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UAE offers COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for adults amid concern over Omicron

The UAE announced on Sunday that it has made COVID-19 vaccine booster shots available for everyone over the age of 18, as international concern rises over the spread of the new variant Omicron across the globe.

“The ministry has made the booster shot available for all categories of people over the age of 18 who have received two doses of the Pfizer-BionTech and Sputnik vaccine, given that six months have passed since they received the second dose,” said UAE health sector spokesperson Farida al-Hosani.

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“We advise everyone to take the booster dose as soon as possible, specifically the elderly and those with chronic diseases. Vaccination contributes to increasing immunity and preventing infection, severe symptoms and deaths, especially when dealing with variants,” she added.

The WHO had declared on Friday that Omicron, which was detected earlier this month in South Africa, was a variant of concern.

The health organization said on Sunday that standard PCR tests for COVID-19 can detect infection with Omicron, and that the new variant has an increased risk of reinfection, according to preliminary evidence.

The new variant has been detected in several countries. Omicron infections were reported in South Africa, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Israel, Hong Kong, Botswana, and Czech.

The UAE has announced on Friday suspending the entry of travelers from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Mozambique.

However, Emirati citizens will be allowed to enter the UAE coming from those countries given that they present a negative COVID-19 tests obtained within 48 hours of departure, take a PCR test upon arrival in the airport and quarantine for 10 days.

The UAE has reported earlier this month that 100 percent of the population has received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 90.3 percent have been fully vaccinated.

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Health

North Korea’s fever cases under 200,000 for second day amid silence on aid offer

North Korea's daily fever cases stayed below 200,000 for a second day in a row, state media said on Monday, as Pyongyang remained silent on South Korean and US offers to help fight its first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak.

The COVID wave, declared on May 12, has fuelled concerns over a lack of vaccines, inadequate medical infrastructure and a potential food crisis in the country of 25 million.

US President Joe Biden said on Saturday that Washington had offered COVID-19 vaccines to China and North Korea, but “got no response.”

North Korea reported 167,650 new patients suffering from fever on Monday and one more death. More than 2.33 million of the 2.81 million cumulative cases reported since late April had recovered as of Sunday evening, the North's state news agency KCNA said. The official death toll stands at 68.

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While staying silent on the offer for help, North Korea has boasted of a “favorable turn” in the country's virus situation.

“The crisis and responsibility awareness is further enhanced in every region, sector, workplace and post across the country to maintain the favorable turn in the epidemic prevention work and all inroads of the epidemic are checked through the strict execution of regional and unit lockdown and blockade measures,” the KCNA said.

Such COVID-19 restrictions may be playing a role in North Korea's lack of response, a senior US administration official said Sunday.

Apparently deprived of testing supplies, North Korea has not confirmed the total number of people testing positive for the coronavirus. Instead, health authorities report the number with fever symptoms, making it difficult to assess the scale of the COVID wave, experts have said.

Authorities have distributed food and medicine across the country, with military medics deployed to help distribute drugs and conduct exams.

KCNA said pharmaceutical factories “are speeding up the production,” but did not elaborate which medicines were being produced.

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Beijing city reports 63 new local COVID-19 cases over 24 hours

Beijing reported 63 new domestically transmitted COVID-19 infections during the 24 hours to 3 p.m. (0700 GMT) on Saturday, a disease control official at the Chinese capital said.

Of the infections, 56 were found in controlled areas and seven during community screening tests, Liu Xiaofeng, deputy director at Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, told a news briefing.

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The city has recorded 1,399 COVID infections since April 22, Liu said.

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Biden says US has offered N.Korea COVID-19 vaccines but ‘got no response’

US President Joe Biden said Saturday that America had offered North Korea COVID-19 vaccines but “got no response” despite a spiraling epidemic in the isolated country.

“We've offered vaccines, not only to North Korea but to China as well and we're prepared to do that immediately," he said at a press conference in Seoul.

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“We've got no response,” he added.

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