Egypt begins mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign

Dr. Abdel Menoim Selim, is shown on a live screen receiving the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, ahead of a press conference, at the Abu Khalifa Hospital in Ismailia, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (AP)
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Dr. Abdel Menoim Selim, is shown on a live screen receiving the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, ahead of a press conference, at the Abu Khalifa Hospital in Ismailia, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (AP)
(L to R) Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed gives a press conference, accompanied by doctor Abdelmouim Selem and medical staff member Ahmed Hemdan, in a tent set up outside the Abou Khalifa hospital, in Ismailia, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) east the capital Cairo, on Sunday Jan. 24, 2021, after the two men received a doze of a coronavirus vaccine. (AFP)
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(L to R) Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed gives a press conference, accompanied by doctor Abdelmouim Selem and medical staff member Ahmed Hemdan, in a tent set up outside the Abou Khalifa hospital, in Ismailia, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) east the capital Cairo, on Sunday Jan. 24, 2021, after the two men received a doze of a coronavirus vaccine. (AFP)
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Updated 25 January 2021

Egypt begins mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign

(L to R) Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed gives a press conference, accompanied by doctor Abdelmouim Selem and medical staff member Ahmed Hemdan, in a tent set up outside the Abou Khalifa hospital, in Ismailia, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) east the capital Cairo, on Sunday Jan. 24, 2021, after the two men received a doze of a coronavirus vaccine. (AFP)
  • Sinopharm jab rolls out in 36 centers throughout country
  • Egypt launched its coronavirus vaccination campaign on Sunday

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi announced the start of the campaign, and said that medical staff will be first in line to receive the jab.
Egypt received the first shipment of vaccines developed by Sinopharm last December.
Last week, the country’s minister of health said that Egypt would receive 40 million doses through the International Vaccine Alliance, a sufficient amount to vaccinate 20 million people, or 20 percent of Egypt’s population of 100 million.
The Ministry of Health and Population said that those who will receive the vaccine must be over the age of 18, and that pregnant women and children will not receive the jab.
The ministry also set the times and places for the first group of vaccine recipients.
Minister of Health Hala Zayed will hold a press conference at the Abu Khalifa Isolation Hospital in Ismailia Governorate to announce the vaccine distribution plan.

 

The ministry said that more than 36 centers in Egypt will distribute the vaccine to citizens, with the first group in line being medical staff in isolation, then chest and fever hospital patients, and then patients with chronic diseases and the elderly.

The ministry stressed that the vaccines have been thoroughly tested and are safe, and have undergone analysis that proved the Sinopharm vaccine 86 percent effective. The ministry added that the success of the vaccine in generating antibodies is 99 percent, and that it is totally effective in preventing moderate or major injury.
Symptoms that vaccine recipients may experience include pain, stiffness, itching, high temperature, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, muscle pain, joint pain and convulsive attacks.
These symptoms generally do not require specific treatment and usually subside without a prescription or medication.
On Saturday, Egypt recorded a significant decrease in new coronavirus cases. It recorded 680 new cases, a noticeable decline from the day before, in which it recorded 748 new cases.
It also recorded 49 new deaths, a decrease compared with the 52 deaths it recorded the previous day.


Egypt, Sudan to strengthen military pact

Egypt, Sudan to strengthen military pact
Updated 4 min 7 sec ago

Egypt, Sudan to strengthen military pact

Egypt, Sudan to strengthen military pact

CAIRO: Mohamed Othman Al-Hussein, Sudan’s military chief of staff, and his Egyptian counterpart, Lt. Gen. Mohammed Farid, signed a bilateral agreement at a meeting of the Egyptian-Sudanese military committee in Khartoum on Tuesday.

An Egyptian military delegation is visiting Sudan to hold key meetings as part of joint military cooperation.

Farid led a high-level military delegation to Khartoum to take part in the seventh meeting of the joint Egyptian-Sudanese military committee, headed by the chiefs of staff of both countries.

He will hold talks as part of military cooperation and strategic partnership between the two countries.

Egypt and Sudan have extended their joint relations on security since Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan became president of the transitional Sovereignty Council of Sudan following the ouster of former President Omar Bashir.

Last November, Sudanese air force units and Egyptian commando teams conducted a joint Egyptian-Sudanese air drill, Nile Eagles1, the first of its kind.

During a visit by Farid to Khartoum in November, Egyptian and Sudanese military leaders agreed to accelerate joint security and military cooperation.

They also agreed to carry out more drills for all armed forces branches, and step up cooperation in training, border security and combating terrorism, as well as technical insurance and military industries.
 


Pope will likely use armor-plated car in Iraq: Spokesman

Pope will likely use armor-plated car in Iraq: Spokesman
Updated 4 min 52 sec ago

Pope will likely use armor-plated car in Iraq: Spokesman

Pope will likely use armor-plated car in Iraq: Spokesman
  • This papal trip ‘will be different from those made in the past due to the pandemic’

ROME: Pope Francis will probably use an armor-plated car during his first trip to Iraq on March 5-8, and he will be accompanied throughout by a Vatican nurse.

“An armor-plated car is always available for the pope’s trips, and in this trip it’s very likely to be used,” Vatican press spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a briefing attended by Arab News.

The pope will use a closed car in all his visits to Iraqi cities, Bruni added, apart from Erbil stadium on Sunday, when he will use an open car and will celebrate Mass.

This papal trip “will be different from those made in the past due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bruni said.

No meetings with crowds are scheduled except for Mass in Erbil; only 10,000 faithful will be allowed there in order to respect social distancing.

This will be the pope’s first trip abroad in about 15 months due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent restrictions on movement. It is also the first-ever papal journey to Iraq.

He will be accompanied by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin; the prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri; and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, secretary for relations with states.

Seventy-five embedded journalists will also travel aboard the special flight that will take the leader of the Catholic Church from Rome to Baghdad — almost double the number normally allowed on a papal flight.

Parolin described the pope’s visit as a sign of his “closeness to the Catholic Church” in Iraq and to the country’s dwindling Christian communities.

“We know that the Church (in Iraq) has suffered a lot,” Parolin said. “It has lost many Christians who have left Iraq for other countries.”

Therefore, the Church needs the pope’s presence “to be encouraged and to continue her mission of witnessing Jesus Christ and the Gospel in the difficult situation in which she finds herself,” Parolin added.

The pope’s visit will also “boost the efforts that have already started to reconstruct the country,” Parolin said, adding that it will be an occasion of “interreligious dialogue, collaboration, understanding and fraternity between Christians and Muslims for the good of the country and its brighter future.”

The pope will fly to Baghdad on Friday, and will be welcomed at the airport by Iraq’s prime minister.

On Saturday, the pope will go to the city of Najaf, where he will meet Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiite Muslims.

Bruni said this will be the first face-to-face meeting between a Catholic pontiff and a Shiite ayatollah.

The pope will then visit the ancient city of Ur, considered by the Bible to be Abraham’s birthplace.

On Sunday he will fly by helicopter to Mosul, which from 2014 to 2017 was the de facto capital of Daesh’s self-proclaimed caliphate.

There, Buni said, the pope will have “a moment of intimate prayer to honor the victims of this land.”

He will then fly to Qaraqosh, a Christian-majority city where in 2014, about 45,000 people were expelled by Daesh, before heading to Erbil for a mass at Franso Hariri stadium.


Denmark criticized for telling Syrian refugees to return home

Denmark criticized for telling Syrian refugees to return home
Updated 24 min 13 sec ago

Denmark criticized for telling Syrian refugees to return home

Denmark criticized for telling Syrian refugees to return home
  • Amnesty International: It is ‘an appalling affront to refugee law and people’s right to be safe from persecution’

LONDON: Denmark has come under criticism for becoming the first European nation to tell Syrian refugees they must return to their home country.

The Scandinavian nation has stripped 94 Syrian refugees of their residency permits after it determined Damascus and the surrounding area to be safe.

Human rights groups have spoken out against Copenhagen’s move to send people back to a country that remains ravaged by war.

“That the Danish government is seeking to force people back into the hands of this brutal regime is an appalling affront to refugee law and people’s right to be safe from persecution,” Steve Valdez-Symonds, refugee and migrant rights director at Amnesty International UK, told the Daily Mail.

“This reckless violation of Denmark’s duty to provide asylum also risks increasing incentives for other countries to abandon their own obligations to Syrian refugees,” he added.

“Not only will this put the lives of even more women, men and children at risk. It will add to reasons that cause people to travel ever further afield in search of safety and security for themselves and their family.”

The government said migrants will be sent to Danish deportation camps, but will not be forced to leave.

However, rights groups say the government is trying to give refugees no option but to return to Syria.
Danish Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye said last month that the country had been “open and honest from the start” with refugees coming from Syria.
“We have made it clear to the Syrian refugees that their residence permit is temporary. It can be withdrawn if protection is no longer needed,” he added.
“We must give people protection for as long as it is needed. But when conditions in the home country improve, a former refugee should return home and re-establish a life there.”
While Germany had previously ruled that criminals can be deported to Syria, Denmark is the first country in Europe to say refugees can be returned.
The decision means that 350 Syrians will have their temporary protection permits reviewed. This follows some 900 refugees from Damascus who had their cases reassessed last year.

Michala Bendixen, from the rights group Refugees Welcome, said Syrian refugees now face a “very, very tragic situation,” and will be forced from their homes, jobs and studies and into Danish deportation camps.
She told the Daily Telegraph that they face years of limbo. “The government hopes that they will go voluntarily, that they will just give up and go on their own,” she said.
Denmark’s move comes as UN investigators said thousands of civilians had endured “unimaginable suffering” in the war-torn country, including torture, sexual violence and death in detention in the last decade of conflict.
In a report released on Monday, the UN said people arrested by the Assad regime or allied forces had been subjected to inhumane treatment and torture, including rape.
“At least 20 different horrific methods of torture used by the government of Syria have been extensively documented,” the report said.
“These include administering electric shocks, the burning of body parts, pulling off nails and teeth, mock executions, folding detainees into a car tyre and crucifying or suspending individuals from one or two limbs for prolonged periods, often in combination with severe beating.”

Tens of thousands of civilians who were detained are unaccounted for, with no trace of their whereabouts, the UN said.


Myanmar authorities charge Associated Press journalist

Myanmar authorities charge Associated Press journalist
Updated 27 min 41 sec ago

Myanmar authorities charge Associated Press journalist

Myanmar authorities charge Associated Press journalist
  • Six members of the press charged by Myanmarese authorities with violating a public order law and could face imprisonment up to three years
  • AP vice president for international news says 'independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution'

YANGON, Myanmar: Six members of the media, including Associated Press [AP] journalist Thein Zaw were charged on Tuesday of violating a public order law that could see them imprisoned up to three years, said a lawyer.
Myanmarese authorities charged AP’s Zaw and five media persons following their arrest while covering protests against the February 1 military coup in Myanmar that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The group includes journalists for Myanmar Now, Myanmar Photo Agency, 7Day News, Zee Kwet online news and a freelancer.
Zaw’s lawyer Tin Zar Oo said the six have been charged under a law that punishes anyone who causes fear among the public, knowingly spreads false news, or agitates directly or indirectly for a criminal offense against a government employee.
The law was amended by the junta last month to broaden its scope and increase the maximum prison term from two years.
Detained on Saturday morning in the country’s largest city, Yangon, Zaw, 32, was reported to be held in Insein Prison that’s notorious for housing political prisoners under previous military regimes.
According to the lawyer, Thein Zaw was remanded into custody by a court and can be held until March 12 without another hearing or further action, meanwhile AP has called for Zaw’s immediate release.
“Independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution,” Ian Phillips, AP vice president for international news, said after the arrest. “AP decries in the strongest terms the arbitrary detention of Thein Zaw.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists joined that call.
“Myanmar authorities must release all journalists being held behind bars and stop threatening and harassing reporters for merely doing their jobs of covering anti-coup street protests,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Myanmar must not return to the past dark ages where military rulers jailed journalists to stifle and censor news reporting.”
Zaw was arrested as police charged toward protesters gathered at an intersection in Yangon, the demonstrators’ meeting point.
This past weekend the authorities escalated their crackdown carrying out mass arrests and using lethal force. The UN Human Rights offices said it believes at least 18 people were shot dead Sunday in several cities when security forces opened fire on demonstrators.
The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy after five decades of military rule.
In December 2017, two Reuters’ journalists were arrested while working on a story about Myanmar’s Rohingya minority. They were accused of illegally possessing official documents, although they argued that they were framed because of official opposition to their reporting.
Although their case attracted international attention, they were convicted the following year and were sentenced to seven years behind bars. They were freed in 2019 in a mass presidential pardon.


Vatican foundation announces program to support Christians in Iraq

Vatican foundation announces program to support Christians in Iraq
Updated 54 min 8 sec ago

Vatican foundation announces program to support Christians in Iraq

Vatican foundation announces program to support Christians in Iraq
  • Scholarships will be funded for students of Catholic University of Erbil
  • ‘This program will help Christians build a better future for themselves and their country,’ foundation official tells Arab News

ROME: In the run up to the pope’s visit to Iraq on March 5-8, a Vatican foundation has announced a new program worth €1.5 million ($1.8 million) to support young Christians living in the country.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACS) will fund scholarships for 150 students of the Catholic University of Erbil for the next four years. It is the only Catholic university in Iraq, and 54 percent of its 170 students are women.

Bashar Warda, Chaldean archbishop of Erbil and founder of the university in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, described the scholarships as “a strong gesture of solidarity towards Christians, but also towards other minorities in the region who are marginalized.” He said around 150,000 Christians fled to Iraqi Kurdistan in 2014 to escape Daesh.

“The Catholic University of Erbil represents a true symbol of hope, especially for younger generations living in Kurdistan and in Iraq,” he added.

“We believe that our scholarships will ensure tremendous support to young people who hope for a better future.”

Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive chairman of ACS International, said: “This project aims to promote social cohesion between the different religious communities, and to ensure better employment prospects for Christian students.”

Most students of the university are either refugees or internally displaced. “We believe this project can support the pope’s message of social cohesion and reconciliation,” said Heine-Geldern.

“That university is built around diversity, with 72 percent Christians, 10 percent Muslims and 18 percent Yazidis.”

Alfredo Mantovano, president of ACS Italia, told Arab News: “In Iraqi Kurdistan the Christian minority lives in relative safety, but the region’s economic situation is precarious. For this reason, many young people decide to emigrate.”

He added: “Not surprisingly, in the last 10 years the Christian presence has dramatically decreased. This program will help young Christians to stay there, receive an education and build a better future for themselves and their country.”

Pope Francis will visit Erbil on March 7, where he will meet religious and civil authorities of the autonomous region.