the age of 60 and children between three and 12 years of age will not be allowed to enter malls. 

•             As part of a new mandatory policy, purchases can be returned or exchanged at all stores and outlets only of there is a defect.

•             Malls and outlets are encouraged to use smart and electronic payment methods and avoid the use of cash.

Restaurants and cafes

•             Restaurants and cafés are allowed to operate normally but are not permitted to serve shisha and buffet. Dine-in customers are allowed but should occupy only a maximum of 30 per cent of the outlet’s capacity.

•             A two-metre physical distance should be strictly maintained between individuals. All diners and staff should wear masks.

•             Only single-use cutlery can be used at restaurants and cafes.

•             Restaurants are allowed to provide food delivery services between 10pm and 6am.

•             Services offered at salons for males and females will be restricted to hair and nail services. Customers can be received only by prior appointment and all preventive and health measures should be strictly observed.

Public transport

•             Public transport services, including Dubai Metro services, will be resumed from Sunday 26 April. The normal tariff system will be reintroduced. Precautionary measures will continue to be followed and there will be specific guidelines for passengers.

•             Red and Green line Metro services will operate between 7am and 11pm.

•             Preventive measures should be strictly followed by all passengers and staff in the Metro, taxis and buses and at public transport stations, including maintaining physical distance and wearing face masks.

•             Only two passengers are allowed in one taxi.

•             Water transport, tram, limousine, and car sharing services will continue to be suspended.

Administrative offices for companies and institutions

•             Employees are allowed to work in offices only if it is absolutely necessary. Their numbers should not exceed 30 per cent of the total workforce. The rest of the workforce can continue working remotely from home. Companies should constantly monitor the number of employees and visitors entering and leaving the workplace every day.

•             Meetings should be held at the office only if it is absolutely necessary. Attendees should not exceed five people and each person should maintain a two-metre physical distance from others.

•             Daily sterilisation of the workplace is mandatory and employees and visitors should be provided with sanitisers at all times. Everyone is required to wear face masks when at the workplace.

General guidelines

•             Individuals are prohibited from distributing food except through mass distribution initiatives organised under the supervision of licensed charity organisations and relevant authorities.

•             Individuals are advised not to share food with family members living in different homes. If food needs to be shared with relatives or friends living in the same area, it should be transported in sealed containers.

•             Reopening of mosques has been postponed since close proximity between worshippers can pose risks of infection. Group prayers are not authorised to be held in public places and mosques. Group prayers and Taraweeh prayers are permitted at home but the worshippers must be from the same family, residing in the house.

•             Individuals who step out of their homes for any purpose must wear a face mask and avoid touching any surfaces or their face. They must also use hand sanitisers and wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

•             Seniors and people with chronic diseases or any illness are not allowed to leave the house and must avoid going to public places to ensure their safety.

•             Domestic workers are prohibited from meeting anyone outside the home or receiving food from unknown sources. They should be provided with protective gear if they need to interact with people outside the house. They must also be guided on precautionary measures to be followed when receiving deliveries of parcels or goods (including disinfecting the packaging and using gloves).

Sectors exempted from restrictions on movement between 10pm and 6am

•             Shopping malls

•             Retail shops

•             Open souqs

•             Pharmacies

•             Financial services

•             Restaurants and cafes (shisha and buffets will not be served)

•             Food services

•             Delivery services

•             Social welfare services

•             Maintenance and repair services

•             Laundry services

•             Nail and hair salons (only through pre-booked appointments)

•             Healthcare services (hospitals and clinics)

•             Food supply outlets

•             Industrial supply chain for services and basic commodities

•             Manufacturers of medicines and providers of healthcare and medical supplies

•             Industrial sectors

•             Water and electricity sector, petrol and gas stations and district cooling services

•             Telecommunications

•             Media

•             Airports, airlines, ports, shipping

•             Customs duty and border crossings

•             Public and private security services

•             Municipality services and public and private service providers involved in garbage collection, sewage management and general cleaning and sanitation

•             Public transport (taxis, buses and Metro)

•             Construction sector

•             Hotels

•             Offices

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New Dubai field hospitals near completion

The government reported 483 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday (April 22), bringing the total number of infections in the UAE to 8,238. There were also 103 recoveries reported, along with six deaths. A total of 1,546 persons have now recovered from the disease, while the death now has reached 52.

Two field hospitals in Dubai with a combined capacity of 2,400 patients are nearing completion, according to the Emirates News Agency (WAM). Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) will operate both facilities.

The field hospital in Emirates Humanitarian City, which spans over 29,000 sq m, is expected to be completed in the first week of May. Some 200 health care professionals will run the hospital, which will accommodate 1,200 patients.

The other Seha-operated field hospital in Dubai Parks and Resorts, which covers 29,000 sq m, will be ready by the end of this month. A team of 200 health care professionals will operate the hospital, which is designed to treat 1,200 patients.

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Sharjah firm produces thousands of 3D-printed PPEs

The government announced on Tuesday (April 21) 460 new cases of Covid-19 in the UAE, bringing the country’s total tally to 7,755. There were also 83 recoveries and three deaths reported. The total recoveries from the disease has now reached 1,443, while the death toll is now at 46. 

A company in Sharjah has stepped up to support efforts in stopping the spread of Covid-19 by producing thousands of 3D-printed personal protective equipment (PPE). Immensa Technology Labs, headquartered at the Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTI Park), started producing over 5,000 face shields per week in March, which it has now increased to more than 25,000 per week. The 3D-printed face shields provide a wider 180-degree protection of the face.

‘Since February, Immensa has collaborated with various organisations in Europe to produce very effective personal protective equipment that is in short supply globally,’ said Fahmi Al-Shawwa, CEO and founder of Immensa Technology Labs. ‘One particular effective PPE is 3D-printed face shield, connected to a headband. The face shield or visor is made from a special polymer that repels viruses and bacteria."

Apart from face protection equipment, Immensa is also 3D-printing connectors for ventilators and other items that are in short supply.

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UAE registers 77,550 tests per million

The UAE government has continued its aggressive Covid-19 testing programme, now reaching over 77,550 tests per million people, according to statistics from the Worldometer website. Covid-19 testing was significantly expanded following the recent opening of more than a dozen drive-through testing centres across the country.

On Monday (April 20) the UAE announced 484 confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number of infected persons in the country to 7,265. There were also 74 recoveries reported and two deaths from the disease. Total recoveries now number 1,360, while the death count stood at 43.

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Dh20,000 fine for spreading false information

The government announced 479 new cases of Covid-19 in the UAE on Sunday (April 19), bringing the total number of cases in the country to 6,781. There were also 98 persons who recovered from the disease and four deaths reported. Total recoveries in the UAE now stand at 1,286, and the death count stands at 41.

Violators of a new UAE regulation on the publication and dissemination of information on communicable diseases will be fined up to Dh20,000, according to Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokesperson for the UAE health sector. The UAE Cabinet approved the regulation on Saturday, aiming to safeguard the health and safety of the public against false, misleading or unverified health information.

Dr Al Hosani said the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention and other national health bodies are the sole entities responsible for disseminating verified medical information and guidelines to the public.

Gnome sequencing: what it means for the UAE

With the UAE’s first full genome sequencing of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Dr Al Hosani said health authorities that process has increasingly become an important tool for the study of disease outbreaks in the country.

Researchers at Mohammad Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) completed the genome sequencing of the virus from a patient in Dubai, the Covid-19 Command and Control Centre in Dubai announced on Wednesday.

‘By studying the genetic sequence of the virus and minor changes over time among patients, scientists can gain a better understanding of how the virus spreads, which can also inform measures to control the outbreak,’ said Dr Al Hosani.

‘The UAE boasts remarkable potential and notable human resources, enabling it to make the best possible use of genome sequencing. A number of studies are underway to achieve the best possible results.’

Thousands register for UAE Volunteers

More than 8,000 people from 115 nationalities have come forward to support the UAE Volunteers campaign, a platform designed to consolidate volunteering efforts nationwide in the fight against Covid-19.

Over 3,000 of the volunteers have a medical background, according to Hessa Tahlak, spokesperson of UAE Volunteers.

‘Today, we stand together, UAE nationals and residents, to lead the national fight against the coronavirus,’ Tahlak said. ‘The UAE Government has announced a national initiative to unify and sustain volunteering efforts across the country under one campaign named UAE Volunteers.

‘Volunteering under such circumstances is a national duty.’

To register and join the campaign, Tahlak said citizens and residents can visit volunteers.ae or they may call 800 86523 for inquiries.

‘Remote volunteer opportunities are also available, and they include delivering online sessions in various fields, health awareness and mental and psychological support programmes, and art and sports offerings,’ said Tahlak. ‘Our volunteers have also reached out to 1,500 senior citizens over the phone. Currently, we have 900 volunteers supporting the National Disinfection Programme and stationed at our national screening and testing centres, call centres, and quarantine sites across the country.'

While the campaign accepts volunteers across different fields of expertise, she said the campaign prioritises the recruitment of medical personnel, retired doctors, nurses, paramedics and medical students.

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477 new cases on Friday

The government announced 477 new cases on Friday (April 17), bringing the UAE's total count to 6,302. There were also 93 recoveries and two deaths reported. The total recoveries now stand at 1,188 and total deaths at 37.

There were no new updates from the government as of this writing.

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460 new cases on Thursday

The UAE government reported 61 new recoveries from Covid-19 on Thursday (April 16), noting that many of these persons strictly followed the health recommendations when dealing with the disease.

‘In most cases of recoveries, we noticed that they have followed several daily health behaviors, such as doing exercise, eating a healthy diet, strengthening the immune system, and maintaining an ideal weight, as well as abstaining from bad habits, such as smoking and unhealthy eating,’ said Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokesperson for the UAE health sector. ‘The psychological aspect is also important, and it is necessary to support the mental health of individuals, along with their physical health.’

The UAE’s total number of recoveries has now reached 1,095 persons from 5,825 infections.

There were 460 new diagnosed Covid-19 cases announced on Thursday, along with two fatalities, bringing the UAE's death count from Covid-19 complications to 35.

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767,000 Covid-19 tests conducted in UAE

The government announced Wednesday (April 15) 432 new Covid-19 cases. Infections in the country has now reached 5,365 following more than 767,000 Covid-19 tests performed to date in the UAE. The Ministry of Health and Prevention also announced 101 new recoveries with now a total of 1,034 persons who have recovered from the disease.

There were five fatalities reported on Wednesday – three from Asia, an Arab and a Gulf citizen. The UAE’s death toll is now at 33.

DWTC field hospital opens today

Dubai is set to open a field hospital today with an initial capacity of 1,000 beds as part of precautionary measures against any surge in cases of Covid-19. Located at the Dubai World Trade Center, the facility will eventually expand to accommodate up to 3,000 patients.

Hotel, restaurant closures extended

All hotels, tour operators, floating restaurants, venues and event organisers in Dubai will remain closed indefinitely, according to a circular issued by the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) on Tuesday. These commercial activities were earlier ordered closed for two weeks until April 18 to give way to a 24-hour national sterilisation programme.

‘In line with Dubai Government Precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of its residents and visitors, we extend all the Precautionary Circulars on the web site until further notice,’ DTCM stated in the circular.

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The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHaP) announced Tuesday (April 14) 412 new Covid-19 cases, bringing to the total cases in the country to 4,933. There have been more than 32,000 new Covid-19 tests conducted over the past few days, as the MoHap said it is intensifying virus screening as part of measures to limit the spread of the disease.

All new cases, according to the ministry, are in a stable condition and receiving the necessary care.

There were also 81 full recoveries on Tuesday, increasing the number of persons in the UAE who have survived the disease to 933.

The latest government update also included three deaths, all Asian nationals, bringing the UAE’s total fatalities from Covid-19 to 28.

‘The Ministry expressed its sincere condolences to the families of the deceased and wished a speedy recovery to all patients, calling on the public to cooperate with health authorities and comply with all precautionary measures, particularly social distancing protocols, to ensure the safety and protection of the public,’ the MoHap said in a statement.

Apart from test facilities in health centres, there are also 14 mobile drive-through test centres across the country operated by the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, while the Dubai Health Authority and Al Futtaim Group also run their own drive-through facilities in Dubai.

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Covid-19 testing for people of determination

The UAE has launched a home testing programme specifically catering to people of determination, seeking to provide a more inclusive approach in its fight against Covid-19. The National Home Testing Programme for People of Determination was launched by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on Sunday making it easier for people of determination, both citizens and residents, to access testing services.

'The new programme supports and complements the efforts of the drive-through testing facilities for Covid-19 and accredited testing centres nationwide,’ said Dr. Farida Al Hosani, spokesperson of the UAE health sector.

UAE administers first blood plasma treatment for Covid-19

The UAE has started administering blood plasma therapy as a treatment for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Sheikh Khalifa Medical City gave convalescent plasma, the blood plasma collected from people who have recovered from the disease, to one of its patients infected with the virus and doctors are now awaiting the results of the treatment.

The donor of the blood plasma is a 29-year-old Emirati who recently recovered from Covid-19.

‘Sheikh Khalifa Medical City started plasma treatment this week, where a 29-year-old Emirati young man donated blood plasma after recovering from the coronavirus,’ said Dr Fatima Al Kaabi, consultant and head of the Department of Hematology and Oncology at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. ‘We are still waiting for the results of this treatment, and we are optimistic that it will be promising, as we expect the patient’s condition to improve soon.’

While further investigation is needed to ascertain the efficacy of the treatment, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended to health care providers the administration and study of convalescent plasma in fighting the disease. Apart from the UAE, other countries have also started clinical trials of the potentially life-saving therapy. According to reports, initial studies have shown that  40-50 per cent of patients who undergo the treatment have seen their conditions improve.

Explaining how the treatment works, Dr Heba Al-Humaidan, consultant and acting head of the hospital’s Medical Laboratory Department, said, ‘The patient receives plasma in a perfusion intravenously, and when the plasma containing the antibodies enters the patient’s body, those antibodies attack the virus, and prevent further damage to the vital organs of the body, like kidneys, heart and respiratory system.’

According to Al-Humaidan, plasma extracted from one donor is usually sufficient to treat two patients.

398 new cases, 172 recoveries

Meanwhile, the government announced on Monday (April 13) 398 new Covid-19 cases, increasing the total number of cases in the country to 4,521. There were also 172 persons who recovered from the disease, bringing the total recoveries to 852. The country’s death toll now stands at 25 after three deaths were reported Monday.

Expired visas extended until December

Residents whose residence visas expired in early March will receive an extension of their visas until end of December, according to Brigadier General Khamis Al Kaabi, spokesperson of the Identity and Citizenship Authority (ICA). This applies to both residents currently staying inside and outside the UAE

'UAE visitors who have remained in the country and had their visas expire in early March 2020, will also have their visit visas extended till end of December 2020,' said Brigadier General Al Kaabi.

Emirates ID cards that expired in early March will also have an extension in validity until the end of the year.

Service fees reduced by over 90%

The UAE government has reduced fees of 94 services, some by over 90 per cent, as part of measures in support of businesses across the country affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The UAE Ministry of Economy said the revised fees cover areas such as innovation, business activities, investment, production, trade, import and export activities.

Among the biggest discounts were seen in the licence to use the 'Made in UAE' mark, which was cut by 95 per cent, the renewal fee for the said licence, which has been reduced by 98 per cent. The government also cut by by 25 per cent the fees for collective management licence; applications for registering a trademark or trademarks of goods, products or services related to a single category; and publishing official documents for joint stock companies or partnership companies on shares basis, among others.

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New treatments for Covid-19

The UAE has started clinical trials of new treatments for Covid-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, as the government continued to employ various measures to stop the spread of infections. Some 13 new drive-through Covid-19 testing centres nationwide were also announced in a briefing Saturday in Abu Dhabi by Dr Farida Al Hosani, UAE spokesperson for the health sector, allowing individuals to be tested without going to hospitals or health centres.

Authorities on Saturday (April 11) announced 376 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the UAE’s total to 3,736 cases, while there were 170 persons who recovered from the disease. The total recoveries now reached 588.

"In the past few days, we have noticed a remarkable rise in the number of people who have fully recovered,” said Dr Al Hosani. “Many of these were mild cases, which usually recover naturally. In some cases, symptoms lasted for two or three weeks. We have observed that a majority of cases registered in the country do not show major complications and severe symptoms.”

A total of 13 new drive-through Covid-19 testing centres have been opened nationwide
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Four deaths as a result of the disease were also reported, bringing the death toll to 20. The four individuals, whose nationalities and identities were not revealed, were also reported to have pre-existing chronic diseases.

"The efforts of our teams in the health authorities are continuing as part of the country's plan to bring the pandemic under control,” said Dr. Al Hosani. “An increase in testing in recent weeks has enabled us to detect more cases, limit the spread of the virus, and isolate those who came in contact with patients."

Convalescent plasma

In an important step towards creating what could be a vaccine against the disease, Dr Al Hosani said clinical trials for plasma therapy and other treatments for Covid-19 have started in the UAE.

“Their effectiveness is being researched and the UAE is keen to further look into studies and treatments around the world and will not delay in providing any available treatment to UAE citizens and residents,” the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority said in a press statement yesterday.

Enthusiasm for the possible use of convalescent plasma, or blood plasma collected from survivors of the disease, as a treatment for Covid-19 was fanned by a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on March 27, which noted promising results of a small study of five critically ill patients in China. A donor’s plasma, which may be rich in antibodies, can be used to beef up patients’ immune systems to attack the virus.

Convalescent-plasma treatment has been used to treat other viruses such as Ebola, influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), but the technique still needs further study for use in fighting Covid-19. Apart from the UAE, scientific trials are also being conducted in other countries.

The UAE currently uses drugs such as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, medications primarily used to prevent and treat malaria, in treating patients.

"Some preliminary studies have shown the effectiveness of drugs such as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in Covid-19 treatment,” said Dr Al Hosani. “These are drugs used in the country, and their effectiveness, as well as that of other antiviral drugs, is being continuously monitored."

Meanwhile, government regulations restricting residents to their homes will remain in effect, according to Dr Al Hosani, noting that a specific date when normal movement may resume has not been set. The situation, she said, is being evaluated regularly.

Jobannie C. Tabada