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France, Britain, Germany warn Iran against uranium metal work 

European powers on Saturday warned Iran against starting work on uranium metal-based fuel for a research reactor, saying it contravened the 2015 nuclear deal and stressing that it had no civilian use but serious military implications.

“We strongly encourage Iran to end this activity, and return to full compliance with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran nuclear deal) without delay, if it is serious about preserving this agreement,” France, Britain and Germany said in a joint statement.

-Developing

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Distance learning extended 3 more weeks for Abu Dhabi schools

ABU DHABI, 16th January, 2021 (WAM) — Schools in Abu Dhabi will continue distance learning for another three weeks, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee announced today.

The Committee said e-learning will be extended starting tomorrow, Sunday, January 17th, for all academic levels, “as a precautionary measure to limit the spread of the virus and safeguard the health and safety of the schooling community.”

The Committee urged parents, guardians and academic and administrative staff in all schools to vaccinate against COVID-19, “to protect themselves against the virus and help develop comprehensive protection for the wider community, which will accelerate the safe return to schools.”

WAM/Rasha Abubaker

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Coronavirus: China says latest COVID-19 outbreak caused by imported cases

China’s recent COVID-19 outbreaks in the northeast have come from travelers entering the country or contaminated frozen food imports, the National Health Commission (NHC) said on Saturday.

NHC Minister Ma Xiaowei made the comments at a government meeting, where he also said the virus was spreading to rural areas and that the handling of the recent situation had exposed how prevention and control measures had been relaxed.

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“Since December 2020, epidemic clusters have occurred in Beijing, Sichuan, Liaoning, Hebei and Heilongjiang,” a statement posted on the NHC’s website said citing the briefing by Ma.

“They mainly have the following characteristics. Firstly, they are all imported from abroad, caused by travelers from overseas, or contaminated cold-chain imported items.”

Total case numbers remain well below what China saw at the height of the outbreak in early 2020, but concerns about a new wave are growing with the Lunar New Year a month away.

This surge comes as a World Health Organization-led (WHO) team of investigators are in quarantine in the city of Wuhan, where the disease was first detected in late 2019. The team aims to investigate the origins of the pandemic that has now killed nearly 2 million people worldwide.

China is the only country to claim COVID-19 can be transmitted via cold chain imports, even though the WHO has downplayed the risks, and has been pushing a narrative via state media that the virus existed abroad before it was discovered late last year in the central city of Wuhan.

The country has in the past week seen the number of daily cases jump to an over 10-month high, and for January 15 reported 130 new coronavirus cases in the mainland, versus 144 cases a day earlier.

Of those cases, 115 were local infections, 90 of which were in Hebei province surrounding Beijing that has been hit hardest in the latest wave.

Another 23 cases were found in northeastern Heilongjiang province while two cases were reported in Beijing. The authority also reported 79 new asymptomatic patients, which it does not classify as confirmed cases, were found on January 15 compared with 66 a day earlier.

About 28 million people have been put under lockdown so far as a result and Ma said the latest outbreak had quickly spread widely due to activities such as wedding banquets or large group gatherings, and that it was difficult to control as community transmission had already occurred when cases were discovered.

Xinhua warned on Saturday, however, that government officials should not “cry wolf” and be too quick to declare that they are entering “wartime mode”, saying that it could increase unnecessary panic and affect normal production.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 88,118, while the death toll remains unchanged at 4,635.

Read more:

Coronavirus: China reports highest number of new cases in more than 10 months

China Sinopharm’s vaccine 79 percent protective against COVID-19

International team seeking COVID-19 origin to go to China in January

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Philippines announces travel restrictions on flyers from UAE

Filipinos from UAE will need to serve a 14-day quarantine even if they have a negative Covid result.

Filipinos flying home from the UAE will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival – even if they test negative in the RT-PCR Covid-19 test, the Philippine government has announced.

The new travel rule shall take effect from January 17, 12.01am, Manila time. It will remain in place until January 31, according to a statement issued by the office of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday.

The expats will have to stay in a quarantine facility during the two-week period.

The announcement came as the Philippines updated its travel rules as part of efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 and its new variants.

Under the new rule, foreign travellers (non-Filipinos) from the UAE and all the other countries covered shall not be allowed entry until the end of January, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

All unaccompanied minor Filipino citizens “shall not be allowed boarding by the airlines until January 31, 2021, except minors returning through the repatriation programme of the national government,” he added.

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Australian bushfire threatens homes in Perth

Australian firefighters said they expect to battle an out-of-control bushfire well into the night on Saturday, as the blaze threatens lives and homes in the west coast city of Perth.

Residents were told “to act immediately to survive” as the flames approached homes near Oakford, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Perth’s city center, in an emergency warning issued by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES).

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Locals were told to evacuate if the way was clear or to take shelter, as the fire spewed thick smoke over the area.

Around 150 firefighters were expected to work overnight into Sunday to bring the 80-100 hectare (200-250 acre) blaze under control, DFES District Officer Russell Wells told media.

“There are certainly some challenging conditions ahead,” Wells said.

Although temperatures were expected to dip overnight from their high of 33 degrees Celsius (91 Fahrenheit), strong gusty winds were forecast.

And crews were expecting even hotter temperatures on Sunday amid concerns the windy conditions could cause the fire to double in size.

“What we’re really trying to do at the moment is bring this fire under control today and have a really strong presence tomorrow so it doesn’t flare up,” said Wells.

Aerial footage showed at least one structure ablaze in the area as water bombing aircraft repeatedly tried to douse the fire.

Several roads have been closed and evacuation centers set up.

There were also several other wildfires burning around the edges of the city.

Western Australia was spared the brunt of last summer’s devastating climate change-fuelled wildfires, which mostly ravaged the country’s two most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria.

The fires razed more than 24 million hectares (49 million acres) of drought-stricken bushland and forest across Australia in late 2019 and early 2020, killing more than 30 people and destroying thousands of homes.

Read more:

Bushfire threatens ‘lives and homes’ in Australia’s Perth

Relief as rain falls over Australian bushfires

Some flee, others restock before Australia’s wildfires grow

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Saudi Arabia will open an embassy in Qatar’s capital Doha within days: FM

Saudi Arabia will open an embassy in Qatar’s capital city Doha once the necessary procedures are complete, the Kingdom’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Saturday during a joint press conference with his Jordanian counterpart in Riyadh.

-Developing

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5.7 magnitude earthquake strikes Iran, no effect on UAE

ABU DHABI, 16th January, 2021 (WAM) — A 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit Iran in the early hours of Saturday morning, according to the seismology department of the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM).

The quake hit southern Iran at 01:31 am UAE time, the NCM added.

The bureau said tremors were slightly felt in the region, but had no effects on the UAE.

WAM/Rasha Abubaker

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Saudi Arabia, Jordan’s FMs discuss regional issues in Riyadh meeting

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in Riyadh to discuss the bilateral relationship between the two countries and regional developments.

Saudi Arabia “continues to coordinate with Jordan on regional affairs and bilateral relations,” Prince Faisal said.

The minister added that the two discussed the need to reach a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian conflict.

They also discussed Iran’s interference in the region, including in Yemen and Lebanon, according to the minister.

-Developing

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Video: Dubai to get London-style taxis soon

The new taxi is characterised by a semi-curved shape and black colour that mimic the iconic London Cab.

The Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) is all set to launch the ‘London Taxi’ service that will use hybrid (electricity and fuel) cabs.

The new taxi is characterised by a semi-curved shape and black colour that mimic the iconic London Cab operating in the British capital. The DTC will start trialling the vehicle this February and the service will be available at the Dubai International Airport.

Design

Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), made this announcement during a visit to the DTC. He reviewed the performance indicators of the corporation in 2020 as well as the projects to be undertaken this year.

He was briefed on the interior features of the London Taxi, which has a unique and roomy interior that offers riders a wide space and six seats in a separate cabin.

The design serves the needs of people of determination as well. The taxi is fitted with a satellite-based navigation, voice command, forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning systems, in addition to a Wi-Fi network.

It has a dual engine for better control of the vehicle under different climate conditions. It also has accelerated braking system and a battery that just needs 30 minutes to recharge using the fast charging feature, and three hours using the regular charging one.

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UAE leaders express condolences to President of Indonesia over victims of earthquake

ABU DHABI, 16th January, 2021 (WAM) — President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has sent a message of condolences to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, expressing his condolences for the victims of the earthquake that struck the island of Sulawesi.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, sent a similar message of condolences to President Widodo.

WAM/Rasha Abubaker