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Saudi Arabia to reinforce wearing masks in public amid rise in COVID-19 cases

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A source in Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior on Wednesday said the Kingdom will reinforce wearing masks in public places including outdoor events as of Thursday amid a rise in COVID-19 cases worldwide, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

SPA said the new rule will come into effect from 7:00 a.m. on December 30, 2021.

The risk posed by the rapidly-spreading omicron variant of COVID-19 is still “very high”, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

“The overall risk related to the new variant of concern omicron remains very high. Consistent evidence shows that the omicron variant has a growth advantage over the Delta variant with a doubling time of two to three days and rapid increases in the incidence of cases is seen in a number of countries,” the WHO said in its COVID-19 weekly epidemiological update.

The Kingdom reported 602 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases to 553,921. The country reported one new death.

There are 39 critical COVID-19 cases in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Health said.

Read more:

COVID-19 omicron variant risk remains “very high”: WHO

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UAE reports 3,014 COVID cases, four new deaths in 24 hours

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The UAE reported on Thursday 3,014 COVID-19 infections and four new deaths in 24 hours after conducting 504,831 tests.

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Saudi Arabia reports 5,591 new COVID-19 infections, two deaths in 24 hours

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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reported 5,591 COVID-19 cases and two new deaths in 24 hours, according to the Ministry of Health.

This brings the total number of cases in the Kingdom to 638,327.

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Thailand to resume quarantine-free travel from Feb. 1 after pause due to omicron

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Thailand will resume its quarantine-free travel scheme from February 1, officials said Thursday, after the program was suspended due to the fast-spreading omicron COVID-19 variant.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

Pandemic travel curbs have hammered the kingdom’s tourism-dominated economy, sending visitor numbers dwindling to a trickle.

Fully vaccinated travelers will now be able to enter under the “test and go” scheme as long as they take COVID-19 tests on the first and fifth days after arriving, spokesman for the country’s COVID-19 taskforce Taweesin Visanuyothin told reporters.

Visitors will have to isolate at a hotel while waiting for their test results and will be required to download a tracking app to ensure they comply with the rules.

Seeking to bounce back from its worst economic performance since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Thailand launched the “test and go” scheme in November as an alternative to two weeks’ hotel quarantine.

The program was suspended late last month over fears about omicron, but with deaths and hospitalizations not spiking, Taweesin said it could resume, though the authorities will keep it under review.

“In case there are more infections or the situation changes, there will be a re-assessment for inbound travelers and adjust toward the sandbox scheme,” Taweesin said.

Under the sandbox program launched last year as a first step towards resuming tourism, fully jabbed visitors spend seven nights in certain designated locations, such as the resort island of Phuket, before being allowed to travel on to the rest of Thailand.

In a further relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, restaurants will be allowed to serve alcohol until 11:00 p.m. – easing the current 9:00 p.m. cut-off.

The tourism ministry estimates that some five million foreign visitors will come to Thailand in 2022 — down from nearly 40 million in the year before the pandemic.

Read more:

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COVID-19 cases rose by more than 50 percent, deaths stable: WHO

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