Bangladeshi pilgrims laud Saudi initiatives on return from Hajj

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A group of Bangladeshi pilgrims are coming out of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at Dhaka as the first Hajj return flight landed on Saturday. (AN photos by Shehab Sumon)
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A group of Bangladeshi pilgrims are coming out of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at Dhaka as the first Hajj return flight landed on Saturday. (AN photos by Shehab Sumon)
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A group of Bangladeshi pilgrims are coming out of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at Dhaka as the first Hajj return flight landed on Saturday. (AN photos by Shehab Sumon)
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A group of Bangladeshi pilgrims are coming out of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at Dhaka as the first Hajj return flight landed on Saturday. (AN photos by Shehab Sumon)
Updated 20 August 2019

Bangladeshi pilgrims laud Saudi initiatives on return from Hajj

  • Almost all Bangladeshi pilgrims have lauded the new Hajj management initiatives introduced by the Saudi authorities

DHAKA: Bangladeshi pilgrims who returned from the Kingdom late on Saturday commended Saudi Arabia for the management and facilities extended during Hajj.
The first group of pilgrims landed at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on Saturday with nearly 127,000 Bangladeshis performing Hajj this year.
Half of the pilgrims enjoyed the pre-immigration facilities at Dhaka airport for the first time under the Saudi government’s Makkah Route initiative.
Bangladeshi Hajj officials at Dhaka said that from next year all Bangladeshi pilgrims will enjoy the pre-immigration facilities at Dhaka, which will reduce the waiting time of pilgrims at Saudi airports.  
Almost all Bangladeshi pilgrims have lauded the new Hajj management initiatives introduced by the Saudi authorities.
“After reaching Saudi Arabia, I installed the Smart Hajj app on my smartphone. I found it very useful to identify the exact direction of Qiblah (Kaaba) during my visit to the holy places,” Masuda Begum, a Bangladeshi pilgrim told Arab News.  
“Using the Manasikana app, I located my companions and was reunited with them. The idea of introducing this smart technology during Hajj is really amazing,” she said.
Another Bangladeshi pilgrim, Abul Hashem, suggested that the Smart Hajj app would be more effective if the Saudi management could incorporate the Bangla language.
“Although we understand Hindi and Urdu during conversations, most of us cannot read Hindi and Urdu text. And many of the Bangladeshi pilgrims do not have much knowledge in English, which made us helpless in receiving services from the app,” Hashem said. However, Hashem found the multilingual emergency services very effective.

FASTFACT

• Final batch of 127,000 Bangladeshi pilgrims to return home by Sept. 15

• Pilgrims from Bangladesh praised the pre-immigration facilities introduced by the Saudi government.

• Smart Hajj app helped visitors in performing rituals easily.

• Pilgrims lauded Kingdom’s multilingual emergency services during Hajj.

“One of our fellows suddenly fainted due to the scorching weather and he was immediately hospitalized with the support of these volunteers,” Hashem told Arab News.  
Bangladeshi pilgrim, Dr. Atisha Rabbi, found the overall Hajj management much better this year.  
“After landing at Saudi Arabia airport, I was at a loss about what do since hundreds of pilgrims from different countries were moving together. At this moment, I approached the multilingual speakers at the Hajj terminal and managed my next directions,” she said.  
However, she suggested developing overall toilet management in Mina-Arafat-Muzdalifah during the Hajj ritual days.
“Sometimes I did not get enough water in the washrooms in all three places. With a little effort from the management it would have been even better,” she said.
She also suggested increasing the number of indicator guidelines with multilingual approaches, including Bangla, at different places of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
According to the Hajj office in Dhaka, 81 Bangladeshi pilgrims died in Saudi Arabia during the Hajj season. Last year, the number was about 150.
Bangladesh’s official carrier Biman and Saudi Airlines will operate return Hajj flights until Sept. 15.


UK, US COVID-19 vaccines show signs of immunity in patients

Updated 15 July 2020

UK, US COVID-19 vaccines show signs of immunity in patients

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci: ‘No matter how you slice this, this is good news’

LONDON: Two of the world’s most promising studies to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 have said subjects in their trials have shown early signs of immunity. 

The trials, run by teams at Oxford University in the UK and pharmaceutical company Moderna in the US, have both received significant government funding in their bids to develop their vaccines before the end of the year.

The Oxford vaccine, being manufactured by AstraZeneca, based in Cambridge, England, has already had millions of doses mass-produced in the event of the trials proving a success. The team behind it says it is “80 percent confident” of it being available by September. 

It works by injecting altered COVID-19 genetic material, attached to a similar but benign virus called an adenovirus, which causes common colds, into the body, in a process known as recombinant viral vector vaccination. 

The aim is to facilitate an immune system response by mimicking COVID-19 itself, and training antibodies to attack the spike proteins on the virus’s exterior that it uses to attach itself to human cells.

When faced with COVID-19, in theory the immune system should then act in the same fashion.

The Oxford vaccine is currently in its second, expanded trial stage, featuring 8,000 people in the UK and up to 6,000 people in Brazil and South Africa.

Though no official results have been formally published, subjects exposed to the vaccine in its early phase were found to have developed antibodies and a certain type of white blood cell, called T-cells, which help fight infection

“An important point to keep in mind is that there are two dimensions to the immune response: Antibodies and T-cells,” a source at Oxford told ITV News in the UK.

“Everybody is focused on antibodies, but there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the T-cells response is important in the defense against coronavirus.”

Prof. Sarah Gilbert, the Oxford team leader, earlier this month said the vaccine could provide protection for several years at a time.

She told UK MPs on the House of Commons’ science and technology select committee: “Vaccines have a different way of engaging with the immune system, and we follow people in our studies using the same type of technology to make the vaccines for several years, and we still see strong immune responses.”

She added: “It’s something we have to test and follow over time — we can’t know until we actually have the data, but we’re optimistic based on earlier studies that we’ll see a good duration of immunity, for several years at least, and probably better than naturally acquired immunity.”

Moderna, meanwhile, reported that all 45 volunteers in its early phase had developed immune responses after receiving its vaccine, though with more than half its subjects experiencing mild or moderate side effects including headaches, fatigue and muscle pain.

Its vaccine, called mRNA-1273, uses ribonucleic acid to program human cells to make proteins similar to the spike proteins of COVID-19 cells, training the body’s immune system to identify and attack them.

Its initial studies found that higher doses of mRNA-1273 in the human system corresponded with higher levels of immunity in subjects, by injecting people with doses of 25, 100 or 250 micrograms of the vaccine in two instalments over 28 days.

Moderna will begin a second trial of 30,000 people later this month. The US government has so far pledged nearly half a billion dollars in funding for the Moderna vaccine.

The director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said: “No matter how you slice this, this is good news.”

Vaccines, though, are not the only potential route in the quest to find a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trials have already begun for an antibody treatment, manufactured by AstraZeneca, that would see patients given a three-minute infusion of COVID-19 antibodies that could provide protection for up to six months.

This would be a potential solution if the vaccine proves less effective in some people (especially the elderly), for those who suffer adverse reactions, or for people taking immunosuppressant drugs or undergoing chemotherapy.

Sir Mene Pangalos, head AstraZeneca’s research into respiratory diseases, said: “There’s a population who are elderly that (may not) get a particularly good immune response to the vaccine.

“In those instances you might want to prophylactically treat those patients with an antibody to give them additional protection.”