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Disposable suits, hand sanitisers, face masks, respirators for air purification, gloves and other medical equipment that have become essential in the COVID-19 fight will enjoy a zero-rated value-added tax (VAT) in the UAE.

A resolution stipulating this was adopted by the UAE Cabinet on September 1 to support the healthcare sector in the country. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, chaired the meeting at Qasr Al Watan in Abu Dhabi. He had a virtual meeting with a number of teaching staff and students from different schools in the UAE, which were shared on his social media handles. He has shared a video and photos of his interaction with students and teachers in classrooms.

Student attendance at schools in the UAE has been limited to 25 per cent and a full return to campus will be implemented in phases. “Overall students’ attendance numbers will be initially limited to 25 per cent and after two weeks, we plan to increase this to 50 per cent, then 75 per cent, and until we reach full attendance for those opting for in-person classes,” said Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education.

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The Minister said that 1.27 million students resumed their studies for the new academic year, including 130,000 at universities. The UAE is offering a hybrid education system so that parents get the freedom to choose between in-school and distance education in the first term/semester.

The UAE is successfully combating COVID-19 with nearly 83,000 new being tests were carried out. Its Ministry of Health and Prevention on September 1 reported 574 cases, 560 recoveries and zero deaths. In six weeks, 31,000 people have volunteered for the country’s vaccine clinical trials. This is among the largest in the world in terms of volunteer recruitment. The Department of Health Abu Dhabi said it has reached sufficient number of volunteers to complete the trial, so new registrations will not be accepted from August 30. Vaccine centres at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) and Al Qarain Centre in Sharjah are now closed to new volunteers. However, they are open to individuals taking their second shot and for other health check-ups required as part of the 4Humanity programme.

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The speed and efficiency of volunteer registration, screening and vaccination is setting new global benchmarks for the 4Humanity trials of the inactivated vaccine developed by Sinopharm CNBG, a world leading vaccine manufacturer. The trials are managed by the Abu-Dhabi based G42 Healthcare in partnership with the DoH – Abu Dhabi, the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHaP) and Abu Dhabi Health Services Company.

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The two inactivated vaccines were successful during Phase 1 and Phase II of the trials and did not cause any side-effects; 100 percent of the volunteers for these phases generated antibodies.

The trial is part of a series of national initiatives to both foster population health and to enhance the UAE’s medical research and development capabilities, including the local capacity to manufacture the vaccine.