WHO endorses Saudi steps to check coronavirus; death toll at 15

Updated 21 May 2013

WHO endorses Saudi steps to check coronavirus; death toll at 15

A visiting World Health Official has said other countries can learn from the experience of Saudi Arabia in fighting the coronavirus, which has killed 15 people in the kingdom so far.
Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general of the WHO’s Health Security and Environment, said the kingdom has taken the coronavirus situation seriously and its Ministry of Health has initiated public health action, including intensifying surveillance, initiating investigations and research and putting preventive measures in place.
“One of the reasons why more cases have been identified in KSA may be because they have gone ahead to strengthen their surveillance system, lab capacity and network,” he said in a joint press conference with Saudi health officials in Riyadh on Sunday.
Upon invitation from the kingdom, a team of health experts arrived in the country on Friday to assess the status of the spread of the virus in the country. The visiting team included two WHO officials, Fukuda and Dr. Jawad, quarantine director of communicable diseases of the WHO in Cairo. The other international scientists are Dr. Connie Savor Price, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Denver Health Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Denver; Trish Burrell, consultant, infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University; Paul Tambaiah, consultant infectious diseases the University of Singapore; and Allison Mack Qier of Mount Toronto Hospital.
On Saturday, the team visited the health facilities in Hofuf and the hospital, where a number of infected cases were treated.
During the press briefing on Sunday, Health Minister Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah said that since last September, the kingdom diagnosed 24 virus infected patients, of whom 9 died. He corrected previous reports that the virus attack was confined to Al-Ahsa province, and said there were incidences in Jeddah, Dammam and Riyadh.
“We will continue to cooperate with the WHO and other international organizations in the fight against infectious diseases for the betterment of the nation,” he stressed.
Fukuda said the new virus posed an “important and major challenge” for countries affected and the world generally.
 “The greatest global concern, however, is about the potential for this new virus to spread. Of most concern, however, is the fact that the different clusters seen in multiple countries increasingly support the hypothesis that when there is close contact this novel coronavirus can transmit from person-to-person,” he said.
“This pattern of person-to-person transmission has remained limited to some small clusters, and so far, there is no evidence that this virus has the capacity to sustain generalized transmission in communities.
Fukuda said they have seen, in their visit to Saudi Arabia, the importance of better surveillance. "When new cases are found, as is likely, it is critical for countries to report these cases and related information urgently to the WHO as required by international health regulations because this is the basis for effective international alertness, preparedness and response,” he said.
“Countries also need to assess their level of preparedness and readiness if this virus should spread and intensify the core capacities identified in the international health regulations if they are not adequate. The WHO is ready to assist countries in this region and globally in these tasks,” he said.


Uthman Taha: ‘I wish the verses about heaven would never end’

Taha is the official calligrapher of the Qur’an at the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an in Madinah. The 86-year-old is still in the recovery phase, his wife said, and has been advised to rest and to avoid stress. (Supplied)
Updated 15 August 2020

Uthman Taha: ‘I wish the verses about heaven would never end’

  • The Syrian Qur’an writer, regarded as one of the world’s finest calligraphers, is on the road to recovery following his recent hospital admission

MAKKAH: Syrian calligrapher Uthman Taha is in good health and recovering at home after a 13-day stay in a hospital where he was treated for what he and his wife initially suspected to be the novel coronavirus COVID-19, although he ultimately tested negative for the virus.

Taha is the official calligrapher of the Qur’an at the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an in Madinah. His wife, Fatimah Umm Al-Nour, said Taha had a chest infection during his stay at the hospital and stressed that he had been “careful and took all the precautionary measures” and that he had not left the house for five months before his hospital visit.
The 86-year-old calligrapher is still in the recovery phase, his wife said, and has been advised to rest and to avoid stress. She praised his doctors, who have consistently checked in with the couple since Taha returned home, and added that she has tested negative for COVID-19 too.
Taha is regarded as one of the most skilled calligraphers in the Arab world. Al-Nour told Arab News that he continues to practice calligraphy daily.
Taha, who has written the Qur’an 12 times at the King Fahd Complex, was born in 1934 and attended school in Aleppo. His father was also a skilled calligrapher, who used the Ruq’ah script, and Taha studied with several of Syria’s finest calligraphers including Mohammed Al-Mawlawi, Mohammed Al-Khatib, Hussein Al-Turki, and Ibrahim Al-Rifai.
When he moved to Damascus for university, Taha began to learn other scripts, including Thuluth, Naskh (in which he is now considered a master), and Farsi. He received his calligraphy certificate from master calligrapher Hamed Al-Amadi in 1973.
He arrived in Saudi Arabia in 1988, and began work as a calligrapher at the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an in Madinah. He writes the Qur’an in the Ottoman script, and copies of his work have been distributed throughout the Islamic world.
What makes Taha’s work unique is that each page of the Qur’an that he writes concludes at the end of a verse. The secret, he explains, is to simplify the words — which is the origin of the Kufic script in which the Qur’an has been written since the days of Prophet Muhammad’s companions — keeping the letters close to one another.
Taha spent years perfecting his technique of evenly distributing the words in every line so that the space between the lettering is consistent throughout every page of every book, which means eliminating many of the script combinations that make such consistency difficult.
He explained to Arab News that when he is working on his Qur’an calligraphy he is transported: “When I begin writing the Holy Qur’an, I resort to solitude to allow myself to be invested in the verses and their interpretation, forgetting about the world around me,” he said. “I wish the verses about Jannah (heaven) would never end, and my hand trembles when I write the verses about Jahannam (hell).”