Abu Dhabi boosts coronavirus testing capacity

Abu Dhabi boosted its large-scale testing capacity for coronavirus after a laboratory was built and operationalized at Masdar City in just 14 days. (WAM)
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Updated 01 April 2020

Abu Dhabi boosts coronavirus testing capacity

  • Laboratory built and made operational at Masdar City in just 14 days
  • Laboratory to prioritize testing within the UAE but could scale up to receive samples from neighboring regions

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi boosted its large-scale testing capacity for coronavirus after a laboratory was built and made operational at Masdar City in just 14 days.

The laboratory, set up through a partnership technology company Group 42 and the Chinese genomics firm BGI, is capable of conducting by the thousands real time reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (real time RT-PCR), one of the most accurate laboratory methods for detecting, tracking and studying the coronavirus.

The laboratory will utilize BGI’s widely-approved diagnostic kits for the detection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease

The new processing capacity will enable a rapid response by accelerating the diagnosis, identification of suspected cases, the release of recovered patients, and the screening of close contacts and high-risk groups, state news agency WAM reported.

The laboratory will prioritize testing within the UAE but could scale up to receive samples from neighboring regions.


Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 26 May 2020

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.