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  02 Dec 2021, 10:58

Saudi Arabia, UAE report first Omicron cases in Gulf

   RIYADH, Dec 2, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - Saudi Arabia recorded the Gulf's first
confirmed case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, followed hours
later by a case in the UAE, health ministries in both countries said
Wednesday.

   "One case of the Omicron variant has been detected in the kingdom -- it
was a citizen coming from a North African country," a Saudi health ministry
official told the state SPA news agency.

   "He has been put in isolation, as have his contacts, and the necessary
health measures have been taken."

   The neighbouring United Arab Emirates announced later that it had also
detected its first Omicron case, in an "African woman arriving from an
African country via an Arab country", the health ministry said on Twitter.

   The variant was first announced by South Africa but has since been
discovered to have been present earlier in Europe.

   It has prompted governments around the globe to reimpose travel
restrictions, despite warnings from the World Health Organization this could
do more harm than good.

   Saudi Arabia last week halted flights from seven southern African
countries, mirroring similar moves by other government, but travel links with
North Africa have remained unaffected.

   The kingdom had been lifting some of the remaining restrictions it imposed
early in the pandemic, allowing worshippers at the Muslim holy places to
resume praying shoulder-to-shoulder from October.

   More than 47 million doses of Covid vaccine have been administered in the
kingdom, which has a population of nearly 35 million.

   Since the pandemic started, Saudi Arabia has recorded in excess of 549,000
cases of Covid-19, more than 8,800 of them fatal, while the UAE has
registered about 742,100 cases and more than 2,100 deaths.

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