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Covid-19: Egypt lifts coronavirus restrictions from June 1

Egypt will lift restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including easing the early closure of shops and restaurants, from Tuesday, the cabinet said.

Since May 6, stores, malls and restaurants had to close by 9:00pm after a rise in infections.

Egypt imposed strict measures at the start of the pandemic, closing its airspace and setting nightly curfews to combat the spread of the virus, but it has remained largely open since June 2020.

As part of its efforts to save the tourism sector, it completed vaccinating workers in all hotels in Southern Sinai and Red Sea provinces and plans to vaccinate all residents of the two resorts of Hurghada and Sharm El Sheik, the cabinet said on Sunday.

Tourism revenue, an important source of foreign currency for Egypt, plunged by 70 per cent in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tourism usually accounts for up to 15 per cent of gross domestic product.

Egypt is optimistic about welcoming more visitors this year with numbers increasing steadily since January to around half a million tourists a month, Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany told Reuters in May.

Egypt had officially confirmed 260,659 coronavirus cases including 15,001 deaths as of Saturday. However, officials and experts say the real number of infections is far higher, but is not reflected in government figures because of low testing rates and the exclusion of private test results.


Abu Dhabi's Aldar considering more deals in Egypt real estate

Abu Dhabi-based Aldar Properties is halfway through its due diligence process on an offer to buy a majority stake in Egypt's Sixth of October for Development & Investment, and is looking for additional opportunities in the Arab world's most populous country.

The offer for the Egyptian property developer, known as Sodic, "is one of a number of opportunities we are looking at in Egypt," CEO Talal Al Dhiyebi told Bloomberg TV. "We think it's one of the most lucrative and attractive real estate markets."

Earlier this year, Aldar - Abu Dhabi's largest developer - submitted a preliminary non-binding offer to buy a minimum 51 per cent stake in Sodic in a deal that values the Egyptian company at about $420m. Aldar has been looking to expand abroad as it faces limited growth prospects in the United Arab Emirates.

Aldar may invest between $1bn to $1.5bn in the next 12- to 18 months on acquisitions abroad and at home, Al Dhiyebi said. It's also expanding its education and property management businesses, he added.

Aldar may sell bonds in the next three to six months if it finalises some acquisition opportunities, Al Dhiyebi said.


Egypt keen to attract tourists from Arab countries

During his participation in the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2021 in Dubai, and the inaugural of Egypt's pavilion, Dr. Khaled El-Enany, Egypt's Minister of Tourism and Antiquities highlighted the country's credentials as an ideal destination for holidaymakers looking for a safe travel experience as the world continues to tackle the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Emphasising Egypt's tremendous tourism potential, the Minister provided an overview of the country's comprehensive action plan for safe tourism and infrastructure development, as well as its diverse tourist attractions - from lively and sunny beach resorts to newly opened museums, archeological projects and, recent important discoveries.

Egypt Pavilion at ATM showcases the country's safe tourist offerings, as well as opportunities for business, medical, adventure, leisure, spiritual, cultural, archaeological and other types of tourism. Through its participation in the event, the Ministry seeks to connect with travel and tourism stakeholders from across the Arab world, exchange experience, and explore opportunities for collaboration to boost mutual tourism with the aim of addressing the urgent need to revitalise the sector.

Located in Sheikh Saeed Hall 2, the 305-sq-m pavilion presents 14 exhibitors, including EgyptAir, hotels, and tourism companies. Two giant screens are showing promotional videos of Egypt's iconic tourist sites and footage from special events, such as the recent Pharaohs' Golden Parade in Cairo.

Over the past few months, Egypt has witnessed a significant increase in inbound tourism. Since the resumption of international tourism in July 2020 till now, it has welcomed 3 million tourists from more than 20 countries (1.8 million since January 2021). Currently, around 17,500 tourists a day arrive, 65 per cent of them at airports located in touristic coastal cities such as Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada and Marsa Alam, which have consistently reported one of the lowest Covid-19 infection rates in the world.

Speaking at the event, Dr. El-Enany said: "ATM provides a perfect platform to capture the attention of visitors from the Arab region - one of the most important tourist markets for Egypt that accounted more than 20 per cent of inbound tourism pre-Covid-19. In addition to the proximity factor, pleasant weather all year round, and distinctive tourist attractions, Arab tourists feel at home in our country due to our shared language, culture, and customs. And of course, this feeling is mutually shared by Egyptians."

He added: "Since the coronavirus outbreak, we have implemented stringent regulations to protect the health and safety of our visitors and staff. In recognition of our efforts, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has granted Egypt its Safe Travels stamp."

In closing, he said: "Egypt boasts a perfect blend of leisure, adventure, history, and culture. Its favorable climate, plentiful sunlight, fresh air, and abundance of open spaces in popular tourist spots, in addition to the robust precautionary measures in place, have contributed to a notable rise in tourist numbers, especially since beginning 2021. We look forward to welcoming a steady influx of visitors in the coming months and having them enjoy the many attractions our country has to offer."

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has issued the Regulations for the Resumption of Tourism to Egypt that are applicable to all tourist facilities across the country. Hygiene Safety Certificates are a pre-requisite for hospitality establishments, airlines, airports, archeological sites, and museums to receive visitors. All workers in the tourism sector have undergone compulsory Covid-19 awareness training. The country has also launched a Covid-19 vaccination drive for all employees in the tourism sector, with most of the tourism staff in South Sinai and Red Sea governorates, the two top tourist destinations, are vaccinated (other touristic governorates will follow).

Furthermore, Egypt has introduced temporary incentives with the aim of reviving its tourism and aviation sector, and motivating holidaymakers to consider the country for their next vacation. To achieve optimum value addition for everyone, Egypt is closely collaborating with industry partners, such as tour operators and airlines, in this regard.

In October 2021, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities plans to launch a three-year international promotional campaign that seeks to attract visitors from target markets to Egypt, and consolidate the country's reputation as one of the leading global tourist destinations. Furthermore, we are planning to open new hotels and resorts, and many new museums, such as the Grand Egyptian Museum overlooking Giza pyramids.

Running from May 16 to 19 at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), the 28th edition of ATM features exhibitors from 62 countries. Held under the theme 'A new dawn for travel and tourism', the global event is putting a spotlight on the latest Covid-19-related updates from around the world. - TradeArabia News Service


Egypt's iconic Cairo Citadel undergoes extensive restoration

On Thursday morning, Egypt's Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled al-Anani inspected the ongoing restoration work at the Mohammed Ali Mosque and clock tower at the Citadel of Saladin in Cairo.

According to Brigadier General Hisham Samir, Assistant Minister for antiquities projects, the external maintenance works of the mosque included cleaning and restoring domes, cleaning the marble floor in the courtyard, and restoring and gilding the inscription at the entrance to the prayer house and the ablution dome. The marble ablution fountain has also been also renovated.

Work in the outer courtyard of the mosque also included cleaning the circular hoops in the lower and upper parts of the columns, which resulted in discovering a seal belonging to Mohammed Ali Pasha.

The glass for the lower windows in the courtyard was reinstalled, and new lighting was added.

The restoration work also addressed the prayer house inside the mosque, which included cleaning, polishing, and re-installing the chandelier in the center of the prayer house.

Director of the Technical Office of the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Atef al-Dabbah, said that the restoration work of the clock tower began in December 2020. The tower was cleaned, restored, and re-painted to bring back its natural luster.

The timepiece is now being restored, he added.

The clock tower is a metal tower decorated with inscriptions and stained glass panels. It carries a clock given to Mohammed Ali Pasha by the King of France Louis Philippe in 1846 AD, to be placed in Ali's palace in Shubra.

It was stored in the palace until the Khedive Abbas I decided to install it in the mosque in 1856 AD

The Mohammad Ali Mosque is located in the western corner of the southern part of the citadel, where it overlooks the city of Cairo. It is considered one of its most notable archaeological and tourist attractions, and is also known as the "Alabaster Mosque".


Tunisia-A rise in the price of Drinking water

Following a decision of the ministry of agriculture published in the JORT of May 21, 201, the price of drinking water reserved for domestic consumption has risen as follows:

200 millimes per cubic meter if the consumption during the three months is equivalent to or less than 20 cubic meters.

665 millimes per cubic meter if consumption during the three months has ranged between more than 20 and less than 40 cubic meters.

810 millimes per cubic meter if the consumption during the three months has altered between more than 40 and less than 70 cubic meters.

1120 millimes per cubic meter if the consumption during the three months has changed between more than 70 and less than 100 cubic meters.

1290 millimes per cubic meter if consumption during the three months has varied between more than 100 and less than 150 cubic meters

1620 millimes per cubic meter if the consumption during the three months surpassed 150 cubic meters.


Borders will partially reopen at the beginning of June

Algeria will partially reopen its borders, which has been closed since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, "from the beginning of June," the country's presidency announced this Sunday.

The reopening will begin with "a plan of five daily flights to and from the airports of Algiers, Constantine and Oran", the largest cities in the country, from June 1.

It will be conducted in "strict compliance" with preventive measures.


Covid-19: Qatar eases restrictions; limited gatherings, events for vaccinated people

Qatar said on Wednesday that leisure and education centres and restaurants can reopen at limited capacity as of Friday under a phased easing of coronavirus-related measures.

A cabinet statement on state media allowed limited gatherings at homes for vaccinated people and said malls can operate at 30 per cent capacity, but children under 12 are not allowed.

Gyms, pools and salons can also reopen at limited capacity but bans remain on weddings, conferences and exhibitions.

Local and international sporting events can take place with fully vaccinated fans at 30 per cent capacity in open-space venues with permission from the public health ministry.

The Gulf Arab state said earlier this month that it would gradually lift coronavirus-related measures in four phases starting the first phase on May 28 and the fourth on July 30.

Qatar recorded 306 new Covid-19 infections on Wednesday to take its total 216,397 cases with 552 deaths.


Qatar's private health centres to resume services at 50% capacity

Qatar's private health facilities will resume providing non-urgent services, the state news agency [QNA] reported on Wednesday, citing a cabinet statement.

The decision comes after almost a month-long suspension as part of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus infections, following a surge in daily cases.

Since the strict measures were imposed on April 9th, Qatar's health authorities have recorded a decrease in daily cases, going from over 900 daily cases to just below 700.

However, the number of coronavirus-related fatalities have continued, with the total death toll surpassing 400 in April. Health officials have attributed this to the spread of the the more severe UK and South African strains.

According to official health ministry figures, eight people died from the novel coronavirus in December. The number decreased to three in January before shooting up to 10 in February, including an 11-year-old child.

However, things have taken a turn for the worse since then, and in just four months, the total number of deaths doubled, recording up to 200 deaths since the start of this year.

Despite this, Qatar has been making strides in its vaccination campaign, with more than half a million of the population now fully vaccinated.

On Wednesday, 690 new infections were recorded, raising the number of cases to 17,526. The country also recorded 4 new deaths, bumping the total coronavirus death toll to 445.

A total of 186,318 people have also recovered from the virus, with 1,606 recoveries recorded on Wednesday alone.


Saudi Arabia: No quarantine for Covid-vaccinated travellers

Vaccinated travellers need not quarantine upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, it was announced on Tuesday.

According to Arab News, the Kingdom's General Authority of Civil Aviation lifted the quarantine requirements for those who had been fully inoculated.

Travellers must also possess a vaccination certificate attested by their home country to be exempt from quarantine. The approved vaccines are Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson.

GACA has set a seven-day isolation period for unvaccinated foreign travellers.

The spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Dr Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly, insisted that Covid vaccines were safe, effective and necessary for protection. He also criticised the rampant misinformation surrounding them, saying that it posed a hindrance to achieving herd immunity.


Covid: Visas for stranded expats to be extended for free in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia will extend the validity of residence permits for expatriates who are stranded outside the country due to Covid travel restrictions, the Kingdom announced on Monday.

The General Directorate of Passports noted that the decision - which also applies to visit visas - involves an automatic extension without fees until June 2, 2021.

The move is in line with the Kingdom's continuous efforts to deal with the effects and consequences of the Covid pandemic, and lessen its economic impact.

The General Directorate of Passports confirmed that the extension will be done automatically in cooperation with the National Information Centre without the need to visit its departments.

Last month, Saudi Arabia announced that its ban on international flights from 20 countries will stay, even after May 17, when the Kingdom resumes international flights.

The list of countries from which entry is banned include the UAE, India and Pakistan.


Saudi Arabia to build 53,000 new residential units in Riyadh

Saudi Crown Prince HRH Muhammad Bin Salman, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, has announced plans to build 53,000 new residential units in the north of capital Riyadh and transfer their ownership to the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, reported Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

This comes in line with the Crown Prince's plan to double the number of housing units in the capital and help boost the rate of home ownership of nationals.

As per the directive from Saudi Crown Prince, new residential plots will be allocated on an area of 20 million sq m north of Riyadh in addition to the transfer of their ownership to the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing.

This allocation aims to increase the residential area of Al Jawan suburb from 10 million sq m to 30 million sq m as well as to build additional fully served housing units up to 53,000 units in partnership with the private sector, in order to be added to the previously announced 20,000 housing units.

This reflects HRH Crown Prince's continued support to the housing sector, and is in line with his ambitious plan to increase the percentage of Saudi families' home ownership to 70% in the next 10 years as part of Kingdom Vision 2030 programme. The government is now working to increase the ownership percentage of first homes from 47% to 60% within four years.

The proper planning and various solutions in the sector in addition to the supporting the real estate supply and enacting regulations and legislation have contributed to achieving this goal by the end of 2020, in implementation of Crown Prince's directives and the objectives of the housing programme, said the SPA report.

Lauding the initiative, Majed Al Hogail, Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, said: "The additional lands allocated to the housing sector north of Riyadh will provide more than 53,000 various housing units that real estate developers will work on, taking into account the quality of services that meet the aspirations of citizens."

According to him, this gesture from HRH the Crown Prince comes in line with the development plans of Riyadh City in the economic, social, cultural and constructional fields in order to advance the services and facilities related to the citizen's life.

"This step is expected to enable more Saudi families to own homes and to generate more investment opportunities in order to enhance the private sector's participation, in line with the growth of Riyadh and its objective to become one of the 10 largest economic cities in the world and increase its population to 15-20 million by 2030," stated the minister.

According to him, the positive outcomes in the housing sector are attributed to the diligent follow-up and directives of HRH Crown Prince, who is the main supporter of the housing sector's development.

Al Hogail pointed out that the housing sector contributed more than SR115 billion ($31 billion) to the GDP and created about 40,000 direct and indirect jobs. "Riyadh represents nearly 50% of the non-oil economy in the kingdom," he added.

He said the cost of developing the infrastructure and real estate in Riyadh was around 29 per cent less than other cities, which would accelerate the injection of development projects in its various sectors and fields, including the housing sector, which is one of the most important sectors for the economy and attracts the investors.


Saudi resumes international travel with ban on 13 countries including India, Lebanon

Saudi Arabia is resuming international travel from Monday, May 17, although entry will be banned from 13 countries, the Ministry of Interior announced on Sunday.

The 13 countries facing the ban include Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Somalia, Democratic Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Belarus, and India.

Travellers will not be allowed entry even if they visit one of the banned nations indirectly through a third country, without prior permission from the pertinent authorities, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) cited a source at the Ministry of Interior as saying.

The move comes due to the "security circumstances and the instability in a number of countries as well as the continuation of the coronavirus pandemic and the spread of new variant strains of the virus in others", the source said.

The ban will also extend to "any other country that is yet to control the pandemic" or is proven to have an outbreak of a variant strain of the virus.

The kingdom had imposed a ban on 20 countries in early February to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus including the UAE, Germany, the US, the UK, South Africa, France, Egypt, Lebanon, India, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

However, travel to most of those countries will now be permitted.

The ministry urged all citizens looking to travel to "avoid spots of instability or those witnessing the virus outbreak and to abide by all precautionary measures, regardless of their destinations".

In January, Saudi Arabia pushed the date for the full reopening of its air, land and sea borders and the resumption of all international flights to May 17.


Saudi GACA sets new conditions for returning expats

The Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has announced new procedures for permitting entry of all non-Saudi citizens and exempted travellers into the kingdom.

As per these new GACA rules, which will come into force from May 20, those passengers who have received full doses of one of the vaccines approved by the Ministry of Health will be allowed into the country in reference to the Ministry of Interior statement regarding institutional quarantine procedures for all arrivals to Saudi Arabia from countries for whose travellers are not suspended, according to Saudi Press Agency.

In a circular sent to all airlines operating in the kingdom, GACA said they must ensure all travellers over the age of 8 barring Saudi citizens or other exempted groups carried coronavirus test certificates approved in the kingdom not exceeding 72 hours from the scheduled flight departure.

It stipulates the application of the institutional quarantine on non-Saudi citizens and the unvaccinated exempted travellers, coming from exempted countries.

The GACA circular also stated that all unvaccinated travellers will have to bear expenses for their institutional quarantine, which will be included in their ticket price with a valid health insurance policy to cover the risks that may result from infection with Covid-19.

The authorities also said that non-Saudi passengers and the exempted groups who have received full doses of one of the vaccines approved by the Ministry of Health will be allowed to enter the kingdom without the need to quarantine themselves provided they present an official vaccination certificate before and upon their arrival, reported SPA.

They have urged airlines to conclude contracts with shelter and accommodation centers authorized by the Ministry of Tourism to accommodate the above-mentioned categories who meet the conditions of institutional quarantine for a period of seven days, provided that a medical test is done for each of them on the sixth day to show a negative result, it added.


Saudi Arabia reopens King Fahd Causeway link to Bahrain

Saudi Arabia reopened the King Fahd Causeway road linking the kingdom to Bahrain on Monday, May 17.

Ten new lanes have been added to the departure area, taking the total number of lanes up to 27, as well as 36 lanes in the arrival area, said Duwaihi Al-Sahli, director of King Fahd Causeway Passports, in a statement reported by state-run Saudi Press Agency.

The renovation project will see the bridge's passenger capacity increase by 45 per cent.

King Fahd Causeway was opened in 1986, and today it is one of the busiest land border crossings in the Middle East with an estimated 390 million passengers having used the bridge since its opening.

The re-opening of the King Fahd Causeway will add billions of dollars to Bahrain's economy as visitor levels return to pre-pandemic levels.

"Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have had longstanding tourism and trade ties, with trade between our two countries growing 43 per cent during the third quarter of 2020," said Dr. Ali Al-Moulani, president of the Bahrain Economists Society, earlier this year.

Bahrain welcomed 11.1 million visitors last year, with 9.7 million (88 per cent) arriving via the King Fahd Causeway, according to tourism data for 2019.

The reopening of the Causeway is expected to eventually add around $2.9bn to Bahrain's economy this year based on average tourist spending in 2019.

However, certain travel restrictions are still in place in both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain as a result of the pandemic.

Those travelling from Saudi Arabia must either be vaccinated or recently recovered from the Covid-19 virus, and the proof of this must be available on the Tawakkalna app. A coronavirus insurance certificate is required for those under the age of 18.

Passengers travelling from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia meanwhile will be required to use GCC-approved health apps confirming their status whether they have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19. Passengers will also need to provide PCR certificates confirming that they have tested negative for Covid-19, ensuring that the test result does not exceed 72 hours from the time of taking the sample.


Validity of iqamas, visas of expats stranded in countries facing travel ban to be extended

RIYADH - The validity of iqamas (residency permits), exit and re-entry visas, as well as visit visas of expatriates who are currently stranded in the countries facing travel ban, will be extended until June 2, 2021 free of cost, the Saudi Press Agency reported citing a royal order.

The free extension of the validity period of iqamas and visas granted by the finance minister at the directives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman is part of the continuous efforts taken by the government to ensure the safety of citizens and residents and to mitigate its economic and financial impacts on them.

According to the SPA, the General Directorate of Passports (Jawazat) has confirmed that the extension will be done automatically in cooperation with the National Information Center.


Dubai further expands free vaccination drive

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has introduced a service that allows those eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine within the emirate to book their appointments through WhatsApp.

To access the 247 WhatsApp hotline, users will have to add 800 342 to their contacts and send a message with the word "Hi" on WhatsApp. To book for the Covid-19 vaccine appointment, users must submit their Medical Record Number (MRN).

They can then select the vaccination centre and the appointment date and time as per their convenience.

The AI-enabled system will provide the earliest appointment options in the selected centre. Users will then receive a confirmation message with the name of the centre, date and timing of their appointment.

"During the Covid-19 pandemic, it's been important more than ever before to connect the public with official sources of accurate health information. We are pleased to be able to partner with the DHA to help provide the community in Dubai with a quick and simple way to book their essential vaccines via WhatsApp," said Ramez ShehadiS.

The automated chatbot application is a free service, available in multiple languages, and was initially developed to raise awareness among the public and provide them with accurate information about Covid-19 as well as other DHA services.

Over 150,000 COVID-19 queries have already been addressed through this Whatsapp service, reported Dubai Media Office.

"Through the use of AI technology and this additional channel to book an appointment for the Covid-19 vaccine, we aim to provide community members with the utmost convenience. The new service will further bolster our vaccination drive," said Fatma Al Khajah, director of the Customer Happiness Department at DHA.

Al Khajah added that the new system operates round-the-clock and provides customers the opportunity to instantly book an appointment as per their convenience.

Up until now, the health authority has been providing the public with the option of booking the vaccination through the DHA app. The vaccines are available for free for those aged 12 and over. Customers who are 60 and above can call the DHA's helpline number 800 342 to book an appointment over the phone itself.

Dubai plans to vaccinate all eligible adults within the emirate by the end of the year

Officials in the emirate recently confirmed that only those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to attend events held within the country starting June 6, 2021.

The UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) said that the total number of doses of the Covid-19 vaccines administered within the country stands at 12,870,553 as of Monday, with a vaccine distribution rate of 130.13 doses per 100 people.


Dubai metro opens two new Route 2020 stations

Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) yesterday (June 1) launched the first journey on the Dubai Investment Park Station and Expo 2020 Station on Route 2020 of the Dubai Metro, which runs from Al Rashidiya Station on the Red Line to Expo 2020 Station.

The opening of the two new stations comes six months after the opening of Route 2020, which launched its maiden journey on January 1 with four stations namely Jebel Ali (a transfer station on the Red Line), The Gardens, The Discovery Gardens, and Al Furjan.

"From June 1, journeys of Dubai Metro's Red Line will shuttle directly between Al Rashidiya Station and Expo 2020 Station. Jebel Ali Station will be an interchange station for those heading to or coming from UAE Exchange Station," stated Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, Director-General, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of RTA.

"As of this date, the metro service to Expo 2020 Station will be available only to those entitled to access the site of Expo until its official public opening on 1st October. By that time, the public can use the metro service to Expo. The opening of the Jumeirah Golf Estates Station will coincide with the opening of Expo," he added.

According to him, the opening of the two stations on Route 2020 concurs with the start of the countdown of Dubai's hosting of Expo 2020.

This mega global event, which runs from October 1 to March 31, 2022, features the participation of 190 countries. It follows the successful completion of all tests relating to the performance efficiency and safety of the rail systems, and the test runs by the network operator to verify its readiness before the start of the public service.

31 successful trial tests were conducted spanning the operations control centre, stations operations, rolling stock crews, engineering & maintenance teams, and emergency services," explained Al Tayer.

RTA also completed the training of 152 staff in preparation for PhaseTwo of Route 2020 operation, he added.


Abu Dhabi's largest solar-powered car park to open at international airport

Abu Dhabi Airports and Masdar have announced the completion of Abu Dhabi's largest solar-powered car park, which will save 5,300 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

The 3-megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic (PV) project is installed on the car shading at the short-term car park of the Midfield Terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport, with 7,542 solar panels producing electricity.

The energy generated by the grid-connected project will be used to power the car parking facility, with excess energy fed to other sections of the airport.

"Net-zero development has been a central ethos in the design and construction of the Midfield Terminal. By making smart and sustainable choices during its development in our use of double glazing, efficient lighting, and environmental controls, we have achieved considerable reductions across the building's wider energy use," said Shareef Al Hashmi, CEO of Abu Dhabi Airports.

"Throughout its development, we have integrated technology which enables sustainability, protects the environment, and creates a cleaner, greener, and more ecologically friendly building," added Al Hashmi.

The UAE's Energy Strategy 2050 aims to increase the percentage of clean energy in the country's energy mix to 50 percent.

Masdar's Energy Services department provided a full turnkey solution for the project, including financing, design, procurement and construction, reported news agency WAM. Under the terms of the lease agreement, Masdar will also provide operation and maintenance services for a 25-year period.

"The delivery of this landmark project for the new Midfield Terminal highlights the commitment of Masdar and Abu Dhabi Airports to supporting the UAE's Energy Strategy 2050 and its climate change mitigation goals, as well as demonstrating Masdar's strength as a preferred partner in renewable energy project collaborations," said Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, CEO of Masdar.

In related news from the emirate, a 2GW Al Dhafra Solar Photovoltaic power plant is being developed in Abu Dhabi - set to be the world's largest when operational - and will produce electricity at one of the most cost-competitive tariffs for solar PV energy, set at Dhs4.97 fils/kWh ($1.35 cents/kWh). Once fully operational, the plant will increase Abu Dhabi's solar power capacity to approximately 3.2GW.


Dubai villa prices rise 3.9% as demand drives property market recovery in Q1

Dubai's residential sector enjoyed a strong first quarter, with increased transactions, and broad improvements in villa prices, reflecting growing market confidence, according to Chestertons MENA.

Total transaction value increased by 14.4 percent compared to the previous quarter and 38.8 percent on an annual basis, with volumes rising by 5 percent and 12.1 percent respectively, the real estate consultants said.

"Overall demand appeared broad-based, with the rise in transactions driven by increased interest from international buyers as well as local investment and end-user demand," added Chris Hobden, head of Strategic Consultancy, Chestertons MENA.

The total sales value of completed properties increased 15.4 percent compared to the previous three months and near-doubled annually, with transaction volume rising 12.9 percent and 64.4 percent respectively.

While the total value of off-plan sales increased 11.8 percent on a quarterly basis, it remained 22.2 percent down year-on-year, with total sales volume falling 6.8 percent and 28.8 percent respectively.

Off-plan sales remained low due to limited new launches, developer promotions on recently completed units and broadly attractive resale prices, said Hobden .

He told Arabian Business that strong demand for villas across popular residential areas in Dubai continued during Q1, supporting broad price rises.

Average villa prices rose 3.9 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2020 and also surpassed their Q1 2020 level, rising 1.1 percent annually.

Apartment prices were broadly stable, rising 0.1 percent on a quarterly basis but they remained 7.2 percent below their Q1 2020 average.

"However, stability in the quarterly average belies an increased divergence between the performance of more popular residential areas and secondary locations," Hobden said.


Abu Dhabi to lift quarantine measures for international travellers from July 1 - reports

A senior official from Abu Dhabi's tourism department has confirmed plans to lift all quarantine measure for international travellers arriving in the emirate starting July 1.

"Abu Dhabi will be open for everyone with no quarantine protocol starting from July 1," Ali Al Shaiba, executive director of tourism and marketing at the Department of Culture and Tourism, told The National on the sidelines of Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.

"We are going to welcome everybody to Abu Dhabi with a different [travelling] protocol but no quarantine."

The media report indicated the quarantine restrictions are expected to be lifted for passengers from all countries, except India, by July 1.

There are 23 destinations currently on the emirate's green list including Japan, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Passengers arriving from the green list destinations are exempt from mandatory quarantine measures after landing in Abu Dhabi and will only be required to undergo PCR testing upon arrival at Abu Dhabi Airport.

Earlier this month, Abu Dhabi also revised the rules regarding mandatory Covid-19 testing and home quarantine requirements for vaccinated arrivals who are either UAE citizens or residents of the emirate.

Effective Monday, May 3, vaccinated UAE citizens and residents arriving from 'green list' countries must take a PCR test on arrival and on day six, without having to quarantine.

Vaccinated residents and citizens arriving from countries which are not on the green list must take a PCR test on arrival and quarantine for five days. They must take another PCR test on day four of their arrival to the UAE.

Non-vaccinated citizens and residents of Abu Dhabi meanwhile arriving from the green list countries must take a PCR test on arrival. They do not need to quarantine, but must take two other PCR tests on days six and 12.


UAE: New virtual device connects doctors to patients

"This will allow doctors to remotely conduct a full patient examination, listen to the patient's heart, look into the eyes or ears, and even do an electrocardiography for heart conditions," said Dr Haidar Al Yousuf, managing director of Al- Futtaim Health.

The technology allows a nurse and physician to conduct a medical exam from patients' home and remotely diagnose and treat common symptoms such as fever, cold, ear infection, stomach ache, sore throat, congestions, urinary symptoms, etc.

SmartDoc is equipped with the latest diagnostic technology to check vitals such as pulse-oximeter, weight/height and BMI, thermometer, non-invasive blood pressure, ECG, electronic stethoscope, spirometer, respiratory rate and glucometer.

"PCR tests can also be arranged, provided all symptoms match with regulatory guidelines," added Dr Yousuf.

In addition, SmartDoc uses advanced instruments that can record audiogram hearing and video laryngoscope tests, along with PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) medical cameras. The cameras are fully controlled by the physician with their patient, while simultaneously viewing real-time comprehensive medical data to determine the appropriateness of telemedicine on a case-by-case basis.

"The device connects the patient to a physician in real time for a full diagnosis," said Dr Yousuf. "The service is focused on increasing access by reaching the patient at home or work, elevating quality of care, capabilities, and expertise in the healthcare space."

Following this, depending on requirement, samples are collected for further tests and medicines are also delivered to patients' homes.

The device and service were launched in partnership with global insurance provider MetLife.

Andrew Stocker, head of employee benefits at MetLife Gulf told Khaleej Times the service was launched as a long-term solution to make healthcare services more accessible to insured UAE residents in a post-pandemic world.

"Currently, only members in Dubai have access to the programme. We will roll it out across the UAE over time," said Dr Yousuf.

A video of the device and working methodology was showcased to the media at the Al-Futtaim Health headquarters in Dubai Festival City on Tuesday. The services will be rolled out to segments of MetLife's corporate insured members starting July 3, officials said.

The service is not entirely limited to MetLife members. Over time, it will be rolled out to patients with other insurance policies too.

"Co-payment for the SmartDoc depends on the patient's insurance policy. In the case of MetLife, there is no co-payment for telehealth services. Members may be responsible for a co-pay for the Smart Doc consultation, labs and tests, or medicine in accordance to the plan," explained Stocker.

He said MetLife currently has about 400,000 health insurance members in the UAE.

Speaking at the side-lines of the event, Saleh Al Hashimi, the CEO of Dubai Health Insurance Corporation, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said, "Our goal is to move away from paying for surgeries and go towards preventive care. The country's healthcare sector has experienced tremendous growth over the past decade."


Dubai's Covid restrictions eased: Vaccinated residents rejoice

Dubai residents expressed happiness and relief, as the Emirate announced a relaxation of rules on a series of events and activities that were earlier suspended due to a consistent rise in the number of daily Covid-19 cases since the beginning of this year.

Sherry Aggarwal, a public relations consultant, welcomed the heartening news for the event industry. "Fewer restrictions will give us a platform to kickstart events properly again. Previously, we were not able to plan events involving a larger number of people owing to Covid-19 safety measures. Now, we can plan bigger events that have been allowed as per the new guidelines. We can think of better ideas to promote brands, host media and blogger events, and host activities and meet-ups with all vaccinated participants."

Christian Wuenscher, a German expatriate living in Dubai and a personal trainer and food coach, expressed his joy as the emirate heralded its bid to 'open with care' while complying with all safety measures.

"I'm very happy that Dubai is taking precautionary measures and opening up gradually. It's good to see that people are abiding by the rules and acting in a disciplined manner. I've noticed that an increasing number of people are getting vaccinated as they learn more about the importance of its benefits. Such measures of opening up Dubai with care will encourage other emirates to follow suit," he said.

Wuenscher, who, along with his wife, took the Covid-19 jab a month ago, said vaccination is the need of the hour and is crucial to beat the pandemic. "I hope the UAE manages to keep its Covid-19 cases low - just like it is has since Eid Al Fitr - and as we're approaching the launch of Expo 2020 on October 1.

"I'm so happy to see the city get back to normal and the country has done an exceptionally good job in vaccinating over 70 per cent of its residents," he added. "The restrictions were required to help the economy bounce back and it's important to take all precautions to keep the momentum going."

Supriya Singhal, an Indian expatriate and homemaker, said the news of Dubai's bid to relax rules brightened up her day.

"We have waited a long time to meet up with our loved ones. I feel we can have such happy moments back once again now. My family and I got ourselves vaccinated early on, in the hope of keeping ourselves and our folks safe. I'm glad we can now meet up with our vaccinated friends. I believe this will encourage others in my circle to also get vaccinated and be safe."

Singhal said she and her family had also avoided taking staycations for a long time and stayed mostly indoors, but the news of all hotel staff having been vaccinated augured well for an opportunity to indulge in such outdoor activities.


Dubai Investment Park, Expo stations to open on June 1

Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has announced that the Dubai Investment Park and Expo 2020 stations on Dubai Metro Route 2020 network, which runs from Al Rashidiya Station on the Red Line to Expo 2020 Station, would be opened on June 1.

The opening of these two new stations comes six months after the opening of Route 2020, which launched its maiden journey on January 1 with four stations namely Jebel Ali (a transfer station on the Red Line), The Gardens, The Discovery Gardens, and Al Furjan.

A French-Japanese consortium of Keolis, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering, and Mitsubishi Corporation, will officially take over the operation and maintenance of the Dubai Metro and the operation of the Dubai Tram as of September 8 for 15 years (9 basic years renewable to further six years).

During the current preparatory period, the consortium will engage in full coordination with the current operator in carrying out tasks to ensure a high level of safety for network users.

The process warrants seamless monitoring of the safety of the metro and tram systems, improving the process and ensuring full integration between the metro and tram as well as other transit means. It will also cater to the smooth transfer of employees of the current operator to the new operator.

Since the start of operations, Route 2020 has carried out 27,043 journeys: 6,938 journeys in January, 6,287 journeys in February, 6,986 journeys in March, and 6,832 journeys in April.

"From June 1, journeys of Red Line will shuttle directly between Al Rashidiya and Expo 2020 Station. Jebel Ali Station will be an interchange station for those heading to or coming from UAE Exchange Station," said Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, Director-General, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of RTA.

"Metro service to Expo 2020 Station will be available only to those entitled to access the site of Expo until its official public opening on October 1. By that time, the public can use the metro service to Expo. The opening of the Jumeirah Golf Estates Station will coincide with the opening of Expo," he stated.

Al Tayer pointed out that the opening of the two stations on Route 2020 concurs with the start of the countdown of Dubai's hosting of Expo 2020.

"The travel time between Al Rashidiya and Expo Stations will be 1 hour and 14 minutes. The service frequency will be 2 minutes and 38 seconds during peak time at a rate of 24 trains per hour per direction, and a capacity of 16,000 riders per hour per direction," he noted.

"The travel time between Jebel Ali Station and the UAE Exchange Station will be 11 minutes and 42 seconds, with a constant service frequency of 7 minutes and 30 seconds," said Al Tayer.

According to him, the new operator of the Dubai Metro (consortium of Keolis, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering, and Mitsubishi Corporation) will shortly be engaged in the operation of Dubai Metro processes in full coordination with the current operator (Serco).

The step will pave the way for the smooth transfer of the metro operation and maintenance processes, and the Dubai Tram operation to the new operator as of September 8.

"RTA has designated 35 buses to serve Route 2020 stations to commute riders from and to the metro stations. Two bus routes will serve The Gardens Station, two routes will call at The Discovery Gardens Station and two routes will pass through Al Farjan Station, in addition to five bus routes moving through the Dubai Investment Park Station. The taxi service will be available at the operated stations," stated Al Tayer.

One underground station and one elevated station will be opened this June. The underground station is the Dubai Investment Park Station. It spans 27,000 sq m in area and extends 226 m in length. It can serve 13,899 riders per hour during peak times and 250,000 riders per day.

"The elevated station is the iconic Expo 2020 Station. It is the terminal station of Route 2020 that mainly serves visitors of Expo. It has a unique plane-wing design symbolising Dubai's future drive towards innovation," observed the RTA chief.

The station spans 18,800 sq m in area and extends 119 m in length. It can serve 29,000 riders per hour during peak times and 522,000 riders per day.

The station has 3 boarding platforms and 3 routes. It is linked from the Eastern side with Expo and Expo Coex, and from the Western side with the Mall and the urban complex.

The station design serves the integration with public transit means with spaces for buses and taxis stands comprising 6 bus stands, 20 taxi stands and 4 parking slots for people of determination. It also offers 9 outlets of 264 sq m for commercial investment in addition to 4 spaces as points of sale.

The Jumeirah Golf Estates Station, which will start operation with the opening of Expo 2020, is the biggest underground metro station in the entire Dubai Metro network. It spans 28,700 square metres in area and extends 232 metres in length.- TradeArabia News Service


Coronavirus: UAE schools prepare to vaccinate pupils aged 12 to 15

Schools in the UAE are planning for the imminent launch of a vaccination campaign for pupils aged between 12 and 15.

It follows last week's approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children of these ages in the UAE on an emergency basis.

Principals believe the move will reassure parents about sending their children to school.

In March and April, hundreds of pupils aged 16 and above were given the Covid-19 shot here.

Now efforts are turning to inoculating the lower age range in co-operation with health authorities and regulators, and some schools want to set up vaccination centres on site.

"More than 42,000 pupils are now eligible for inoculation across the Gems Education network, joining the 14,700 Gems teachers and school support staff already vaccinated," said Elmarie Venter, chief operations officer at the private company.

"We are in advanced talks with health authorities and education regulators to help in the roll-out of the vaccine for pupils in our schools over the coming days.

"As we did for pupils aged 16 and above, we intend to set up vaccination centres within a selection of our schools to make it as easy as possible for Gems pupils to receive the vaccine."

While some schools may set up their own centres, others might book appointments for children at government sites.

The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention said on Thursday that approval was given after successful clinical trials and assessments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Aldar Education, Abu Dhabi's largest school group, is trying to obtain Covid-19 vaccines for its pupils.

"We are in discussion with government agencies and health partners to see how Aldar Education can support this campaign," said Dave Taylor, group director of operations.

About 250 pupils aged 16 and above at Taaleem schools have been immunised.

Gavin Hyatt, head of operations at Taaleem, said it was exploring opportunities to drive the campaign.

Mr Hyatt said that once these agreements were in place, the schools would encourage pupils to take part.

"We have already seen significant positive changes in the schools since the introduction of staff vaccinations and for our Grade 12 pupils," he said.

Rashmi Nandkeolyar, principal of Delhi Private School Dubai, said it was planning an inoculation initiative.

"Vaccinations will help make schools safer," Ms Nandkeolyar said.

The school encouraged pupils aged 16 and above to take an injection and many have been vaccinated.

More than 97 per cent of the 400 staff members at the school have been vaccinated.

Data on whether the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be given to children aged between 5 and 11 is expected as early as this summer.

If the trials go well, young children could be vaccinated by the end of the year, BioNTech co-founder Dr Ozlem Tureci said.

Coronavirus case numbers have been dropping sharply in the UAE over the past few weeks.

The UAE on Monday reported its lowest daily number of cases this year, with 1,229 new infections.

Authorities brought in one of the world's fastest vaccination drives and used mass testing to tackle the pandemic.


Etihad introduces home check-in packages for customers in Abu Dhabi

UAE national carrier, Etihad Airways, has partnered with DUBZ powered by dnata, to offer its passengers in Abu Dhabi the facility to check in their bags, pick their seat and collect their boarding pass and luggage tags, all from their home.

Passengers can also book their Covid-19 PCR tests through the airline's medical partner, LifeDx, as part of the home check-in package. A certified nurse from LifeDx will conduct the test and results will be received by email and SMS between 24 to 48 hours.

To book the home check-in package, guests need to visit the airline's website a minimum of up to seven hours before their flight.

Check in agents will arrive at the location booked at the chosen time between 8am and 8pm.

The agent will check the passenger's travel documents, complete the check-in process and collect their bags. Seat selection can also be made at the same time and extra baggage allowance can be purchased too, if required.

Guests who want to board their flight early and receive their luggage first can add Priority Boarding and Priority Bag Tags for an additional fee.

Once these passengers arrive at Abu Dhabi International Airport, all non-transit passengers that used the home check-in service can skip the check-in queues at the airport and instead proceed straight to immigration. "Especially during the Covid pandemic, the home check-in service also limits human interaction at the airport as guests are able to head straight to immigration and avoid long lines at the airport," said John Wright, vice president global airport, network and cargo operations at Etihad Airways.

The passengers can finally collect their luggage directly at the baggage belt at their destination.

Home check-in packages start from Dhs220 which includes up to four bags, irrespective of the number of guests travelling. Additional baggage allowance can be added for Dhs40 per piece. Bag disinfection services can also be purchased separately.


Emirates-flydubai network to connect 168 destinations by end of May

The combined network of Emirates airlines and flydubai is on track to reach 168 destinations by the end of May, offering choice and seamless connectivity for travelers.

The two Dubai carriers have already flown close to 500,000 passengers since the revival of their strategic codeshare partnership in early September 2020.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Group and Chairman of flydubai, said the partnership continues to grow steadily to offer travellers even better connectivity to Dubai, and through Dubai to an extensive global network.

"We are seeing strong customer take-up and are excited to take the partnership to the next level by expanding services to new destinations," said Sheikh Ahmed.

The close collaboration between Emirates and flydubai also benefits Dubai as a business, leisure, and aviation hub with enhanced connectivity and travel flows from the combined network of both carriers as it continues to safely welcome visitors from around the world. "We're confident that both airlines will rebuild their networks even better, as they chart the path to recovery," he said.

In a joint statement, the carriers said Emirates customers can travel on codeshare flights to over 56 flydubai destinations, while flydubai customers can choose from over 82 Emirates destinations. Customers can also take advantage of an enhanced schedule spread across 30 destinations served by both airlines.

Customers connecting via Dubai to their final destination can look forward to a smooth transfer experience with reduced connection times between Emirates' Terminal 3 and flydubai's operations in Terminal 2.

Budget carrier flydubai recently announced the resumption of flights into 12 destinations in Russia, five cities in Iran, as well as flights to seasonal destinations in Georgia, Turkey and Montenegro, with more destinations expected to be announced in the coming months as countries open their borders for business and tourism.

"Both airlines continue to layer on a greater range of flight schedules with 16 additional countries opening up for international tourism with quarantine-free entry, including Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Djibouti, Finland, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Serbia, Tanzania, Ukraine and Uzbekistan," said the statement.

Both airlines have implemented extensive biosafety measures throughout the travel journey. This includes enhanced sanitisation, state-of-the-art HEPA filters onboard, amongst a number of other protocols. A large portion of crew and pilots across both airlines have also been fully vaccinated.


Dubai: Hire drivers via RTA on an hourly, weekly or monthly basis

Did you know that the Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) offers a service that lets you hire drivers on a daily, weekly or monthly basis?

Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) took to Twitter on Tuesday to remind residents about the service.

Rates for the 'My Driver' service start from Dh250 per day, Dh1,000 per week, and Dh3,500 per month.

Residents would need to provide a vehicle with comprehensive insurance and fuel.

The service was first launched in 2012. According to the RTA, until the end of 2020, it has served over 2,000 service requests.

Residents can apply for the service online or the DTC app.


DEWA to provide free charging to non-commercial electric vehicles in Dubai under new initiative

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has launched an EV Green Charger initiative, which provides a network of electric vehicle chargers across Dubai as part of the Dubai Green Mobile Strategy 2030.

By way of this strategy, the number of electric cars in Dubai increased to 2,473, and hybrid vehicle numbers rose to 6,016 as of February 2021.

DEWA has installed almost 300 charging stations across Dubai, including some in Hatta. EV customers registered under the EV Green Charger initiative can charge their vehicles by scanning a QR code at DEWA's charging station. Customer cans also use the EV Green Charging card.

DEWA will provide non-commercial EV customers registered in the initiative with free charging until the December 31, 2021. Commercial registered customers such as organization, governmental, and semi-governmental organisations will have to pay 29 fils for every kilowatt-hour.

The Road and Transport Authority (RTA) provides various incentives, including free parking, reduced vehicle registration fees, and exemption from the Salik tag fee.

To locate charging stations, customers can use DEWA's website or smart app and various other digital map platforms, including Google Maps, Apple Maps, Foursquare and others.

Researchers at DEWA's innovation centre have registered a new patent for a universal smart charging system that consists of a single cable and a plug, whether they use AC or DC charging.

The charging station's design is also user-friendly and a one-stop point for all types of electric vehicles, as it automatically adapts the plug and the charging to the vehicle's requirement.


Abu Dhabi taxis to now accept PayBy digital payments

The integrated transport centre (ITC) of the Department of Municipalities and Transport has said that taxis will begin accepting cashless fare payments through the PayBy starting May 16, 2021.

On arrival at a destination, passengers can scan a QR code provided by the driver. Upon scanning it, a password prompt will pop up, asking the passenger to confirm the transaction. A notification will indicate the completion of the payment.

PayBy allows users to add their credit cards to the application to pay, or users can top up their e-purses using bank cards online or through cash kiosks.

The app also offers limited-time payment vouchers to users , which customers can also use to pay their fare. Additionally, drivers will receive payment success incentives to promote the new cashless method.

PayBy has also recently partnered with TAMM, Abu Dhabi's digital ecosystem, to facilitate contactless payment for all government services through its 'Abu Dhabi Pay' (AD Pay) platform.

AD Pay allows businesses and customers to access a variety of services and conduct government-related transactions online.


Covid-19: Dubai issues new precautionary measures for restaurants, weddings and events

Officials in Dubai have announced a raft of new Covid-19 precautionary measures for events, weddings, restaurants, and hotels, within the emirate.

The new rules issued on Monday, May 17, by Dubai's Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management are effective immediately.

Weddings are permitted with a maximum attendance of 100 people at venues and hotels. However, all attendees and staff present at these venues should be vaccinated.

Weddings at home are permitted too, though the attendance at these events is restricted to 30 people, and where all precautionary measures must be followed.

Entertainment venues can increase their capacity to 70 per cent, while occupancy ceilings of hotels have been raised to 100 per cent.

Permits will be given for concerts and social and institutional events on the condition that attendees and participants have been vaccinated.

Maximum attendees at indoor events have been capped at 1,500, and for outdoor events that cap stands at 2,500 people.

Restaurants can seat 10 people per table, while coffee shops can have six people at each table.

Community sports events are allowed, and spectators can attend provided all attendees , participants and staff have received their Covid-19 vaccine.

The committee added that wearing of facemasks and observing 2-metre physical distancing remains mandatory.


UAE driving licence can now be exchanged for UK version

Drivers who pass their test in the UAE can now exchange their licence for a British one.

New rules mean that motorists are no longer required to repeat their driving test if they move to the UK.

The decision, which came into effect on May 20, follows an analysis and public consultation by the UK's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

The same rules were extended to Taiwan, Ukraine and North Macedonia.

Under previous rules, drivers who had a UAE licence could use it for a year in the UK, before having to take a British theory and practical test. The process can often cost 1,000 ($1,400), depending on a person's driving skills.

The move will mostly benefit Emirati and expat students, UAE residents visiting the UK for longer periods, and expats who learnt in the Emirates and return home.

Exchanging an Emirati licence for a British one costs 43.

British officials said they were satisfied that the level of instruction and examination was sufficiently rigorous to be on par with the UK.

"Testing standards for the specified vehicle categories are equivalent and so there is no value in requiring the driver to repeat a test to get a GB licence," DVLA said, summing up the responses to its consultation.

"The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency has approved the standards for cars in respect of North Macedonia, Taiwan and Ukraine, and for cars and small motorcycles not exceeding 125cc in respect of United Arab Emirates."

Despite the change, Emiratis and UAE residents may face one clear hurdle - the vast majority of UAE licences are for automatic vehicles, whereas most UK cars are manual.

A driver with an automatic licence would have to find an automatic car, which have gradually grown in popularity, or take a small number of lessons and repeat the DVLA test.

Isabel Cadbury, 41, a British mother of two, has lived in Dubai for 13 years.

She learnt to drive and passed her test in Dubai and worried about having to relearn if she returns to the UK.

"This is great news. I was worried I wouldn't be able to pass my driving test in the UK, having driven in the Middle East for so many years," she said.

She failed tests in the UK several times and decided to learn in Dubai only when she moved from an apartment near the Metro line to a suburban villa.

"I think learning to drive in central London was more stressful than it is in Al Quoz," she said.

The cost of a driving course package in Dubai is in the region of Dh5,000 ($1,360), which includes 20 hours of lessons, theory test material and the fees for the theory and practical training.

The pass rate is about 45 per cent, Emirates Driving Institute says, similar to the UK level.

British expat Maria Alfarhan's daughter is due to leave home for university in the UK in September.

She would have had to learn to drive there, but can now spend her summer taking lessons in Dubai.

"This is excellent news. Our daughter can now make use of her time until she leaves in September and try to get her licence here instead of the UK," Ms Alfarhan said.


Markaz sets up e-vehicle charging stations at Kuwait properties

Kuwait Financial Centre (Markaz) said it has successfully installed electric vehicle charging stations at its properties - Al Nada Tower in Dasman and Al Maha Tower in Bneid Al Gar - in Kuwait.

Located in the heart of Dasman, Al Nada Tower is a 27-floor high-end residential tower overlooking Gulf Road. Similarly, Al Maha Tower, situated in Bnaid Al Gar, has 22 floors with spectacular views.

Both are ideal destinations due to their strategic locations near the city centers, trade zones and famous shopping centers.

A leading asset management and investment banking institution, Markaz said the charging stations located in dedicated parking spaces are operational and tenants can use the facilities free of cost.

These installations are in line with the growing trend for electric vehicle ownership in Kuwait, and to better serve the tenants' needs.

On the announcement, Khaled AlDousari, Analyst, Mena Real Estate, Markaz, said: "The installation of the charging stations reflects our commitment to delivering added value to our clients and enhancing the appeal and performance of our assets."

"Putting customers at the heart of our business, we develop commercial and residential real estate solutions that match the current and future needs of our valued tenants. We also attach great importance to making improvements to our offerings in line with new trends in the market and to the fullest satisfaction of our customers to maintain longer tenancy, lower turnover, and higher occupancy," stated AlDousari.

In keeping with this commitment, the company launched its second Sustainability Report in November 2020, covering the reporting period of 2018 and 2019.

The report, which is in alignment with the United Nations Development Program's Sustainable Development Goals and the Kuwait National Development Plan (KNDP), was aimed at measuring and evaluating its sustainability performance and reporting the results transparently to both its internal and external stakeholders.

He pointed out that Markaz had placed sustainability at the heart of its business model and the electric vehicle charging stations at its properties.

"We hope the new facilities, which represent our contribution towards achieving net-zero carbon footprint in Kuwait through our smart, environmentally friendly, and sustainable properties, will inspire our tenants and our stakeholders to adopt electric vehicles and embrace renewable solutions to reduce carbon emissions," he added.

One of its key units, Markaz Real Estate Fund (MREF) has achieved an annualised IRR of 7.61% and a total return of 6.42% since its inception in 2003.

It currently owns 17 income-generating properties that are distributed between investment and commercial properties across Kuwait's prime locations.

Furthermore, MREF has a total assets under management of KD68 million (as of April 2021) and has developed two main projects (Al Nada and Al Maha Towers).

These two towers feature superior amenities including rooftop infinity pools, fully equipped gyms, rooftop barbeque area, high-speed internet, 24/7 security services, landscaped gardens, and outdoor and indoor children play areas that enable kids to safely enjoy.

These amenities offer tremendous possibilities for achieving comfort, security, an independent lifestyle and enhanced quality of life.- TradeArabia News Service


Covid-19: Bahrain to close shopping malls for two weeks

Bahrain will close shopping malls, restaurants and coffee shops for two weeks starting from Thursday as part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, state TV reported.

Beauty salons, spas and barber shops will also close and no event or conference should be held during this period, it said, citing the national committee to combat the pandemic.


Swiss-Belhotel opens new 5-star property in Bahrain

Swiss-Belhotel International has announced the opening of its first 5-star hotel in the region - the Grand Swiss-Belhotel Waterfront Seef in Bahrain.

The upscale brand's foray into the heart of Bahrain comes a day after the opening of Swiss-Belsuites Admiral Juffair hotel.

Centrally located on the sea banks of the upscale Block 346, also known as Sea Front, in Seef district, the new hotel is merely 12.6 km from Bahrain International Airport, and is situated between the picturesque Al Reef Island and Water Garden City overlooking the Arabian Gulf.

Only a few minutes away from the property are the Bahrain's Financial Harbour, City Centre, World Trade Centre, and Diplomatic area, thus making it the ideal choice for leisure and business travellers.

Featuring 193 uniquely designed rooms and suites, and 6 well-appointed chalets where sophistication meets contemporary style, the Grand Swiss-Belhotel Waterfront Seef is equipped with outstanding facilities.

The spectacular hotel was inaugurated by Zayed Rashid Al Zayani, the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism in the presence of Laurent A. Voivenel, Senior VP (Operations & Development) EMEA & India and also Senior VP (Group Human Resources & Talent Development) at Swiss-Belhotel International as well as Fakhri Hindiyeh, General Manager of Grand Swiss-Belhotel Waterfront Seef and other officials.

Gavin M. Faull, Chairman and President of Swiss-Belhotel International, said: "We are committed to support the growth and development of tourism in Bahrain and ensuring the highest standards of quality. The Grand Swiss-Belhotel Waterfront Seef reflects the extraordinary spirit and genuine hospitality of Bahrain in a contemporary setting."

It marks the entry of the upscale brand in the Middle East bringing unique experiences to affluent travellers to the kingdom.

"We are delighted to bring this premium and elegant hotel to fruition in collaboration with the Swiss-Belhotel International team and want our guests to experience beautiful moments whether travelling for work or pleasure or simply enjoying a staycation. We hope our guests will feel inspired and enriched by their stay in this property," noted Faull.

On the launch, Voivenel said it was a significant milestone for Swiss-Belhotel International and a tremendous step forward in its growth momentum.

"This spectacular upscale hotel, with arguably the biggest room sizes within its league, is the perfect property to introduce our 5-star brand the 'Grand Swiss-Belhotel' in the Middle East," he remarked.

"We strongly believe it is an excellent addition to not just our portfolio but also the destination and look forward to delivering unforgettable and immersive experiences to our guests. Our top priority is the health, safety and well-being of our guests, team members and business associates," he said.

"Placing guests at the heart of a fascinating environment are the charming chalets boasting distinctive facilities and incredible experiences with beautiful spaces, a private swimming pool, large balconies overlooking the tranquil Seef and Reef Island and the mesmerizing Arabian Gulf, two-car garage, ensuite bathrooms and kitchenette," noted Voivenel.

According to him, Grand Swiss-Belhotel Waterfront, Seef promises "to take diners in Bahrain on extraordinary dining adventures with fantastic food and beverage venues to suit every occasion and mood."

"Exceptional menus, breath-taking settings, authentic cuisines, and world-class service paired with the chefs' creativity and passion, define the dining experiences at the property. Part of the multiple dining venues is Azure Cafe, Waterfront Restaurant, Sea Banks Pool Bar, Fattoush Lebanese restaurant, El Maestro Asador steakhouse, and Maestro bar," he added.

Voivenel said the new hotel offers everything guests need to enhance their experience. "It also boasts key facilities including a fitness centre offering the latest exercise and cardio machines from Precor, sauna, steam bath, temperature-controlled outdoor swimming pool in addition to two multi-purpose meeting rooms and a ballroom for up to 400 guests," he noted.

It also houses a business centre, concierge, 24-hour in-room dining, laundry and dry cleaning, spacious parking area and valet service, he added.


Bahrain Restricts Access for Unvaccinated Expats for 2 Weeks Amid Spike in COVID-19 Cases

The third (3rd) wave of COVID-19 is more harmful than the previous two (2). The speed of spreading is also fast. Hence, lockdowns and travel bans are again being implemented by the Government of different countries. Vaccination process is also sped up and it is made compulsory for everyone to take vaccines in order to avoid the number of cases.

You can't travel Bahrain Without Being Vaccinated

Bahrain's top committee to deal with coronavirus has decided to restrict access to most public facilities to only those who have taken the required doses of a coronavirus vaccine and those who have recently recovered from the disease, the Bahrain News Agency reported on Thursday.

The Restricting will Stay till 3rd June

The move, which has come into force on last week and will continue until June 3rd, 2021, is prompted by the spike in new cases, with the country registering whopping 2,354 cases on Wednesday.

Unvaccinated and Under Age People are Banned from Different Public Areas

As part of the new measures, those who are unvaccinated or under the age of 18 cannot enter shopping malls, retail shops, with the exception of supermarkets, banks, pharmacies and hospitals, restaurants, cinemas, salons, etc., as well as service centers and government offices.

Number of Additional Restrictions are Made for Selective Countries

The committee has also put in place a number of additional measures for passengers arriving from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal, which are the following:

Entry into Bahrain is restricted to holders of residence visas from these countries.

Passengers arriving from the aforementioned countries must quarantine for 10 days.

All arrivals from the mentioned countries are required to present a certificate confirming the result of a negative PCR test containing a QR code, no more than 48 hours before their arrival.

All arrivals must conduct a PCR test upon arrival, a second PCR test for arrivals who will stay in Bahrain for a period of more than 5 days, and a third PCR test ten days after the date of arrival for those who will reside in Bahrain for a period of more than 10 days.

Procedure to Travel to Saudi Arabia Through King Fahad Causeway

The King Fahd Bridge's authority has said that, All Saudi expats who have been vaccinated can come to Saudi Arabia through Bahrain.

The authority further said that,

The status of such Saudi expats are clear in the status on the Tawakkalna app that they have taken both doses of Covid-19 vaccine, the first dose or after getting corona vaccine after the corona positive.

Those who have taken 1st dose of Covid-19 vaccine must show the PCR certificate.

The certificate of PCR should not be older than 72 hours, otherwise expats will not be allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia through King Fahad Causeway.

Violating any kind of restriction can cause you unnecessary troubles. Follow the rules made by the Bahraini Government to enjoy a safe journey. Hopefully, you enjoyed reading the article. For more interesting news do visit our website and read more articles. Till then keep reading and sharing articles.


Tourists can now convert visit visas to work permits in Oman

Visitors entering Oman can now get their visas converted into work permits, the Royal Oman Police (ROP) has announced.

The rule also applies to those with family joining visas and student visas, among others, provided certain conditions are met.

According to Times of Oman, the following visas - stipulated in the Foreigners' Residence Law - can be converted into a work visa or temporary work visa:

Visit visa issued to residents of GCC countries

Visit visa issued to meet relatives and friends in the country

Single-entry tourist visas (valid for up to 10 days or a month)

Single and multiple entry business visas

Express visas

Investor visas

Student visas

Visas provided to sailors serving on-board, or passengers aboard cruise ships

Visas for owners of residential units and their family members


Oman: New fees for expat workers come into effect from June 1

Oman will levy new work permit fees on non-Omani workers from June 1, 2021.

"In order to provide job opportunities for citizens in the private sector in the upper and intermediate occupations and in the technical and specialised professions, with the framework," read a statement from the Ministry.

"The Ministry of Labour announces through the Ministerial Decision No. (2021/12) that the new fees for work permits for non-Omani workforces for upper and intermediate occupations and technical and specialised professions, as well as for new work permits and fees for new businesses, will be in force starting from June 1, 2021."

"This decision will include new applications and previously submitted requests in the event that the employers have not initiated the fee payment due before the date of implementation of this decision," the statement added.

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