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UAE relaxes mask rules as COVID-19 cases decline

Masks are no longer required while exercising outdoors or at public beaches and swimming pools, Emirati health authorities announced Wednesday.
A shopkeeper wearing a protective mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic looks out a jewelry shop window displaying intricate pieces for women at the Dubai Gold Souk in the Gulf emirate, on March 10, 2021.

The United Arab Emirates has lifted its mask requirement in some public places where social distancing of two meters can be maintained, authorities said Wednesday, 

Masks are no longer required while exercising outdoors or visiting public beaches and swimming pools, UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority and the Ministry of Health and Prevention said in a joint statement carried by news agency WAM.

"This decision comes after the noticeable decrease in the number of registered COVID-19 cases in the country, which reflects the successful national efforts in expanding the scope of testing nationwide that led to early detection of cases, and the availability of multiple vaccines," the health agencies said. 

Beginning Wednesday, members of the same household traveling in their own private vehicles are also excused from the mask mandate. In addition, individuals who are socially distanced at beauty salons and medical centers are not required to mask. 

Local officials will place signs in areas where masks can be removed. In public places where they are still required, those who don't wear masks will be fined. 

"Masks remain one of the most effective tools in fighting the virus," the health agencies said in a statement. 

The decision to relax mask guidelines comes as Dubai prepares to host next month’s Expo 2020, the first world fair to take place in the Middle East. All adults who attend must be vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test to enter the expo in the Gulf country's biggest city.

The UAE is a world leader in coronavirus vaccinations. According to the Health Ministry, 92% of the UAE’s population has been fully vaccinated and 81% has received at least one vaccine dose. 

The high rate of vaccinations has resulted in a significant slowdown in coronavirus cases, with the daily rate down 60% compared to August 2020. Emirati health authorities recorded 318 new cases on Wednesday, raising the total number of infections since the start of the pandemic to 733,643.  

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