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Egypt plans to open Grand Museum in H2 2022

The opening of Egypt's Grand Museum, which is spread across 117 acres, was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and will now open in the second half of 2022, said the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The construction work was now complete and work on the display areas was ongoing, added Mostafa Waziri, speaking at the Egypt Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai on Sunday, reported Emirates news agency WAM.

The museum is billed as the world's largest museum of Egyptian civilisation near the iconic Giza Pyramids.

Waziri added: "We can confirm that we have completed work on the exhibits that will be displayed at the Grand Museum. We are on track to open the museum in the second half of 2022."

During the symposium on excavations in Egypt, Waziri reviewed recent discoveries and revealed more projects to excavate ancient Egyptian treasures.

He said: "What we see above the surface of the earth in Egypt does not exceed 40 per cent of the antiquities contained below the ground. There are more than 50 Egyptian missions working at various sites, and discoveries in Luxor, Minya, Sohag, Saqqara, Cairo and the Lower Egypt region have surprised the world."

Waziri also revealed how Egyptian teams managed to restore very important statues in the Luxor area, including a statue of King Ramses II, who ruled Egypt for 66 years between 1279 and 1213 BC. Egypt unveiled this statue, which is 12 metres high and weighs 65 tonnes, in April 2017 as part of a major restoration campaign in Luxor.


Abu Dhabi group ADQ sets up new office in Cairo

ADQ, one of the region's largest holding companies with a broad portfolio of major enterprises spanning key sectors of Abu Dhabi's diversified economy, has established a new office in Egypt to build on its commitment to investing in the country's economic growth.

The opening of ADQ's new office complements the $20 billion strategic investment platform launched in 2019 between ADQ and The Sovereign Fund of Egypt (TSFE).

The platform aims to help advance Egypt's economic development through joint strategic investment projects, specialised funds and investment tools in key sectors such as healthcare and pharma, utilities, food and agriculture, real estate and financial services.

Omar Mehanna, Head of Sovereign Partnerships at ADQ, said: "We continuously seek opportunities to create value and harness the growth potential of our partnerships with Sovereign investment entities."

"Opening our new Egypt office is an important milestone in our long-term commitment, by investing through our strategic investment platform, to unlock growth opportunities across key sectors. Our in-market presence will drive further cross-border collaboration while nurturing organisations that will accelerate the country's economic development," he added.

Ayman Soliman, CEO of the Sovereign Fund of Egypt, said: "ADQ's decision to establish an office in Egypt signifies the strength and depth of our bilateral cooperation which enhances our ability to develop and evaluate our joint-investment pipeline."

"Egypt has vast reserves of untapped potential across a diverse range of sectors and our partnership with ADQ illustrates our ability to attract foreign direct investment and stimulate Egypt's economic development," he added.- TradeArabia News Service


Saudi Arabia lifts suspension of flights from six countries

Saudi Arabia has lifted the suspension of direct entry to the kingdom from six countries from today.

The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) confirmed in a statement people from Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, Vietnam, Egypt and India are eligible to enter the kingdom without having to spend 14 days outside these countries.

GACA stressed to all air carriers the importance of implementing the following arrival procedures:

. Presenting a valid PCR certificate 72 hours before the flight
. Register on the Qdoom platform
. The application of an institutional quarantine procedures for a period of 5 days, regardless of the immunisation status outside the kingdom
. Adherence to taking a medical swab on the first and fifth days of the institutional quarantine

In addition, GACA affirmed the commitment to the implementation of all precautionary and preventive measures adopted in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman played down the likely fallout from the new coronavirus variant that pummeled oil markets last week.


First Autoville Motoring Festival set to be held in Riyadh from Jan. 8-14

RIYADH - Saudi Conventions and Exhibitions General Authority (SCEGA) has officially announced the start of preparations for the Saudi International Festival of Motoring (Autoville), the first and largest interactive event in the Middle East region's motoring sector.

SCEGA will organize the event from Jan. 8-14, 2022 at Dirab Motor Park in Riyadh.

The Autoville festival will extend over an area of 1.7 million square meters and will be attended by more than 100 prestigious and globally-renowned brands in the motoring industry.

It will also provide car enthusiasts and fans of all age groups with the opportunity to enjoy various shows, driving experiences, and unique speed tests, in addition to enabling them to explore the latest developments in racing.

The international festival will also witness a number of concerts by Arab and international singers.

Acting CEO of SCEGA Amjad Bin Essam Shacker stressed that Autoville will be different from the other motoring events in the Arab region, as it focuses on the audience and aims to provide them with an unmatched experience.

He pointed out that the festival would be an important platform bringing together car experts and enthusiasts, enabling them to share their interests and ideas.

It will also provide car dealers with the unique opportunity to showcase their products and services as well as their achievements and future plans directly to the public.

Autoville will feature a range of unique and diverse events involving renowned rally and motor personalities.

It would include two-time Guinness World Record breaker in drifting races, Saudi driver Abdul Hadi Al-Qahtani, along with various world-famous motorsport celebrities, including Ken Block, Vaughn Gethin Jr., Remy Bizouard, and many others.

Autoville has officially started selling tickets through the Carnival website. - SPA


UAE's car-sharing platform ekar introduces car subscription service in Saudi Arabia

The UAE's car-sharing platform ekar is offering a car subscription leasing service across Saudi Arabia in partnership with some of the biggest vehicle rental companies in the kingdom.

Subscription cars are delivered to the customer's door and they come with insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance. The cars can be switched, traded up or returned at any time.

The service offers an alternative to buying, leasing or renting a car for customers who want to have a personal vehicle without the cost or commitment of ownership, the company said on Monday.

"Ekar Saudi Arabia car-sharing experienced a spike in demand for longer-term bookings during the pandemic, especially with female drivers who choose ekar as their 'first car solution'," said Vilhelm Hedberg, founder of the company.

"Launching subscription leasing is a perfect solution for our 100,000 users in the kingdom.

"The marketplace is nascent in Saudi Arabia, and the combination of subscription leasing with car-sharing will make ekar the only app in the market that offers the entire vertical of self-drive from per minute car-sharing to multiple months subscriptions."

The subscription leasing option, available through ekar's mobile app, will be introduced in Riyadh, Dammam, Jeddah, Mekkah, Taif, Abha, and Jaizan in its first phase.

Car-sharing apps that allow customers to rent a vehicle by the hour, or even minute, have been growing in popularity. The pay-per-use model saves drivers on insurance, maintenance costs and loan repayments.

More consumers are now open to vehicle subscription services, a survey of car industry executives conducted by management consultancy McKinsey found last year.

In 2016, Mr Hedberg decided to fill the gap in the market in the Middle East by launching ekar, which is now the biggest car-sharing platform in the region, said the company.

The UAE start-up provides a network of vehicles that can be booked and unlocked through its mobile app. The service is used by more than 250,000 customers who booked 1.6 million trips since the company's inception five years ago.

After introducing subscription leasing in the UAE in early 2021, the company is now poised to bring this service to Saudi Arabia where the car rental and leasing market is expected to grow to $2.5 billion by 2026, India-based consultancy Mordor Intelligence said.

Ekar is planning to expand into the global automotive subscription services market, with plans to launch in Malaysia, Turkey and Egypt over the next 12 months. Earlier this month, ekar said it will begin operations in Bangkok in January 2022, a move that will mark its expansion in South-East Asia.


Riyadh Metro project more than 90pc completed

The Royal Commission for Riyadh City has announced the completion of the construction and civil works of the Riyadh Metro while the overall completion of the project has reached 92 per cent, said a report.

A mammoth infrastructure project, Riyadh Metro boasts 85 railway stations, apart from six major metro lines that have been established to cover the capital city of Riyadh from all directions. There will also be a network of buses and all these cover an area of 1800 km, reported The Saudi Gazette, citing a senior official.

More than 80 per cent of the works linked to the railway stations and 350 km of rail roads across the city have been completed clocking 40,000 safe working hours, stated Hossam Al Qurashi, the advisor at the Commission, after an inspection tour of the project site and a trial of one of the metro trains.

Riyadh Metro has taken delivery of more than 180 trains which are on trial run. The experimental operation of the trains has reached advanced stages, during which the trains had crossed about 2 million km on all tracks,

The metro project is part of the King Abdulaziz Public Transport Project, which consists of trains and buses.

Al Quraishi said that preparations are under way to start operation of buses in the city. It will start receiving passengers in the first quarter of 2022, he added.


Artificial coral reef park project launched in Duqm

The Special Economic Zone at Duqm (Sezad) has launched the Artificial Coral Reefs Park project in the zone, aiming to create an attractive habitat for fish and providing an unparalleled diving experience for tourists and residents in Duqm.

Commenting on this project, Nasser bin Mohammed Al Rahbi, from the Partnership and Development Department at the Special Economic Zone at Duqm, said: "This week, we deployed a 250-m-long pipe with artificial concrete blocks every other 10 m near Hamar Rock in the sea of Duqm. Another similar pipe will be deployed as well in the coming days.

"This project is managed by a group of Sezad employees in cooperation with a number of government bodies and other companies operating in the zone. The project aims to sustain the marine environment in the Zone, enhance its biodiversity, increase fish production and create habitats for marine creatures, including corals and other species. Moreover, the projects serve to activate the diving activities in Duqm," Al Rahbi explained.

Mohammed bin Hamad Al Mahrouqi, from the Environmental Regulatory Department in the Special Economic Zone at Duqm, confirmed that no marine life was observed during the diving process that preceded the sinking of the pipe. "The concrete blocks and pipe would create a rich environment to attract new marine life. Further, it will bring a unique diving experience for divers and diving enthusiasts as the location is an extension of the rocks scattered around Hamar Rock," he said.

Al Mahrouqi commended the role played by Cobra Tadjo Contracting Company to make this project a success through the contribution and support accorded by Port of Duqm Company by providing a tugboat to transport the pipes to the location, free of charge.

Al Mahrouqi urged fishermen to avoid using nets while fishing near Hamar Island to avoid causing any potential impact on the newly-created fishing and diving locations.

"We will regularly inspect these locations by diving and continuously surveying the area to monitor the growth of the marine life. As well, we will ensure the safety of the pipes and its conditions according to the developed plan for this purpose", Al Mahrouqi added. - TradeArabia News Service


Abu Dhabi issues first non-Muslim civil marriage contract to Canadian couple

Abu Dhabi: The Non-Muslim Personal Status Court in Abu Dhabi has issued the first civil marriage contract to a Canadian couple.

The couple expressed their thanks for facilitating the civil marriage contract service and for the efforts made in terms of organisation, ease of application and speed in concluding the procedures.

The civil marriage registration service is now available on the official website of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD), for both residents and visiting tourists. The contracting and registration of marriage is completed remotely through video conferencing, in accordance with the conditions set by the law.

Family matters of non-Muslims

The move of issuing the first civil marriage contract for non-Muslims comes in accordance with the provisions of Law No. 14 of 2021 on non-Muslims Personal Status in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which aims to ensure the emirate's leadership in regulating family matters for non-Muslims in line with international best practices.

Yousef Saeed Al Abri, undersecretary of ADJD, said the establishment of civil marriage contract procedures for non-Muslims for the first time before an Abu Dhabi courts sets a precedent in the Arab region.

Al Abri added that the ADJD is working, in accordance with the directives of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, to provide a flexible legal environment for the implementation of the provisions of the non-Muslims Civil Personal Status Law, formulated in accordance with international best practices, which guarantees non-Muslims the right to submit to internationally recognised civil principles that are close to them in terms of culture, customs and language. This also reflects the positive image and the tolerance of Islam and ensures the provision of distinguished services to UAE residents, he said.


UAE switches weekend, announces four-and-a-half-day working week

The UAE has announced a new four-and-a-half-day working week for federal government entities.

The move, effective from January 1, 2022, comes alongside new working hours.

The new working week will run from Monday until Thursday, 7.30am to 3.30pm, and on Friday from 7.30am to 12pm.

The UAE has become the first nation worldwide to introduce a national working week shorter than the global five-day week, official news agency WAM reported. The move aims to boost work-life balance and enhance social wellbeing.

Friday sermons and prayers across the UAE will also be held from 1.15pm onwards throughout the year. More so, federal employees will have the flexibility to work from home on Fridays, as well as to arrange their working hours on a flexi-time basis.

Economically, the new working week will align the UAE with global markets, ensuring seamless financial, trade and economic transactions with countries that follow a Saturday/Sunday weekend. It will also facilitate stronger international business links and opportunities for local and multinational companies, and bring the country's financial sector in lockstep with global real-time trading and communications-based transactions.

No directives have been issued for the private sector thus far.


UAE's new labour law to largely align public and private sector benefits

A new labour law set to take effect in the UAE from February 2, 2022, will ensure that both public and private sector work practices and benefits are largely aligned, a senior official has said.

The new law will "limit the differences between both sectors in a way that will boost our goals of establishing an integrated, sustainable and efficient and more attractive work environment" Dr Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation was quoted as saying by local media.

Under the new law, employees in both sectors will get similar leaves and end-of-service benefits. They will also have the option to choose between flexible, part-time and temporary work models.

All employers will also have to offer limited period contracts which can be renewed.

"The new rule is the first of its kind as it unifies the general rules of work in the country based on limited contract," the minister said.


Under the new law, an employee who has spent one year or more in continuous service shall be entitled to an end-of-service gratuity when leaving the company.

Those working in a job for up to five years will be entitled to gratuity based on 21 days of salary for each year of work. If an employee has served for a longer period, the gratuity will increase to 30 days of salary for each year of work following the first five years.


The law mandates that all full-time employees working in the public and private sector will receive annual leaves of up to 30 days.

It will also standardise leaves for maternity, paternity, sickness, study and bereavement.

All employees will also be protected under anti-discrimination provisions that prohibit employers from recruiting on the basis of race, colour, gender, religion, nationality, social origin or disability, the minister added.


UAE confirms January 2 holiday for 2022

The UAE has confirmed that Sunday, January 2, will be a holiday in line with the new weekend change set to take effect in 2022.

Taking to Twitter, the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources officially announced the New Year holiday on Sunday.

"Saturday, January 1 is a holiday for the federal government, and work will resume on Monday based on the new system of weekly work in the federal sector," it said.

Officials also confirmed that January 1 will be a public holiday for all private sector workers in the country.

Earlier this month, the UAE announced a new four-and-a-half-day working week for federal government entities effective from January 1, 2022.

The new working week will run from Monday until Thursday, 7.30am to 3.30pm, and on Friday from 7.30am to 12pm. Saturday and Sunday will be observed as the weekend, in line with the common international standard.

Officials have said private sector companies in the UAE can decide whether or not they want to adopt the new weekend policy.


Covid-19: Abu Dhabi announces new border entry regulations

Abu Dhabi has announced new regulations for those entering its borders from within the UAE starting from Sunday, December 19 as part of efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.

EDE scanners - which use technology to rapidly detect potential coronavirus cases by measuring alterations in electromagnetic waves - will now be deployed at entry points, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee said.

All those commuting into Abu Dhabi from other parts of the country will need to undertake the EDE scan, regardless of whether they have the green pass. The scanners will not store personal information, officials said.

Potential positive Covid-19 cases will be referred to an on-site testing centre, where they will be given a free antigen test, and results within 20 minutes.

If they test positive for Covid-19, Abu Dhabi residents will have to isolate for 10 days as per the emirate's guidelines. They will also be fitted with a tracking wristband.

For those from other emirates, they will need to return back and notify the local health authority of their test result.

"The decision strengthens precautionary measures to help maintain the low Covid-19 infection rate of 0.05 per cent of total tests in Abu Dhabi emirate," Abu Dhabi Media Office said in a statement.

Abu Dhabi's low infection rate has been achieved through the "ongoing implementation of preventive and precautionary measures, including continuous testing and contact tracing, use of the green pass system to access public places and events, and high vaccination rates", it added.

In September, Abu Dhabi removed the requirement for a negative Covid-19 test result for those entering into the emirate by road. However, it still requires all those entering public places such as malls and gyms to be vaccinated and have a recent negative PCR test.

The UAE announced 148 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of recorded cases in the country to 743,152.

It also confirmed that that no Covid-19 related deaths were recorded while an additional 92 individuals had fully recovered from the virus.


Emirates NBD offers Voice Banking with Alexa in UAE

Emirates NBD, a leading banking group in the Menat (Middle East, North Africa and Turkey) region, is offering Voice Banking with Amazon Alexa in the UAE.

The Amazon Alexa App is now available on both UAE iOS App and Google Play stores. Emirates NBD customers can enable the Emirates NBD banking skill on their Alexa App and access details of their recent Emirates NBD account and credit card transactions using conversational language as well as listen to market briefings through any Amazon Alexa-enabled device. This service will now also be available in Arabic.

This service is part of the bank's continued efforts to offer value-added banking services and utilises application program interfaces (APIs) built in line with established open banking standards, allowing exchange of financial information between banks and third-party providers such as Amazon while upholding strict security and privacy guidelines for users.

"Emirates NBD has always been at the forefront of banking innovations and Voice Banking is another step in this direction as we utilise new technologies to enhance overall customer experiences," said Suvo Sarkar, Senior Executive Vice President and Group Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management at Emirates NBD. "As Amazon officially launches Alexa in the UAE, we are pleased to make available access to banking services on this platform, providing added convenience and flexibility to our customers," he added.-- TradeArabia News Service


Digital Sharjah app: Private sector services to be included

The emirate of Sharjah is adapting to new challenges and opportunities with the rapid development of a thoroughly digital transformation strategy that aims to accelerate economic diversification and promote sustainability by leveraging the power of technology across the public sector.

Tasked with building an integrated government infrastructure in the emirate, the Sharjah Digital Office (SDO) has been at the forefront of revamping the traditional ways of operating across industries in line with the vision and under the directives of the emirate's leadership.

SDO unveiled its strategy to enhance smart government performance and boost customer satisfaction with the recent launch of the Digital Sharjah app that offers a portfolio of 41 services across 7 broad categories including business, transportation, utilities, social services, general, real estate, and security in the first phase.

Speaking about SDO's remit, Sheikh Saud bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Director of SDO, told the Emirates News Agency (WAM) that all government entities in the emirate are continuously accelerating their digital transformation efforts, under the directives and guidance of H.H. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah. The Director emphasised that SDO is keen to facilitate the digitisation process of entities by raising awareness about the importance of going digital and ensuring the implementation of the transformation-related initiatives.

The SDO Director added that private sector services will be included in the smart platform to diversify and advance the quality of services offered to users, and to widen the scale of offerings to meet the most stringent demands of residents, citizens, visitors, as well as investors.

Sheikh Saud bin Sultan Al Qasimi stated that the office is working in cooperation with all government entities in Sharjah to integrate their services within the Digital Sharjah platform and its application in a time-bound manner. He noted that the platform was a vital step in the digital transformation process of the emirate as it delivers sustainable public services through a host of user-friendly operations that are constantly updated and upgraded.

The Director said that the main objective of the forward-looking Digital Sharjah platform is to improve the quality of life of Sharjah's citizens and residents, which is partly measured by the ease of access to a gamut of public services. He noted that SDO seeks to facilitate this by offering the services on one unified platform - the Digital Sharjah application and website, which are easily accessible via smart devices.

Strengthening trust between the public and the service providers is critical for creating value and delivering tangible benefits for users and will ultimately impact the substantive success of the services provided. The inclusion of private companies and institutions in the Digital Sharjah app not only deepens public trust but also streamlines service delivery and ensures the safety of financial transactions.

The Director called on all entities across various sectors including culture, arts, the creative industry, and nonprofits, to join the Digital Sharjah platform to unify and broaden the range of services provided to the public, adding that contributing to the digital transformation process in Sharjah is an obligation to fulfill the national transformation vision.

Sheikh Saud bin Sultan Al Qasimi said that the presence of an advanced digital infrastructure becomes a decisive factor for entrepreneurs and investors when starting a business as it can facilitate and stimulate growth of businesses locally as well as internationally. He added that Sharjah's digital transformation journey will lead to the inclusive development of the emirate and lay the foundation for a competitive future across sectors.

The Director said SDO's smart governance efforts align with the goals of all institutions and sectors in the emirate to boost Sharjah's status as a preferred destination for living, working, studying, and for investment and tourism.

Digital Sharjah enables visitors to avail services using Digital Identity (UAE PASS), and offers 41 services from 11 entities, as well as 6 payment methods (Tahseel, credit card, bank transfer, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay).

The app services cover key sectors, namely business, transportation, utilities, social services, general, real estate and security.


UAE's first luxury outdoor furniture experience centre launched

World Bazaar, a trendsetter in the outdoor furniture space, has announced the launch of THE UAE's first luxury outdoor furniture experience centre for both residential and commercial spaces.

Located in Umm Suqeim 1, the 14,000-sq-ft space features an extensive range of unique and urban garden/ patio furniture and accessories from 10 European designer brands. Every collection emulates relaxed luxury resort living for both residential and commercial spaces.

The sought-after visual merchandising of the centre helps customers to visualise the space in real-time negating any use of renders or 3D modelling.

The showroom serves as a lighthouse for individuals, thoughtful lifestyle designers and start-ups who want to bring their inspirational concepts to life before investing in the purchase. Their goal is to help in formulating residential and commercial furnishing solutions to maximise collaboration, creativity, flexibility, and promoting innovative ideas.

"The launch of our truly unique and immersive experience centre marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for our business, enabling us to connect with our international client base," said Randip Dhingra, Founder, World Bazaar.

"We are the only place in the UAE to offer the largest collection of luxury outdoor furnishing and accessories that combines durability, elevated style, and limitless design possibilities under one roof."

World Bazaar UAE is set to become a destination for the homeowners, landscape contractors, architects and interior designers looking for high-end outdoor furniture.-- TradeArabia News Service


Ajman announces car rental services for individuals and companies

The Ajman Public Transport Authority APTA has announced the provision of vehicle rental service as part of its strategic objectives to achieve the Emirate's vision 2021 to support governmental and federal institutions, through the efforts made to establish an integrated and sustainable transport system.

The move is aimed at providing quality services in an easy way to customers.

The Vehicle Rental Section of the Transport Authority has organized this service within the luxury vehicle rental services.

Mrs. Rasha Khalaf Al Shamsi, Director rental section at APTA, indicated that the vehicle rental service within the five-year contracts is a qualitative addition to the transport and leasing system in Ajman, as it contributes to diversifying the transportation options and provides alternative means of transportation with high efficiency and reasonable prices that meet the needs and requirements of different segments of users.

She stressed that this service will save a lot of trouble for individuals in a lot of endless transactions and the costs imposed by agencies and rental offices in providing vehicles for transportation for individuals.

APTA has not set a limit for the cost of vehicles, and the type of vehicles to be rented can be chosen from the approved car agencies in the UAE.

Ahmed Saqr Al Matrooshi, Executive Director of the Commercial Services Corporation, added that this service is the first of its kind in the UAE, as the authority provides a long-term rental service for all individuals, designated for bodies and institutions, with a maximum of five vehicles for rent.

He added that it is possible for the customer or institutions to select the type of vehicles with ease, with the presence of facilities and payment plans within the leasing plans.

He indicated that this service is provided within contracts between the APTA and the entity or individual wishing to benefit from this service, and clarify the rights and obligations of all parties, with the need to renew the contract after 5 years from the date of the beginning of the contract.

The APTA has put in place many controls and executive regulations for regulating the leasing activity and the obligations arising from the entities operating this service and for individuals and its users. The violations and fines that are imposed in the event of non-compliance with the provisions contained in the regulations and executive decisions.

The authority has opened its doors to all those wishing to benefit from this service by calling 600599997. The vehicle renter is required to hold a recognized driving license, and to bring all supporting documents.


UAE suspends entry of travellers from four African countries

The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) and the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) have announced the suspension of all inbound flights for national and international carriers and transit passengers from four African countries - Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Nigeria - starting from Saturday (December 25) effective 7.30 a.m.

This includes suspending the entry of travellers who were in the four countries 14 days before coming to the UAE, while flight operations will continue to transport passengers from the UAE to the same countries, reported state news agency Wam.

In addition to this, the authorities have introduced new travel requirements for those coming on direct flights from Uganda and Ghana. These include having a negative Covid-19 test obtained within 48 hours and a Rapid-PCR test at the airport within six hours of the departure.

Those coming from Uganda and Ghana to the UAE on transit flights also have to have a negative Covid-19 test obtained within 48 hours and a Rapid-PCR test at the airport of their main point of departure within six hours of travelling in addition to another Rapid PCR test at the transit airport before being allowed to enter the UAE.

NCEMA, however, has exempted the UAE nationals, their first degree relatives, diplomatic missions, official delegations between UAE and these countries and Golden residence holders from this decision.

The excluded categories should present a negative Covid-19 test obtained within 48 hours of departure and a Rapid-PCR test at the airport within six hours of departure whenever possible and another PCR test at the airport upon arrival to UAE, it stated.

A 10-day quarantine and a PCR test on the ninth day of entering the country is required for UAE nationals, their first-degree relatives, diplomatic missions and golden residence holders.

GCAA also affirmed that it is required for those coming from the four countries through other countries to stay in latter countries for at least 14 days before being allowed to enter the UAE.

UAE citizens are also barred from travelling to the four African countries except for the country's emergency treatment cases, official delegations, and scholarships, it added.


Soon: Istimara to be renewed even if the vehicle has traffic violations

People living in Qatar will soon be able to renew their vehicle registration (Istimara) even if they have unpaid violations, authorities have announced.

Speaking to Qatar TV, Colonel Jaber Mohamed Rashid Odaiba, Assistant Director of the Media and Traffic Awareness Department at the General Directorate of Traffic, explained that once the new procedures come into place, the violations will be transferred to a dedicated section and referred to the Public Prosecution.

This means that those who wish to renew their car registration can do so through Metrash without the need to pay their traffic violations beforehand, making the procedure much easier and more convenient for people who may be facing financial difficulties at the time of their car registration renewal.

The new regulations, according to the official, will be announced shortly after the "Traffic Violations Settlement Initiative" ends on March 17, 2022.

Per the current initiative, which started on Qatar National Day, those who have traffic violations can save 50 percent if they settle their penalties within three months of receiving them. This aims to encourage the public to pay for all their tickets on time and without delay.


Bahrain parliament approves decision to double VAT to 10%

On Wednesday, Bahrain's parliament approved a bill to double the country's Value Added Tax (VAT) from the existing 5 per cent to 10 per cent.

The bill has now been sent to the Shura Council, and if approved by the upper chamber, it will likely be introduced starting January 1, 2022.

Alongside approving the VAT bill, MPs in Bahrain also on Wednesday approved increasing social welfare and support allowances by 10 per cent.

Under the new social welfare system to be implemented from January 1, a low-income Bahraini would receive BD77 monthly, a couple would receive BD132 up from the current BD120, and each child BD25 (unchanged) but with the BD150 cap removed for the total given to a family.

The Gulf's smallest economy is seeking ways to cut spending and bring its budget back into balance by 2024.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia and the UAE introduced a 5 per cent VAT. Last year, Saudi tripled its VAT to 15 per cent. In November 2020, Saeed Rashid Al-Yateem, assistant undersecretary for Resources and Budget Affairs, reasserted the stance of the UAE to maintain its VAT of 5 per cent for the moment.

In April this year, Oman introduced a 5 per cent VAT on goods and services.

Kuwait and Qatar, the other two GCC state, have yet to implement the tax.


Kuwait makes booster vaccine compulsory for residents who want to travel abroad

Kuwait is banning citizens who received their Covid-19 vaccination more than nine months ago from travelling abroad, effective from January 2.

Kuwaitis who were inoculated outside the nine-month period will not be considered fully vaccinated unless they receive a booster dose, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said on its Twitter account on Thursday.

And in new rules taking effect on Sunday, visitors and residents arriving from abroad will have to present a negative coronavirus PCR test taken within 48 hours of checking in for the flight. All arrivals will also have to undergo a 10-day home quarantine, which can be lifted when a PCR test administered at least 72 hours after arrival shows negative.

The new measures follow an announcement by the Health Ministry on Wednesday that it had detected 12 cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in passengers arriving from European countries.

Covid-19 cases caused by the new, highly transmissible Omicron variant are surging worldwide, especially in Europe.

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