London’s Arab eateries struggle to digest COVID-19 lockdown

London’s Arab eateries struggle to digest COVID-19 lockdown
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A shop selling Arabic sweets and groceries in London's Shepherd's Bush. (AN_Photo/Sarah Glubb)
London’s Arab eateries struggle to digest COVID-19 lockdown
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Patchi restaurant and bakery have also introduced a sugar free baklava product range for diabetic people, who are more likely to be affected by the coronavirus. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
London’s Arab eateries struggle to digest COVID-19 lockdown
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Sweets on sale in Patchi restaurant and bakery in north-west London, where the coronavirus pandemic has put a big dent in food orders. (AN_Photo/Sarah Glubb)
London’s Arab eateries struggle to digest COVID-19 lockdown
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Patchi restaurant and bakery is now relying mainly on takeaways and home deliveries. (AN_photo/Sarah Glubb)
London’s Arab eateries struggle to digest COVID-19 lockdown
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The UK lockdown means families cannot visit restaurants and enjoy a meal outside with friends and loved ones. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
London’s Arab eateries struggle to digest COVID-19 lockdown
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The UK lockdown means families cannot visit restaurants and enjoy a meal outside with friends and loved ones. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
London’s Arab eateries struggle to digest COVID-19 lockdown
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Patchi restaurant and bakery is now relying mainly on takeaways and home deliveries. (AN_photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Updated 09 June 2020

London’s Arab eateries struggle to digest COVID-19 lockdown

London’s Arab eateries struggle to digest COVID-19 lockdown
  • Cafes, restaurants catering to capital’s Muslims find new ways to cope as virus curbs bite

LONDON: The UK capital’s bustling Arab heartland of Edgware Road is usually a hive of activity during Ramadan.
Dozens of restaurants work tirelessly serving iftar meals to streams of customers before, later in the evening, people gather in cafes to relax and smoke shisha.
This year, however, things could not be more different.

The UK’s lockdown to tackle COVID-19 means Muslims are unable to join family and friends at sunset to break their fast or go to mosques to pray. 
The shift in priorities has dealt a hammer blow to businesses that cater to London’s Muslim community.
Most shops on Edgware Road are closed, but those that remain open are finding new ways to cope during the pandemic, while attempting to continue their usual Ramadan services.




Patchi in north-west London has taken measures to keep shoppers apart as they arrive to buy Ramadan treats. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

“We have a lot of change because of the coronavirus. Our business has come down, so we are only open for takeaways and we get about one customer every hour,” Jamil Souedain, chef at Al-Balad restaurant, told Arab News.
“It’s not like before. We closed for six weeks, and people are scared to come outside and talk to others. We are in a very bad situation,” he added.
The UK lockdown means families cannot visit restaurants and enjoy a meal outside with friends and loved ones.


Patchi, another popular Arab restaurant in northwest London, is now relying mainly on takeaways and home deliveries.
“We have expanded over the past few years,” Ziad Chamai, general manager at the restaurant and bakery, told Arab News.




Many businesses that would normally be serving food to Muslims this Ramadan are having to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

“We opened a new restaurant section and we have a function room, which we hire out for special events such as weddings and birthdays — all of these just vanished overnight.”
The restaurant has added new products, and introduced takeaway boxes of sweets and Lebanese mezzes, grilled meat and shawarma.
“We had home orders, and in Ramadan the whole family comes together, but now they can’t do that,” Chamai said. “So even now, for home delivery, the size is small. But we are still trying to get the food and our products to customers to their homes.
“Yes, we’ve lost on the business side,” he said.




Sweets on sale in Patchi restaurant and bakery in north-west London, where the coronavirus pandemic has put a big dent in food orders.  (AN_Photo)

Restaurants have also been hit by the shutdown of offices, with most people in London working from home. Previously companies ordered iftar meals for Muslim employees, but not this year.
“We had a lot of businesses in the neighborhood ordering from us for all their special events, and iftar is usually a busy time — we get a lot of orders. Now all that has gone,” Chamai said.
Patchi’s bakery section is still serving Ramadan sweets to walk-in customers.
However, the shop’s entrances and exit have been altered to ensure a one-way system and customers must keep a set distance apart. Employees wear protective gear, including face masks and gloves, while hand sanitizer and masks are provided for customers.
Workers at another Arab supermarket in Shepherd’s Bush expressed similar sentiments.
“We are trying to serve as much as we can,” Yasser Abu Hajjia, an accountant at Damas Gate, said. “We want to make sure we have everything families need at the moment, especially rice and dates. So we guarantee these products are available for customers.”

Other businesses that would normally be thriving in the area during Ramadan also have ground to a halt due to the pandemic.
Abdelatif Samadi, who drives one of the capital’s iconic black taxis, said: “The coronavirus has pretty much decimated the business, finished it off, killed it. It is on hold until after the outbreak.”
Samadi said that even if there was work, the job is “risky” because he is exposed to people who might have the virus.
“So there is no point even thinking of working,” he said.
“At the moment it’s time off. It’s Ramadan, so I’m fasting and not working. I’m coming to buy food from the restaurant and go home,” he added.


Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants
Updated 11 May 2021

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants
  • Italy’s PM favors EU offering financial assistance to all African countries involved in migration to Europe, an official told Reuters
  • Some 13,000 migrants have landed on Italy's coast this year

ROME: Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office denied a media report on Tuesday that Italy was proposing that the European Union should pay Libya to stop migrants leaving its shores for Europe.
Draghi favors the EU offering financial assistance to all African countries involved in migration to Europe, an official in Draghi’s office told Reuters.
But the official denied a report by La Repubblica newspaper that Draghi wanted to propose at a May 24 summit that the EU make a deal similar to one reached with Ankara in 2016, under which Turkey is entitled to financial aid in exchange for hosting refugees who try to reach Europe via the Balkans.
“At the moment there is no initiative regarding creating a similar deal to what was done with Turkey,” the official said.
“The government’s position is that the EU must pay more attention to the situation in the southern Mediterranean and be ready to offer financial help to all African countries involved in migrant flows.”
Some 13,000 migrants have landed on Italy’s coast this year, about three times as many as in the same period last year, according to interior ministry data.
More than 2,000 have since Sunday reached the island of Lampedusa, the initial arrival point for many people trying to get to Europe from Africa.
The migrants, arriving on small and perilous boats run by people-traffickers, are being transferred elsewhere in Italy.
The vast majority of African migrants heading for Europe by sea depart from Libya.
In 2019, Rome agreed a plan with other European states to redistribute migrants after they arrived, but the scheme was voluntary and has not provided a stable solution.
On Tuesday, the executive European Commission said it had received no offers from member states to accept migrants from Italy.
The migration issue has fueled the rise of anti-immigration parties across Europe. In Italy, the right-wing League is part of Draghi’s national unity government and wants action.


Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid
Updated 11 May 2021

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid
  • Most of the crowd on Tuesday in Madrid waved Palestinian flags and shouted “Israel, assassin of the Palestinian people”
  • Protestors wore face masks as stipulated by Spanish health laws to fight pandemic

MADRID: A few dozen people have gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in the Spanish capital to protest Israel’s use of force against the Palestinians.
Most of the crowd on Tuesday in Madrid waved Palestinian flags. They shouted “Israel, assassin of the Palestinian people” and “it’s Palestine, not Israel” in Spanish.
Some held up photos of Palestinians being arrested by Israeli forces. All wore face masks as stipulated by Spanish health laws to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The escalation in the conflict was sparked by weeks of tensions in contested Jerusalem.


Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program
Updated 11 May 2021

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program
  • Priority for age groups and medical vulnerability waived in favour of permanent residents of nearly 100 islands
  • Islanders make up around 1.5 million of Greece’s population of 10.7 million

NAXOS, Greece: A vaccination program for Greek islands is being accelerated to cover all local residents by the end of June, the government announced Tuesday ahead of the launch of the tourism season.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said a nationwide priority system for age groups and medical vulnerability was being waived for permanent residents of nearly 100 islands.
“This initiative is aimed at supporting local island communities and their economy and it also aspires to send a positive overall message for our tourism,” Mitsotakis said.
Greece is fighting to revive its key tourism sector that was battered by the pandemic in 2020 but its vaccination rates remain below the European Union average and the country has only recently stabilized a surge in cases.
Islanders make up around 1.5 million of Greece’s population of 10.7 million. Many holiday islands have a year-round population of under 10,000, while Crete has the largest with more than 600,000 residents, followed by Evia, Rhodes, Corfu, Lesbos, and Chios. The tourism season will officially start Friday.


Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday
Updated 11 May 2021

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday
  • Sweden of 10 million inhabitants registered 44 new deaths, taking the total to 14,217
  • The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks

STOCKHOLM: Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has registered 13,812 new coronavirus cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed on Tuesday.
The figure compared with 14,950 cases during the corresponding period last week.
The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 44 new deaths, taking the total to 14,217.
The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks.
Sweden’s death rate per capita is many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbors’ but lower than in most European countries that opted for lockdowns.


At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting
Updated 11 May 2021

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting
  • RIA Novosti news agency reported that a teenager was detained
  • Local officials said some children were evacuated from the school but others still remained in the building

MOSCOW: A school shooting erupted Tuesday in the Russian city of Kazan, leaving eight students and one teacher dead, Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing local emergency services.
According to the Interfax news agency, two gunmen opened fire in the school, and one of them — a 17-year-old — has already been apprehended.

“According to preliminary information, the second attacker in the school in Kazan who remained in the building was killed,” the TASS state news agency reported, citing a law enforcement source.
Local officials said some children were evacuated from the school but others still remained in the building. Authorities said additional security measures have been put into place in all schools in Kazan, the capital of Russia’s Tatarstan region, roughly 700 kilometers (430 miles) east of Moscow.
While school shootings are relatively rare in Russia, there have been several violent attacks on schools in recent years, mostly carried out by students.