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Dubai cancels non-essential surgery amid COVID surge


Live entertainment in hotels and restaurants also halted until further notice as infections surge.

The Emirate of Dubai has suspended non-essential surgery for a month as well as live entertainment in hotels and restaurants until further notice as coronavirus infections surge in the Middle East trade hub.

The decision to postpone certain surgeries, which takes effect at midnight on Thursday and could be extended, was aimed at ensuring the preparedness of health facilities to manage COVID-19 cases, Dubai’s health regulator said in a circular published on Wednesday.

Dubai’s tourism department issued a circular, seen by Reuters, suspending entertainment in hotels and restaurants after recording an increase in violations of coronavirus precautions.

Daily cases in the United Arab Emirates hit a record 3,506 on Wednesday, the highest in the Gulf Arab region where daily tallies in each of the other five states have fallen below 500.

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The UAE does not give a breakdown of infections in each emirate.

Visitors have flocked to Dubai, an international travel hub that is gearing up to host an expected 25 million visitors for an Expo 2020 world fair from October, even as other countries imposed new lockdowns.

The UAE has lifted most coronavirus restrictions, but mask-wearing in public and physical distancing are still required. Britain this month removed the UAE from its travel corridors list due to the spike in infections.

Declan O’Sullivan, an Irish musician living in Dubai, resumed live performances in August. He says events and revenues are 30 to 40 percent of what they were before the pandemic, but is thankful for the opportunity to work.

“That’s my perspective on this shut-down again. As long as the bars can stay open and people can go out – if the entertainers have to take a bit of pain for a while and not be able to perform – better that than prolong it for a longer period … I still count myself very, very lucky.”

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Ramping up a vaccination campaign

The Gulf state has ramped up its immunisation campaign with the aim of vaccinating more than 50 percent of its roughly 9 million population, the majority of whom are expatriates, before the end of March.

On Thursday, the UAE said it had approved Russia’s Sputnik V COVIDvaccine, state media reported citing the ministry of health, marking the third vaccine to be approved by the UAE.

“Study results have demonstrated the effectiveness of the vaccine in triggering a strong antibody response against the virus, its safety for use, and its compliance with international safety and effectiveness standards,” the statement said.

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The UAE hosted Phase III clinical trials for the vaccine.

The country has already approved the shot developed by Sinopharm’s China National Pharmaceutical Group and made it available to the general public. Dubai is also inoculating people with the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTec.

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