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

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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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Read more:

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COVID-19 variant Omicron brings back travel curbs worldwide: All you need to know

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Abbas rival Dahlan delivers one mln COVID-19 vaccine doses to Gaza

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One million doses of coronavirus vaccine arrived in Gaza from the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, the latest donation facilitated by an exiled rival of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Mohammed Dahlan, a Gaza native now based in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, was once a top Palestinian Authority official who served as Abbas’s security chief in the territory before its takeover by the Islamist Hamas movement in 2007.

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Gaza health ministry spokesman Mahmud Hammad told journalists that the consignment of one million doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine marked the largest single shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to the Israeli-blockaded territory.

The vaccines were delivered through Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt, the only one not controlled by Israel.

The same route was used for previous shipments organized by Dahlan, who has increasingly sought to position himself as a benefactor for the Palestinian people.

Dahlan had been expected to emerge as a key player from Palestinian elections scheduled for last year but the polls were postponed indefinitely by Abbas in a move that also infuriated Hamas.

The ministry’s head of preventive medicine, Magdy Duhair, warned that Gaza’s health system was under increased strain due to the fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus.

While Gaza’s beleaguered medical system has struggled at times during the pandemic, coronavirus transmission has been limited by the tight controls Israel and Egypt enforce on travel in and out of the coastal enclave.

Gaza, which has a population of roughly 2.3 million, has recorded 196,578 COVID-19 cases and 1,744 deaths. So far, 578,000 residents have received two doses of a vaccine.

Read more:

First omicron variant case detected in Gaza, says Palestinian health ministry

Israel’s president to make first-ever state visit to UAE

Egypt pushes for calm after flare-up in Gaza hostilities

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Saudi Arabia records 4,526 COVID-19 cases, three deaths in 24 hours

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Saudi Arabia has recorded another minor dip in COVID-19 transmissions with 4,526 cases and three virus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health.

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In that time, 5,772 recoveries were also recorded.

There have now been 666,259 COVID-19 infections and 8,927 deaths in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the pandemic.

Case numbers have risen sharply in January amid global reports of the omicron variant spreading.

Saudi Arabia detected its first case of the more transmissible variant in early December.

It was thought to have been transmitted by a traveler from an undisclosed north African country.

Daily case numbers reached an all-time high of 5,928 on January 19.

Read more:

Omicron risk remains very high: WHO

Abu Dhabi says vaccinated tourists need no boosters to enter

Saudi Arabia sees slight increase with 4,838 new COVID-19 cases

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COVID-infected Australian navy unloads aid in virus-free Tonga

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The Australian navy’s largest ship docked at disaster-stricken Tonga on Wednesday and was allowed to unload humanitarian supplies in the South Pacific nation despite crew members being infected with COVID-19, officials said.

Nearly two dozen sailors aboard the HMAS Adelaide were reported infected on Tuesday, raising fears the mercy mission could bring the coronavirus to the small archipelago devasted by an undersea volcanic eruption and a tsunami on January 15.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

Since the pandemic began, Tonga has reported just a single case of COVID-19 and has avoided any outbreaks. It’s one of the few countries in the world currently completely virus free. About 61 percent of Tongans are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.

The 27,500 metric ton ship had completed the 3,300-kilometer voyage from Brisbane and would deliver supplies without contact with the local population to avoid infections, the Australian government said in a statement.

“We appreciate the decision of the government of Tonga to enable HMAS Adelaide to dock and offload the humanitarian and medical supplies, and the high priority it has placed on COVID safety throughout the recovery process,” the statement said. “The ship is undertaking an entirely contactless delivery of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies.”

With restoration of the drinking water supply a major priority, the ship brings a desalination plant. It’s also carrying helicopters and engineering equipment.

Australia said it was widening its disaster support to include restoration of power and communications.

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Tonga usually requires visitors to quarantine for three weeks on arrival and the tough pandemic measures complicate the international disaster response. All international aid is to be delivered without local contact.

Tongan authorities have been wary that accepting international aid could usher in a bigger disaster than the huge eruption of the volcano. The tsunami has claimed three lives.

The ship is the second aid mission from Australia in which at least one crew member tested positive. A C-17 Globemaster military transport plane was earlier turned around midflight after a person aboard was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Read more:

Why Tonga eruption was so big, how tsunami traveled far, what’s next

All homes on one Tonga island destroyed, three dead as government shares first update

Australia suffers deadliest day of pandemic as omicron drives up hospital cases

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