A few cases of a highly contagious coronavirus variant first detected in Britain have appeared in the UAE.
The mutant strain has spread to countries including Spain, South Korea, Sweden, South Africa and Japan since its discovery in the UK.
On Tuesday, Dr Omar Al Hammadi said a “limited number” of cases of the more infectious variant were found in people who had travelled into the Emirates.
He said they were detected during the country’s stringent health checks and were being “managed and contained” by health authorities.
The number of active cases increased again for the first time in a week on Tuesday after new infections outstripped recoveries.
At least 22,307 people in the UAE currently have a Covid-19 diagnosis and 1,506 new cases were detected from 153,157 tests on Tuesday.
It raised the total number of infections to 204,369. The new daily figure was the third-highest recorded in the country since October 22, when a record 1,578 were reported.
Authorities said 1,475 people were cleared of the virus, taking the recovery tally to 181,400. And two patients died, raising the death toll to 662.
Almost 20.6 million tests have been conducted in the UAE since the outbreak emerged.
On Tuesday, Dr Al Hammadi said the UAE was outperforming most countries when it came to recoveries and there were fewer deaths per capita than in other countries.
He said that between December 23 and 29, the Emirates reported 8,491 new cases of Covid-19 after conducting 992,048 tests, indicating that fewer than 1 per cent of people tested had the virus.
Dr Al Hammadi compared that with the 12.8 per cent new case rate in Europe and 8.5 per cent case rate elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa.
The UAE’s death rate for the past week was 0.3 per cent, which Dr Al Hammadi said was among the lowest in the world.
Death rates across Europe during the same period were 2.4 per cent while the Middle East and North Africa as a whole had a fatality rate of 1.9 per cent, he said.
Two vaccination programmes are under way in the UAE. The Sinopharm vaccine is available in all emirates while one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is being administered to vulnerable groups in Dubai.
Trials for the Chinese-produced vaccine were held in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, and Phase-3 trials for Russia’s Sputnik V are ongoing.
Dr Al Hammadi said the results of the Sinopharm trials showed an efficacy rate of 86 per cent, with preliminary results showing 100 per cent protection against moderate and severe infections.
With the New Year approaching, he called on the public to stick to safety measures to “preserve the achievements we reached so far”.