Bats besiege Egyptian village causing coronavirus panic

Bats besiege Egyptian village causing coronavirus panic
A man shows a dead bat in an Egyptian village close to the capital Cairo. (AN photo)
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Updated 19 April 2020

Bats besiege Egyptian village causing coronavirus panic

Bats besiege Egyptian village causing coronavirus panic
  • The owner of the abandoned house was told to close all windows and doors, to check on it periodically and use the same cocktail of ingredients to kill any remaining bats

CAIRO: Egyptian villagers panicked after a huge number of bats flew over their homes, fearing they would be infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Residents of Al-Hazaneya, which is in Qalioubiya governorate close to Cairo, called on officials to take action when they saw the bats in flight.
It has been reported for months that the virus originated in bats and was transmitted to humans, increasing the Egyptian villagers’ worry that they might become sick because of the bats.
They filed an official complaint about an abandoned house, saying it had a large number of bats inside that attacked residents at night.
Gharib Ahmed, local council chairman of Shebin El-Qanater city where the village is located, called for calm. “The local unit succeeded in killing a number of bats by lighting fires and using pesticides in the house, but many bats escaped,” he said.
The house was abandoned and had become infested with bats “just like any other abandoned site,” he added, stressing it was a normal occurrence in villages and agricultural areas. What had caused people to panic was the spread of coronavirus, which had originated from bats, he said.
Officials chased most of the bats away by lighting fires, then using a mix of the smoke and red chili powder to kill and scare off the remaining creatures. Many bats were killed inside the house, which was later disinfected.
The owner of the abandoned house was told to close all windows and doors, to check on it periodically and use the same cocktail of ingredients to kill any remaining bats.
Osama Desouky, chairman of the local unit, told Arab News that the three-floor house was built 18 years ago. He said it did not have any windows or doors except for the main entrance. The owner died after building it, with the property becoming a breeding ground for bats and their numbers multiplied.
Officials found a large number of bats after inspecting the house. He said authorities immediately contacted veterinary and health officials, who confirmed that there was no particular substance that killed them. However, residents and the local unit nevertheless used the smoke-and-chili powder concoction. A hundred bats were reportedly killed.
Desouky said the unit would be in contact with extermination companies as well as businesses which he said could produce special bat-killing substances.
Hussein Abu Saddam, head of the Egyptian Farmers’ Syndicate, said there was no reason for the residents of Al-Hazaneya to panic because it was normal for bats to be found in abandoned houses, and that they were harmless.
Bats were found all over the world and that most kinds ate insects and fruit and they were useful for striking an ecological balance, he added, explaining there were more than 1,300 kinds, including the Egyptian fruit bat, nose bats, white bats, the Indian Flying Fox, brown bats, and horseshoe bats, the latter connected to coronavirus.
Abu Saddam said the reputation of bats being human bloodsuckers was linked to myths and legends. People had become more afraid of bats because they lived for a long time, were found in groups and were now synonymous with the surge of COVID-19.
“Thus they are like fertile soil for spreading respiratory system infections,” he said, adding that they spread infections when they flew long distances.
 


UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts
Updated 23 January 2021

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts
  • Geir Pederson wants enhanced international diplomacy, and tighter focus on progress in drafting new constitution
  • The fifth session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee begins in Geneva on Monday

NEW YORK: Geir Pedersen, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, on Friday called for “more serious and cooperative” international diplomacy as part of political efforts to improve the lives of the Syrian people and develop a vision for the future of their country.

Speaking ahead of the fifth session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, which begins on Monday in Geneva, he also urged committee members to focus their efforts and work more effectively to speed up progress on constitutional reform.

Pedersen expressed hope that much-needed international engagement with the peace process is now possible.

“After all, despite the differences, key states are continuing to reaffirm their commitment to Resolution 2254,” he added, referring to the UN Security Council resolution, adopted in 2015, that calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria.

Pedersen, who briefed the Security Council this week on the latest developments, highlighted the fact that five foreign armies are active in Syria and “violations of Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity (have been) going on for years.”

Although the ceasefire agreement reached by Russia and Turkey in the northwest of the country resulted in a de-escalation of hostilities, Pedersen warned that this relative calm remains fragile.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File) 

“All of these issues cannot be sorted out by the Syrians alone,” he said. (They) need an international cooperation (and) a real exchange of views (among all parties).

“If that political will is lacking it would be very, very difficult to move this process forward ... if you leave this to the UN alone, we will not be able to succeed.”

Top on the agenda on Monday will be discussion of the basic principles of the Syrian constitution. Pedersen said he has been meeting with the two co-chairs of the committee on a regular basis, and has also had intensive discussions with the “Middle Third” civil-society group, which includes society activists and experts and other independents from inside and outside of Syria.

His experiences during the past year, he said, lead him to believe there is potential for finding common ground. No single actor or group of actors can impose its will on Syria or settle the conflict alone — they must work together, he added.

The time has now come for the co-chairs of the Constitutional Committee to organize and focus its efforts by establishing “more effective and operational working methods,” Pedersen said, so that they can begin to move forward from preparing constitutional reforms to actually drafting them, and agreeing on clear agendas and discussion topics for future meetings.

“There needs to be more urgency (in) delivering progress in this process,” he added.

As he saluted the work of civil society groups and “all the Syrians who do what they can to improve the situation on the ground and support a political process,” Pedersen singled out women in particular for praise. He has been particularly proactive in seeking input from the Women’s Advisory Board.

“It is a priority for all of us to make sure that we have full participation of Syrian women in the political process,” he said. “(Promoting) their core constitutional rights is central for me, as the facilitator of the work of the Constitutional Committee.”

Asked about plans for large-scale prisoner swaps, Pedersen said that although this is not on the agenda for the talks in Geneva this week, it is always part of his own agenda. The disappointment over the lack of progress on the issue so far means “that we should work even harder” on it, he added.

“This is a file that really has an impact on nearly every Syrian family, and it needs to be addressed,” he said. “(I) have appealed (for) more information on the missing. (We) need to see the early release of women, children, the elderly and the sick, and I think (nothing) should stop that from happening.”

The members of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee are due to arrive in Geneva on Saturday, and Pedersen will consult with the co-chairs over the weekend before the main talks begin on Monday.

Asked whether he expects this latest round of negotiations to be a success for the UN, Pedersen said: “I really do not think this is the question; the question (is) whether it is a success for the Syrian people and (their) aspirations.

“My hope has been that the Constitutional Committee, if it is handled in the correct manner, could start to build trust and (be) a door-opener for a broader political process.

“But the (committee) cannot work in isolation ... we need political will from the different parties to be able to move forward.”

He added: “The (committee) is just one aspect, and it is not the one aspect that will solve the Syrian crisis. If we are to see changes in the situation on the ground, there are other factors that need to be discussed.”