The NCEMA has urged residents to get boosters jabs…

The National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) has made a series of announcements in relation to the new ‘Omicron’ variant of the Covid-19 virus. A development in this pandemic story that has been labeled as “alarming” by health authorities.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised concerns about certain characteristics of this variant, that could potentially render it a more potent threat. These include genetic mutations that suggest it’s a faster spreading pathogen than previous variants, but “this is based on current preliminary information that requires further research and investigation”. Remember, the variant was only first observed on November 12 of this year.

What is the UAE doing to help protect against this new strain

At the core of the response strategy, is a provision for everybody over the age of 18 that received their second shot of Pfizer or Sputnik V more than 6 months ago, to get a third ‘booster’ jab. The NCEMA added “the booster shot will also be provided for patients who have taken the Sinopharm vaccine.”

This booster programme will be rolled out via the UAE’s health authority apparatus. Priority will likely be given to the elderly and those suffering from chronic diseases.

The NCEMA also stated “there is a large percentage of children and students who are not vaccinated, and are in the process of being vaccinated, while a very small percentage are not vaccinated for medical reasons.”

There was also a reminder to keep following best practice personal hygiene protocols — behaviours such as sanitising hands and surfaces, wearing masks and respecting social distance.

Travel restrictions

Remember this is a nuanced and developing front on an already existing global health issue. Changes to restrictions on both inbound and outbound are highly likely. But, as of 10am on November 29, flights to and from the  following destinations have been placed on hold:

South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique.

On its website this morning Etihad has also confirmed that it is suspending flights to and from Morocco.

Travel to the UK

For those travelling at Christmas time, it’s important to be aware that the UK has also reintroduced its PCR on arrival mandate. For more information on how the requirement will be applied, read our full story.

Images: Getty