Gaza virus cases attended conference in Pakistan

Palestinian volunteers wearing protective clothes and masks disinfect a street as a preventive measure against the spread of novel coronavirus, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 22, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 24 March 2020

Gaza virus cases attended conference in Pakistan

  • The Palestinian embassy in Islamabad said the two attended an event with 250,000 Muslims in Pakistan last month

GAZA: Gaza’s first two confirmed coronavirus patients attended a conference with 250,000 Muslims in Pakistan last month that went ahead contrary to government advice, an official and family members said Monday.
Pakistani authorities had urged the cancelation of the five-day Tablighi Ijtema congregation, or Tablighi Jamaat in Arabic, hosted annually near Lahore.
But organizers from the conservative Sunni Muslim evangelical movement ignored government advice to postpone.
It was unclear where the two Palestinians — who returned to Gaza from Pakistan via Egypt earlier this month — contracted COVID-19.
But a statement from the Palestinian embassy in Islamabad said the two attended the event which took place “despite the warning of the Pakistani authorities against conferences.”
Omar Al-Tabatibi said his 79-year-old grandfather Mohammed and friend Amer Doghmosh had attended the Lahore event.
Previous statements from health officials had misidentified the men as being between 30 and 40.

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“My grandfather learnt about the conference by chance from a friend while he was in Pakistan so he wanted to attend,” Tabatibi said.
After returning from Pakistan his grandfather stayed several days in Egypt before taking the long journey overland to Gaza, Tabatibi said.
“Maybe my grandfather caught corona in Egypt and not Pakistan, no one knows,” he added.
He said the family had already been subjected to abuse on social media and in person since the news broke.
“My little brother went to a games shop today and the owner told him to go home as his grandfather has corona.”
Gaza’s health ministry said the two men were placed in quarantine immediately after crossing into Gaza and did not mix with the population.
It described them as being in stable condition.
Omar said his grandfather has pre-existing conditions of high blood pressure and diabetes.
“I spoke to him last night on the phone and he told me he was ok and is recovering,” he said.
The United Nations has warned that a COVID-19 outbreak in Gaza could be disastrous, given the high poverty rates and weak health system in the coastal strip under Israeli blockade since 2007.


Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia return to talks over disputed dam

Updated 03 August 2020

Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia return to talks over disputed dam

  • Khartoum and Cairo have repeatedly rejected the filling of the massive reservoir
  • Ethiopia says the dam will provide electricity to millions

CAIRO: Three key Nile basin countries on Monday resumed their negotiations to resolve a years-long dispute over the operation and filling of a giant hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, officials said.
The talks came a day after tens of thousands of Ethiopians flooded the streets of their capital, Addis Ababa, in a government-backed rally to celebrate the first stage of the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s 74 billion-cubic-meter reservoir.
Ethiopia’s announcement sparked fear and confusion downstream in Sudan and Egypt. Both Khartoum and Cairo have repeatedly rejected the filling of the massive reservoir without reaching a deal among the Nile basin countries.
Ethiopia says the dam will provide electricity to millions of its nearly 110 million citizens, help bring them out of poverty and also make the country a major power exporter.
Egypt, which depends on the Nile River to supply its booming population of 100 million people with fresh water, asserts the dam poses an existential threat.
Sudan, between the two countries, says the project could endanger its own dams — though it stands to benefit from the Ethiopian dam, including having access to cheap electricity and reduced flooding. The confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile near Khartoum forms the Nile River that then flows the length of Egypt and into the Mediterranean Sea.
Irrigation ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia took part in Monday’s talks, which were held online amid the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual meeting was also attended by officials from the African Union and South Africa, the current chairman of the regional block, said Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas. Officials from the US and the European Union were also in attendance, said Egypt’s irrigation ministry.
Technical and legal experts from the three countries would resume their negotiations based on reports presented by the AU and the three capitals following their talks in July, Abbas said. The three ministers would meet online again on Thursday, he added.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attributed the reservoir’s filling to the torrential rains flooding the Blue Nile — something that occurred naturally, “without bothering or hurting anyone else.”
However, Egypt’s Irrigation Minister Mohammed Abdel-Atty said the filling, without “consultations and coordination” with downstream countries, sent “negative indications that show Ethiopian unwillingness to reach a fair deal.”
Ethiopia’s irrigation ministry posted on its Facebook page that it would work to achieve a “fair and reasonable” use of the Blue Nile water.
Key sticking points remain, including how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the countries will resolve any future disputes. Egypt and Sudan have pushed for a binding agreement, which Ethiopia rejects and insists on non-binding guidelines.