French and Russian leaders to hold video summit Friday

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on June 24, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 25 June 2020

French and Russian leaders to hold video summit Friday

  • The coronavirus pandemic, and the crises in Libya and Syria are on their agenda
  • France has already voiced its unease at Russia’s role in Libya

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron will hold a videoconference with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday, with the coronavirus pandemic and the crises in Libya and Syria on their agenda, France announced Wednesday.
The situations in Iran and Ukraine will also be raised, as well as “cooperation in the fields of health and the environment” the French presidency said.
The virtual meeting comes after Macron hosted Putin in Paris last August, stating that he wanted to bring Russia and Europe back together and that he believed “Europe stretches from Lisbon to Vladivostok.”
Macron believes there is “a need to deal with all the difficult subjects,” with Russia, his office said.
For this “clarification and cooperation” is necessary, particularly in regards to European security in the face of international cyberattacks, it added.
German leader Angela Merkel has recently expressed exasperation at several hacking attacks that Berlin believes were carried out by Moscow.
France has already voiced its unease at Russia’s role in Libya.
Macron made two visits to Russia in 2018. During one trip he watched the World Cup final.
The French leader had also planned to attend the events in Red Square last month to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.
But that event was canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
It went ahead in Moscow Wednesday without foreign dignitaries attending.

Pakistan rolls out coronavirus surveillance app for incoming travelers

Updated 11 min 7 sec ago

Pakistan rolls out coronavirus surveillance app for incoming travelers

  • 246,351 cases registered since late February

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has developed a mobile app to keep track of travelers entering the country through land routes and airports to ensure a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for those testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

“The app will be rolled out in a few days,” Shabahat Ali Shah, CEO of the National Information Technology Board (NITB), told Arab News this week.

He said the app would help record symptoms of the incoming travelers and keep track of their location. It would also communicate coronavirus test results to them and check if they were violating the self-quarantine requirement.

The government was testing everyone entering the country until recently. Many travelers were kept at big isolation centers established in hotels and marquees for 14 days to prevent the spread of the virus.

According to government officials, the new app will eliminate the costs associated with the old quarantine protocols and maintain a better record of people’s movements.

Pakistan has registered 246,351 coronavirus infections since late February and over 5,000 deaths.

The government has also been carrying out contact tracing to test suspected cases and sent over half-a-million text messages to those who have come into close contact with COVID-19 patients, according to the Ministry of National Health Services.

“We don’t share contact tracing numbers with the public since they keep changing on a daily basis,” Shah said, adding that people suspected to have the disease were requested to get themselves tested.

Discussing the projections, he said the numbers of coronavirus cases would keep changing but that the government’s actions had proved successful in bringing down the country’s infection rate.

“Smart lockdowns in different areas have helped reduce the disease,” Shah said, adding the decision to lock down virus hotspots was taken on the basis of data collected by the NITB.

He said that the COVID-19 curve would flatten if the government properly managed Eid Al-Adha and Muharram processions in the coming months.

According to independent IT analysts, the app would prove ineffective if “big data” was not properly analyzed.

“Developing an app is not a big deal,” Mustaneer Abdullah, an IT expert, told Arab News. “The real task is to extract useful information through the algorithms and break it down in specific categories to achieve the desired targets. The trouble is that government departments lack that kind of expertise.”

He also pointed out that such apps were hazardous to public privacy in the absence of data protection laws since they sought permission from users at the time of installation to access their photo galleries, locations and contact lists to work smoothly.

“The data collected through these apps can also be a goldmine for scoundrels. People working with government departments could leak user information to digital marketers or fraudsters with total impunity.”