Gulf countries ease Covid-19 curbs

01 March 2022
Mask-wearing mandates eased in UAE and Oman as regional cases cross 19 million-mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 19,022,347 on 1 March, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 18.6 per cent (3,499,003) of all regional cases, while Iran’s 7,051,429 infections make up 37.4 per cent of the regional tally.

Since 22 February, 241,518 new cases have been reported in the 17 Mena countries tracked by MEED.

The number is 37 per cent lower than the 385,228 new cases added in the week to 22 February.

The biggest change was reported in Bahrain, where total case numbers increased 4 per cent from last week’s 495,212 to 514,883 on 1 March.

Jordan followed with a 3 per cent change in total cases, which increased from 1.58 million on 22 February to 1.63 million on 1 March.

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has removed curbs placed on entry to the Two Holy Mosques. Children aged seven years and older are now allowed to enter the mosques two years after implementing precautions.

Only children who are vaccinated and can show proof of inoculation on the Tawakkalna app can enter the Grand Mosque in Mecca and Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

Saudi Arabia started offering vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 years in December.

Masks are no longer mandatory outdoors in the UAE, but must continue to be worn indoors, according to federal guidelines announced earlier this week.

The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority has also decided to cancel quarantine requirements for Covid-19 contacts. Close contacts working in state sectors must conduct a PCR test daily for five days.

The isolation protocol for infected individuals will continue as previously announced, without any change. The infected, however, will no longer wear wristbands. The current 1-metre distance between worshipers in mosques and places of worship will also be maintained.

The UAE has also scrapped PCR tests for fully vaccinated arrivals from 26 February. Fully vaccinated passengers only need to show a vaccine certificate with a readable QR code.

Unvaccinated travellers must show a negative PCR test conducted within 48 hours of departure or a recovery certificate with a QR code proving they have recovered from coronavirus within a month of the date of travel.

Abu Dhabi has also scrapped its green list system and removed quarantine for all international travellers, and ended border controls at checkpoints for commuters entering the city. The green pass system will be retained for access to public spaces in the capital.

Arrivals to Oman must have received the second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 days before travel under new guidelines effective from 1 March. The Civil Aviation Authority said travellers must present a negative Covid-19 PCR report upon or within 24 hours of arrival.

Non-Omani passengers aged 18 and older travelling to the sultanate are required to present a vaccination certificate indicating that they have received at least two doses of an approved Covid-19 vaccine.

Pre-registration requirements for all arrivals through the Ministry of Health have been cancelled.

Masks are also no longer mandatory to be worn outdoors in Oman under new rules that take effect on 1 March.

Mask-wearing will remain mandatory indoors. Hotels in the country can now operate at full capacity, while conferences and exhibitions can be hosted at 70 per cent capacity of the venue. Students have also been allowed to return to classrooms from 6 March.

New guidelines issued by the Ministry of Public Health remove previous ‘green’, ‘red’ and ‘exceptional’ travel list categories, with the updated policy to include countries featuring standard health and red-list health measures. The countries on the red list are Bangladesh, Egypt, Georgia, India, Jordan, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

Residents travelling from countries with standard health measures are not required to take a PCR test before travel. Fully vaccinated or recovered individuals are exempted from quarantine, but must take a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of arrival.

Unvaccinated residents must quarantine at home for five days and take PCR and rapid antigen tests within 24 hours of arrival and five days of quarantine, respectively.

Visitors coming from countries with standard health measures must submit a negative pre-travel PCR lab result with a validity of 48 hours from departure time at the country of origin. Fully vaccinated or recovered visitors are exempted from quarantine. Unvaccinated visitors must quarantine for five days in a hotel or with first-degree relatives whose proof of residence is provided.

Vaccinated or recovered visitors from red-health measure countries must submit a negative pre-travel PCR lab result with a validity of 48 hours from departure time. They must undergo one day of hotel quarantine and a rapid antigen test during that period. Unvaccinated or non-immune visitors are not allowed entry.

Tehran has said it is ready to vaccinate foreign nationals. Iranian Red Crescent Society official Peyman Namdar said there are no restrictions on the vaccination of foreigners in Iran, who can receive second and third doses of the jabs. More than 3 million Afghans are understood to be among the foreigners residing in Iran.  

The US has delivered an additional 2.2 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine to Egypt, adding to the 23.5 million doses already delivered to the country by America to date. The Egyptian cabinet’s media centre has also refuted reports claiming schools are facing shortages of vaccines, stating the country has a surplus of over 75 million Covid-19 doses.

The National Centre for Disease Control will digitally issue coronavirus vaccine certificates and vaccination status reports through the newly launched Tahseen website. Romania has announced plans to donate 200,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to Libya as part of a 1.1 million shipment to four countries in need of vaccines.

The Ministry of Health and Social Protection said more than 24,745,317 people have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 23,195,039 and 5,700,691 second and third doses have been administered in the country.

Image: Wam

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