UAE expands COVID-19 vaccination drive

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask and gloves holds a sign at Mall of the Emirates after the UAE government eased a curfew and allowed stores to reopen following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, May 5, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo

DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates urged all citizens and residents aged 16 and above to register for COVID-19 vaccinations from Sunday as the Gulf state widens its immunisation drive after inoculating about 56% of the eligible population.

The UAE, the region’s commercial and tourism hub and a global travel centre, has set a blistering pace for its vaccine rollout to keep its economy open for business. It ranks second globally behind Israel for doses per 100 people.

The health ministry said in a statement on state media late on Saturday that the move comes after nearly 73% of elderly Emiratis, residents and those with chronic diseases have been vaccinated.

The country is providing four types of vaccine free of charge.

The UAE’s daily COVID-19 cases surged to nearly 4,000 in late January from about 600 in September after Dubai swung open its doors to visitors during its peak winter tourism season.

The rate has fallen after authorities tightened restrictions at public venues but stopped short of imposing new lockdowns. Some restrictions have since been eased but mask-wearing in public and social distancing are still required.

The UAE, which does not give a breakdown for each of its seven emirates, registered 2,013 new infections on Saturday to take its total tally to 438,638 with 1,433 deaths.

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