Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia ready to confront health epidemics

Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia ready to confront health epidemics
The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques washes and sanitizes the floors of Makkah’s Grand Mosque four times daily as part of measures to ensure the safety of pilgrims. (SPA)
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Updated 28 February 2020

Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia ready to confront health epidemics

Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia ready to confront health epidemics
  • The Kingdom has gained experience in dealing with millions of peoples, says crowd expert

MAKKAH: The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has announced its readiness to deal with any epidemic cases. It said that it will provide all necessary information to pilgrims and has doubled cleaning times of the courtyards and corridors of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

The presidency said that it is raising media awareness in all languages and through informative screens to distribute the latest medical instructions and emergency developments.

Abdulhamid Al-Maliki, assistant undersecretary for services affairs at the presidency, told Arab News that the Two Holy Mosques are collaborating with public health authorities to face all possible situations.

Al-Maliki said that he has been working hand-in-hand with governmental and private agencies to distribute masks and hand sanitizer.

FASTFACTS

Nearly 7 million Umrah pilgrims visit the Kingdom each year, the majority of whom arrive at airports in Jeddah and Madinah.

Since the new coronavirus emerged in December in central China, it has sickened 82,000 people globally, with more than 2,700 deaths.

He added that coordination has been made with public health-related bodies to mobilize the necessary media coverage to inform all pilgrims of different nationalities wherever they may be.

The assistant undersecretary said that responding to all instructions and advice is necessary for the best handling of health issues.

Crowd expert Akram Jan said that Saudi Arabia has gained experience in dealing with crowds and millions of people, and that it was prepared to handle several sudden scenarios as well as the most difficult situations with success.

Jan said that the difficulties that accompany the presence of viruses — such as the new coronavirus — are their ability to spread and infect through contact or sneezing. He added that the Kingdom is taking precautionary measures to prevent a disaster from happening.

 

Disinfection

The floors of Makkah’s Grand Mosque are washed and disinfected four times daily as part of measures to ensure the safety of pilgrims and visitors.

Highly qualified cadres use the best technology and cleaning and sanitizing tools, said Jaber Widaani, director of the mosque’s department of disinfection and carpets. 

There are 13,500 prayer rugs at the mosque, all of which are swept and fragranced on a daily basis, he added.

Since the new coronavirus emerged in December 2019 in central China, it has sickened 82,000 people globally, with more than 2,700 deaths. The illness it causes was named COVID-19, a reference to its origin late last year.

Middle East countries have been implementing measures to protect their citizens and residents from the rising coronavirus cases.

On Thursday, Dubai’s Emirates announced a temporary ban on carrying Umrah pilgrims and tourists from nearly two dozen countries to Saudi Arabia.

The announcement came after the Kingdom placed a temporary ban on pilgrims from entering the country to perform Umrah, in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Nearly 7 million Umrah pilgrims visit the Kingdom each year, the majority of whom arrive at airports in Jeddah and Madinah.


Saudi Arabia announces 15 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 15 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 16 June 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 15 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 15 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 451,187
  • A total of 7,621 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 15 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,239 new infections on Wednesday.
Of the new cases, 371 were recorded in Makkah, 253 in Riyadh, 229 in the Eastern Province, 98 in Asir, 83 in Jazan, 71 in Madinah, 32 in Najran, 17 in Al-Baha, 17 in Hail, 10 in the Northern Borders region, nine in Tabuk, and five in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 451,187 after 932 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 7,621 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 16.1 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


US climate envoy John Kerry welcomes Saudi Green Initiative, says world needs more of the same

US climate envoy John Kerry welcomes Saudi Green Initiative, says world needs more of the same
Updated 4 min 39 sec ago

US climate envoy John Kerry welcomes Saudi Green Initiative, says world needs more of the same

US climate envoy John Kerry welcomes Saudi Green Initiative, says world needs more of the same
  • Kerry says what Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has put forward as a concept is “both challenging and exciting at the same time”
  • American diplomat is seeking to increase climate ambition in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in November

RIYADH: US climate envoy John Kerry has praised the Saudi Green Initiative as “a very important step,” adding that it is “the kind of initiative we that we need on a global basis — planting trees, beginning to move to different kinds of innovative solutions that reduce the level of emissions, to deal with waste more effectively.”

Aimed at reversing environmental degradation and climate change, the combination of the Saudi Arabia Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative was announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in April. The step has put the Kingdom at the heart of regional efforts to meet international targets on environmental projects.

“I think it’s an extremely important initiative, together with the Middle East Green Initiative, when you put them together,” Kerry said during a special interview with Arab News in Riyadh on Wednesday.

The former top US diplomat was in Abu Dhabi en route to Riyadh, his second visit to the UAE capital where attended the first Regional Dialogue Conference on Climate Change in April. That conference focused on preparations for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), to be held later this year to accelerate efforts to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Referring to the participants - “11 different mostly producer countries including Morocco, Iraq, Egypt and others – he said: “They are all committed to moving in this direction. Now what we need to do is harmonize the global understanding of the goals and the different standards that are being applied to ‘green’ and the definition of ‘green’ and so forth.

Arab News Assistant Editor in Chief, Noor Nugali, (L) and US climate envoy John Kerry.
 

“But we could do these things and that’s my mission as special envoy to help us to stay focused as we move to Glasgow, where the world will come together as we did in Paris and renew ambition. We have to raise our ambition to get this job done, and I think the Green initiative is a good step towards helping to do that.”

For months now, Kerry has been crisscrossing the globe, meeting heads of government, kings, crown princes and ministers and senior officials, seeking to increase ambition in the lead-up to the COP26, to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

Kerry’s latest foray into the Middle East brought him to Riyadh on Tuesday for talks with Saudi ministers, officials and CEOs on the gamut of climate-related issues.

He said his meeting with Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz included “the whole group of CEOs who are leading different initiatives in different sectors of the economy to begin to ‘green’ the way we are doing things.”

“We had a very good series of meetings that covered everything possible. Also, Prince Abdul Aziz pulled together his experts and we spent a lot of time really going through every aspect of what Saudi Arabia is doing currently and what it can and will do,” he added.

Kerry said he was “very impressed by the depth of the (Saudi) analyses and the commitment going forward, which clearly is beginning to grapple in a serious way with this challenge,” acknowledged that “it’s a big challenge and getting more urgent,” and added that President Biden is “equally committed to moving forward.”

“We believe that Saudi Arabia could be one of the principal agents of change because Saudi Arabia has such an extraordinary opportunity with solar and green hydrogen and the possibility is very real,” Kerry said.

Among the goals of the Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative are cutting carbon dioxide emissions in the region by 60 percent; using renewables to produce 50 percent of the Kingdom’s energy by 2030; and eliminating more than 130 million tons of carbon emissions using clean hydrocarbon technology.

“I think what Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman put forward as a concept is in fact both challenging and exciting at the same time, and has the ability to speed up the transition for all of us by providing alternative fuel,” Kerry said, who met with the Crown Prince later on Wednesday to discuss international efforts to combat climate change and Saudi Arabia’s initiatives in this regard.

“Many people in the world are looking for the hydrogen solution now, and I am, I think that out of our meetings has come a commitment to work together to try to accelerate that, so I am very hopeful.”

The administration of Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement but President Biden signed an executive order to have the US rejoin the Paris climate agreement within hours of being sworn in in January. The policy U-turns have prompted some questioning about the future consistency of America’s own climate policy.

But Kerry dismissed such concerns emphatically. “No, absolutely not and I will tell you why not. The reason is that the private sector is moving in an extraordinary way all across the planet and trillions of dollars are going to be invested in this transition,” he said.

“We have six major banks in the US that have committed about $4.16 trillion over the next 10 years for climate investment. That’s without even getting to the development banks or the asset managers. And thanks to the work of a number of people around the world who are helping to put together an alliance, there are many other financial institutions in other countries that are completely committed to the same goal — net zero by 2050 or earlier.”

Explaining why the policy clock cannot be put back, Kerry said: “I believe there’s so much technology, innovation and so much new product development and new fuel development, the marketplace is going to be a powerful force that no politician in any one country is going to be able to change that. They wouldn’t want to because it is going to be millions of jobs for our citizens even as it transitions the world to sustainable and renewable energy sources.” 

Kerry said the same logic applies “with respect to carbon obviously because a place like Saudi Arabia is a producer which is deeply concerned.”

“As long as the emissions are going down at the rate we need to, as long as we are able to even capture those emissions and put them to use in one way or another, then there will be a combination of different approaches and different fuels,” he told Arab News.

“So I think the future is really very, very promising. This is the biggest economic transformation facing all of us since the Industrial Revolution and I think it’s filled with opportunity. Whoever discovers battery storage of two weeks or one week, or whoever is the person who, or country that comes up, or a company with a way to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, store it or put it to use, they are going to make a lot of money because these are things the whole world needs, and will want.”

The UN has warned that nations must redouble their climate efforts if they are to reach the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise by 2C - ideally 1.5C - by the end of the century. Climate science has called for a transformation that must start early and result in deep emission reductions even before 2030. 

However, developing countries want richer countries to make good on their Paris negotiations pledges to mobilize $100 billion a year in public and private financing to aid the energy-transition effort. Kerry said progress has been made on this contentious issue.

“About $81 billion of the total $100 billion is now accountable. It is not just direct giving of the money but it is also mobilizing money so you can push some of the development banks or you can bring other people to the table and mobilize a certain amount of money,” he said.

“We have to get there. It is very, very important for the developed world to produce the $100 billion that has been promised and we are already working very hard on it. I have talked personally to President Biden about it and he is well aware of it. It was discussed at the G7 (summit held over the weekend in Cornwall in the UK). In the next four months, it is critical for us to bring it together and get the job done.”

Kerry is confident that funds can be found for the necessary energy transitions by the governments that responded with significant monetary and fiscal policy changes to limit the COVID-19 pandemic’s shock to the economy.

“Some of the money will have to come from countries, because we need money that is what we call ‘concessionary money,’ money that is there to though public budget to help pay for things that the private sector will not be interested in doing because it does not have a return on investment,” he said.

“But the vast majority of this money is going to come from the private sector all around the world because they have the money to invest and because the different sectors of our economy produce products such as in transportation. If you have a train or a high-speed rail or a clean public transport, those are areas where you have revenue. And if you have revenue, then you have the ability to be able to attract investment. 

“The same is true for energy use. People will pay for the energy they use for their air conditioning, for their heating, for their lights and so that's a revenue stream. That means you can actually invest in that and make some money so the private sector will see economic opportunity in many of the choices that we need to make and that’s why those banks I talked about put $4.16 trillion on the table. 

“There will be more than that, much more than that, around the world. And that’s what’s going to drive this - the ability of people to seek solutions, through technologies and individual use, products that people use and are willing to pay for.”


Saudi crown prince meets US climate envoy John Kerry

Saudi crown prince meets US climate envoy John Kerry
Updated 16 June 2021

Saudi crown prince meets US climate envoy John Kerry

Saudi crown prince meets US climate envoy John Kerry

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman met on Wednesday US Climate envoy John Kerry.

The meeting comes after Kerry met with Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir met on Tuesday.

Kerry was on his first visit to the Kingdom after assuming the position of US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.

Since President Joe Biden was sworn in on Jan. 20, he has made several moves to emphasize the importance of mitigating global warming and reinstating America's role as a leader in that battle. This included appointing former Secretary of State Kerry to be the country's first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, making him the administration's global face on the issue.


Saudi Arabia, UAE sign MoU to enhance aviation security 

Saudi Arabia, UAE sign MoU to enhance aviation security 
Updated 16 June 2021

Saudi Arabia, UAE sign MoU to enhance aviation security 

Saudi Arabia, UAE sign MoU to enhance aviation security 
  • The MoU included several areas, including developing the civil aviation security infrastructure

RIYADH: The president of the Saudi aviation authority GACA signed on Tuesday a memorandum of understanding in Riyadh with his UAE counterpart to enhance bilateral cooperation in aviation security, state news agency SPA reported.

The MoU included several areas, including developing the civil aviation security infrastructure, to apply best practices used in their software systems, and to benefit from qualified technical teams between the two countries.

GACA’s president Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Duailej and the general director of UAE’s aviation authority GCAA Saif bin Muhammad Al Suwaidi hope the MoU will contribute to the modernization of the administrative, organizational, operational and technical fields.


Saudi Arabia approves creation of sports academy

Saudi Arabia approves creation of sports academy
Updated 16 June 2021

Saudi Arabia approves creation of sports academy

Saudi Arabia approves creation of sports academy

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s government on Tuesday approved the creation of a sports academy designed to discover and develop talented youth.
The Mahd Sports Academy is expected to become one of the largest in the world over the next decade and aims to create a new golden generation of Saudi sportspeople.
The academy, which was launched in July, 2020, received praise from a number of international sporting officials and personalities, including FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Italian national football team coach Roberto Mancini and veteran football manager José Mourinho.
At launch, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the sports minister, said: “This project is a dream step for Saudi Arabia, with the nation now focused on creating world-class Saudi talent that will make their country proud.”
Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s massive national reform program, has supercharged sports in the country since its introduction.
The Kingdom has hosted a number of major international events, including the Supercoppa Italiana, Formula E, heavyweight boxing as well as golfing and tennis tournaments.
The reforms have also allowed for more participation of women in sports.
“All of our programs today that we do in the ministry of sports and the Federation is all about diversity and inclusion,” Prince Abdulaziz told Arab News’ Frankly Speaking show last year.
Mahd Sports Academy will be identifying gifted boys and girls aged between 6 to 12.
The academy will look for players in two ways: the first via elementary school, where more than 10,000 PE teachers alongside scouts will be training and looking for players respectively. The second stage involves the chosen ones joining the talent discovery centre, which the country aims to have 44 of by the end of 2025, including 1.7 million participants.