Riyadh man dies of MERS; 5 new avian flu cases reported

A man, wearing a mouth and nose mask, checks his phone as he leaves the hospital's emergency department, in this file photo, in Riyadh.(AFP)
Updated 07 January 2018
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Riyadh man dies of MERS; 5 new avian flu cases reported

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Health announced that a 57-year-old man died of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Riyadh on Wednesday, and that an 80-year-old who contracted the virus was “stable.”
The 57-year-old has been classified as the first MERS victim of 2018, according to the ministry’s website.
“MERS is endemic in camels in the Arabian peninsula and surrounding countries,” Abdullah Assiri, deputy minister for infectious diseases, told Arab News on Saturday. “Human infections are sporadic and linked to direct or indirect exposure to camels or camels’ environment.”
He added that “human-to-human transmission is not sustained in the community, however, in health care settings, the transmission is much more efficient. In 2017, MERS outbreaks were largely prevented or controlled.”
He explained that this was achieved through implementation of strict infection-control measures including triage of patients in emergency rooms and hemodialysis units, early detection and isolation of suspected MERS cases, and adherence to hand hygiene and the proper use of protective equipment.
“Trials on therapeutic agents are ongoing and the progress in developing a camel vaccine is encouraging. The animal vaccine will probably be the most effective way to control the disease,” Assiri said.
Dr. Mohamed Abdel Rahman, infection control consultant, stated that awareness among health care workers was vital.
He also advised caution when dealing with camels, as some are intermediary incubators of the virus, again stressing the need for proper hand hygiene and protective clothing. Camel milk should be boiled before drinking, he warned, adding, “There’s no vaccine or specific treatment for MERS.”
Meanwhile, five new H5N8 avian flu cases were announced on Friday in Riyadh, Ahsa and Al-Duwadmi, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture said.
Field teams in Kharj, Hiraimla, Dharma, Ahsa, Buraidah, Bikairiyah, and Al-Duwadmi have tracked and culled infected birds, while the Riyadh-based Veterinary Diagnosis Laboratory has so far received 2,449 samples during the latest outbreak of the H5N8 virus.
Last week, the ministry banned all poultry farms and bird breeders from transporting live birds between different regions of the Kingdom unless they have the necessary permits.
A shipment of 640 birds being smuggled from Jeddah to Madinah, and a similar shipment being transported from Riyadh to Makkah, were seized this week.
Violators of the bird transport ban will reportedly receive a fine of up to SR1 million ($267,000) and a maximum of five years in prison. Their licenses will be suspended or canceled, the ministry said.


Saudi films soar at Golden Falcon film awards

Updated 19 April 2018
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Saudi films soar at Golden Falcon film awards

  • Winners of first Golden Falcon award will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques
  • Film screenings have been revived in KSA as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 

RIYADH: Saudi films have won awards at an international film festival organized by the Netherlands to coincide with the return of cinema to the Kingdom.

The first Golden Falcon Film Festival awards drew Saudi actors, filmmakers and cinema-lovers to the Netherlands embassy in Riyadh on Wednesday.

More than 30 shortlisted Saudi films were shown at the maiden festival on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nine films were nominated, with three each in the best film, best script and best director categories. Overall winners were chosen by an international jury headed by Dutch filmmaker Hans Treffers.

Best movie award went to “Mazban.” The other two films nominated in the category were “Tongue” and “Building 20.”

“The Poetess,” “Matour” and “Atoor” were nominated in the best director category with “Atoor” bagging the award.

“Departures,” “Atoor” and “The Remaining” were nominated in the best script category with “Departures” winning the award.

Besides the Golden Falcon trophy, the winners will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques.

Joost Reintjes, the Netherlands ambassador in Riyadh, told Arab News: “We are proud to organize the first Golden Falcon Film Festival here to promote filmmaking in the Kingdom and provide a platform for young Saudi filmmakers to show what they have to offer.”

Film screenings — banned in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s following religious changes in the Kingdom — have been revived as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

The return of cinema was heralded with a film screening on Wednesday at a newly built theater at the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh. 

Commenting on the lifting of the 35-year ban, Reintjes told Arab News: “That’s Vision 2030 — it is good sign to diversify and develop.

“Although the cinemas in the Kingdom have only been restarted now, Saudi filmmaking has already made a name for itself on the world stage.

“The Saudi film industry will grow very fast. The level of talent is high,” he said.

Mohammed Al-Qass, lead actor from “Departure,” said: “We have been working for this day for years. 

“Saudis with a thirst for cinema were traveling outside the country — now they can enjoy and share the experience in their homeland.” 

Mohammed Khawajah, a Saudi filmmaker and adviser for the film festival, told Arab News: “The idea for this festival came last year when the lifting of the cinema ban was being discussed.

“The Netherlands embassy had this idea about nine months ago; we sat together and planned the whole festival, which was carried out successfully, with hundreds of people enjoying Saudi films.

“We will improve with our next festival, which will have more fun and entertainment,” he said.