COVID-19: We cannot drop our guard



Five months ago Chinese authorities took extensive lockdown measures to try and contain coronavirus, putting public health officials and government officials on alert on the potential widespread dangers of this virus. And now, as the days of July draw to a close, the most concerted efforts of all working together have managed to limit the worst effects of this global pandemic. But if there is one thing we all have learnt, it is that coronavirus is a pernicious and persistent invisible enemy that still maintains the capability of resurging once more.

Here in the UAE, where a range of effective public health policy, stringent measures have blunted the worst effects of the coronavirus, we still need to maintain our vigilance to ensure it has no opportunity to again take root and threaten our health and safety.

Scientists and researchers — the best minds in the medical field — are concentrating their efforts and learning as much as possible about this virus, how it targets our bodies, where it is vulnerable. And progress is being made on developing an effective vaccine that will turn the tide once and for all in our favour. Public health measures work too, but there are lessons to be learnt.

In India, close to 50,000 cases daily are being registered regularly, and greater efforts are needed collectively to ensure that the virus will not overwhelm a health system that is creaking under the sheer strain of so many ill. In the US, where states went their own way in combating coronavirus, cases there are still rising, with 142,000 dead there in the world’s worst-affected nation. Across Central and South America, cases too are simply too many.

The effect of this pandemic has been to place large sections of the global economy in hibernation, and the challenge now is to put people back to work, safely, to ensure that this pandemic does not inflict too much damage on our economic, trading, commercial and financial systems.

But we are winning. The lesson is that we need too to be on guard against second surges. Already, in parts of Europe that have reopened and where air corridors have been put in place to assist travel and tourism, these measures need constant vigilance and monitoring — and are being rolled back at short notice where necessary as a result of local outbreaks. We are emerging from this — slowly, surely — and much better informed.



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Libya is an ultimate test for the Arab order


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Egypt has taken the lead in regional efforts to push back the Turkish aggression in Libya
Image Credit: Reuters
Sixty years after the independence movement in the Arab world, and the exit of the British forces, the region is faced with another and seemingly more dangerous form of imperialism, a regional one.

Two destabilising powers in the region seek to expand their influence in the Arab world, exploiting the political void and inter-Arab friction caused by the so-called Arab Spring.

In addition to the constant threat of Israel’s colonial project in Palestine, Turkey and Iran have since 2011, intensified their actions in the region, using ideology, proxy militias and arms to capture footholds in a region that still is licking its post-Arab Spring wounds.

The Libyan issue is a critical test. Succeeding in pushing back the Turkish aggression will be build on Arab momentum to defeat the growing regional imperialism

– Gulf News

They saw an opportunity in the apparent fragmentation of the Arab political order to hijack the political will in some countries — Iran in Lebanon, Iraq and the Houthis-held parts of Yemen, while Turkey in Syria and Libya with the help of its mercenaries and extremist militias to fuel and exploit ongoing conflicts.

The Turkish involvement in Libya has become a test for the Arab order. UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash put that in perspective on Sunday.

“Perhaps the greatest danger to our region and [Arab] sovereignty is … regional imperialism and its hegemony. That shouldn’t be the fate of the region; solidarity is an Arab necessity and priority,” he tweeted, calling on the Arab world to rise to the challenge.

Egypt has taken the lead in regional efforts to push back the Turkish aggression in Libya, facilitated by Ankara-fostered National Accord government of Fayez Al Sarraj, which is made up of rogue militias that belong to the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist groups.

These militias, backed by Turkish army and mercenaries, have shut the country’s only source of income, oil, and imposed military-style order in the capital Tripoli.

Egyptian parliament last week gave the greenlight to President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi to deploy the country’s army in eastern Libya to restore order and halt the Turkish advance in those parts. But Egypt needs the support of other Arab countries.

So far, the regional position on Libya has been riddled with futile discussions on the nature and depth of the threat to the Libyan and Egyptian national security as well as to Arab stability.

There has to be an end to these discussions. It is time for a unanimous and an unequivocal Arab position to regain Libyan sovereignty and restore the country’s stability.

The Libyan issue is a critical test. Succeeding in pushing back the Turkish aggression will be build on Arab momentum to defeat the growing regional imperialism.



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Haj 2020 underway during the pandemic


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To pull off the annual Haj pilgrimage in such a challenging situation is both commendable and uplifting
Image Credit: Supplied
The annual Haj has got underway in Saudi Arabia, albeit in a downsized format. Owing to the restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, this year the kingdom has gone along an executive strategic plan with strict health protocols in place.

The Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah has designated specific places for the arriving pilgrims to finalise their procedures and implement preventive measures set by the country’s health authorities.

This year only a few thousands will perform the annual Islamic pilgrimage.

During prayers, pilgrims have to keep themselves socially distanced from other worshippers, all part of regulations to ensure that the Haj takes place without a glitch and without anyone getting infected

– Gulf News

The six-day long ritual (during which the rites are performed) is a spiritual and religious journey for the faithful who carefully plan the trip over years.

Haj culminates with the Islamic holiday of Eid Al Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice. This year due to the coronavirus outbreak, numbers were greatly restricted with strict social distancing and sanitation measures put into effect.

People coming together

Haj, an important pillar of Islam, usually sees millions assembling in the holy cities of Mecca and Madinah. The pilgrims congregate in the holy cities over a six-day period, which brings people from all over the world together.

It will be a different experience this year with access to the Haj sites at Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat given by special permits only.

The authorities are also making sure that all pilgrims wear masks, which have been made mandatory throughout the pilgrimage.

Measures have also been put in place to ensure that pebbles used for the ‘stoning of the devil’ ceremony are sanitised. Pilgrims will not be allowed to touch the Kaaba or kiss the black stone at its corner either.

Strict measures in place

During prayers, pilgrims have to keep themselves socially distanced from other worshippers, all part of regulations to ensure that the Haj takes place without a glitch and without anyone getting infected.

Saudi Arabia has been one of the hardest hit countries in the region. So far the country has close to 269,000 coronavirus cases with more than 2,760 deaths.

The kingdom, often lauded for its efficient preparations to manage Haj, has drawn praise by the World Health Organisation. WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to significantly curtail the number of Haj pilgrims amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The pandemic has challenged the world in myriad ways. Not only have economies and lives been severely disrupted, coronavirus has also tested people’s faith.

To pull off the annual Haj pilgrimage in such a challenging situation is both commendable and uplifting.



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Second wave: Coronavirus continues to thrive, all must remain vigilant


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Fresh infections in China, Hong Kong, Spain and other parts of the world should be a lesson for all
Image Credit: Pixabay
While the pandemic continues to accelerate in the big three nations — the United States, Brazil and India — reports warn of a second wave in countries where the virus appeared to have subsided weeks ago.

United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Spain have reported fresh cases, prompting public warning from experts and governments. The big question, however, is what constitutes a second wave?

Broadly speaking, the consensus is that emergence of fresh positives in the regions where virus appeared to have subsided can be described as a second wave of the pandemic.

Some experts dismiss the notion as unscientific and argue that the pattern of the disease caused by Coronavirus is unpredictable.

Since April, a gradual reduction in viral load encouraged parts of the world to open up economy and tourism. Countries in the Arab world do understand the risks involved and they continue to restrict religious gatherings and festive celebrations. Fresh infections in China, Hong Kong, Spain and other parts of the world should be a lesson for all — stay alert and stay safe

– Gulf News

COVID-19, they say, is a new virus and little is known about how it subsides and re-emerges — is it because of the diminishing potency of the virus or due to immunity developed by large sections of population in a particular region or due to people adopting and following safety protocols.

Understanding the disease

Whatever may be the case, it is difficult to develop a theoretical understanding of the disease. Even China, the first large country to effectively control the virus, on Tuesday reported over a hundred cases, the biggest spike after almost eight weeks.

Similarly, Hong Kong government warned that the nation is on the verge of a mass outbreak and it could overwhelm hospitals. Parts of Spain are also witnessing a spike, prompting UK to reimpose border restrictions.

What are the options before the governments of the world? More importantly, what should people do? The answer to these questions is complicated and public health systems are still struggling to effectively respond to the pandemic.

However, it should be clear that people and authorities must remain vigilant till a vaccine is widely available. Countries have to rediscover ways to safely open up economies while strictly following safety protocols, there is simply no alternative till a vaccine, expected early next year, is made available to all sections of the society.

There is evidence that the so-called second wave of infections is emerging due to reckless behaviour of people. The World Health Organisation blamed “lack of discipline” for fresh flare ups, cautioning governments against lowering their guard.

Since April, a gradual reduction in viral load encouraged parts of the world to open up economy and tourism. Countries in the Arab world do understand the risks involved and they continue to restrict religious gatherings and festive celebrations. Fresh infections in China, Hong Kong, Spain and other parts of the world should be a lesson for all — stay alert and stay safe.



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Eid Al Adha celebrations must be tempered with caution


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Eid Al Adha: The joyous occasion comes at a time when the world is passing through a critical phase in modern history
Image Credit: Vihar Mehta/Gulf News
Eid Al Adha is upon us. It’s a time for Muslims to celebrate the conclusion of Haj, the annual pilgrimage that is one of the pillars of Islam. It also commemorates the Prophet Ibrahim’s obedience to God.

The joyous occasion comes at a time when the world is passing through a critical phase in modern history. COVID-19, the global pandemic caused by the new coronavirus, continues to ravage the world with its alarming rate of infection.

The remedial measures in the UAE have borne fruit, as evidenced by the declining rate of new cases. So unlike the days of Eid Al Fitr, which was a little over two months back, the situation in the UAE today is far better.

The coronavirus has put our lives and livelihoods in peril. It shouldn’t be allowed to ruin our joy. So let’s celebrate Eid Al Adha with restraint

– Gulf News

The UAE now wears a more open look. Most public facilities like parks and beaches have been reopened. So are the mall and cinemas, though there is restrictions in terms of capacity.

All that gives the UAE residents the chance to exchange greetings and celebrate Eid Al Adha. But the celebrations should be tempered with caution. For, the threat of the virus still lurks. It’s too early to let the guard down.

Limit your celebrations

Prayers should be performed at home, as per the guidelines. Usually, the Festival of Sacrifice brings together families and friends, but this year we should limit the celebrations to the company of close relatives only.

A recent wedding in Abu Dhabi, which turned out to be a virus-spreading event, is still fresh in memory. That should serve as a reminder of the lingering danger, and prompt us to avoid big social gatherings.

When heading outdoors, remember to adhere to the COVID-19 advisory. Wear a mask at all times; it’s the most effective barrier against the coronavirus.

When you are in public places, do practise social distancing. And don’t forget to wash your hands often; use a sanitiser if you don’t have access to soap and water.

We can’t stress enough the importance of following the guidelines. It will not only help you keep out the virus, but also safeguard others from COVID-19.

We owe it to the medical fraternity, who put their lives in danger to keep us out of harm’s way. So it’s our duty to help the UAE reduce the spread of infections.

The coronavirus has put our lives and livelihoods in peril. It shouldn’t be allowed to ruin our joy. So let’s celebrate Eid Al Adha with restraint.



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