Tunisian doctor plays violin to boost virus patients’ morale

Tunisian doctor plays violin  to boost virus patients’ morale
Dr. Mohamed Salah Siala plays the violin for patients in Sfax, Tunisia. (AP)
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Updated 22 February 2021

Tunisian doctor plays violin to boost virus patients’ morale

Tunisian doctor plays violin  to boost virus patients’ morale
  • Currently, 1,264 Tunisians are hospitalized — including 287 in intensive care and 111 on ventilators

SFAX, Tunisia: When Dr. Mohamed Salah Siala began working on the COVID-19 front line in January in a Tunisian hospital he never imagined harnessing his music skills in the fight against the virus.

Yet when the 25-year-old decided to get out his violin one day at Hedi Chaker Hospital in the city of Sfax and play, it won praise for boosting the morale of virus sufferers who remained isolated and needed a smile.
The reaction of the patients was immediate — smiling, clapping and some with their fists up — celebrating the impromptu “concert.” Some were surprised to discover that it was the doctor on the fiddle.
“Playing the music here contributes to the patient’s feeling of joy and to forget the pain,” said patient Rachid Arous, who is recovering from COVID-19. “It’s a wonderful thing.”
In his down time away from medical duties, Siala plays the violin enthusiastically and is also a member of a group called the “Pepper Band.”
“My goal is to use music to help treat corona(virus) patients that are in a bad psychological condition, suffering loneliness — which is their first enemy,” Siala said.
Siala now plays regularly in the hospital, when he has time.
Walking through the corridors with his violin, Siala’s music helps not just the patients but also health workers. They have been under pressure in the last few months because of the increased number of virus-linked hospitalizations that spiked at the beginning of the year.
However, there is more than the violin to bring hope to the North African country. Tunisia is showing signs that the virus is in decline. In recent days, it recorded one of the lowest rates of new infections in several weeks. According to the Ministry of Health, 725 new positive cases were detected Thursday in the population of almost 12 million against a peak of more than 4,100 new cases in mid-January. Likewise, the death toll fell to 35, from a daily average of 70 — and the peak of 103 deaths one month ago.
With the exception of the intensive care beds, which are still filled up, the oxygen beds are no longer as crowded as before, because many patients are being cared for at home. Currently, 1,264 Tunisians are hospitalized — including 287 in intensive care and 111 on ventilators.
The country is also expected to get its first deliveries of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines this month. Those are part of a broader arrangement with the COVAX global vaccine program for developing countries and the African CDC that Tunisia hopes will bring in as many as 7 million vaccine doses in the coming months.
In the meantime, patients can rely on Siala to bring hope and resilience with the strokes of his bow.
“He plays to entertain us a little bit almost every day. I pray to God to protect him, and I wish you all that God protect you from this disease,” said Brika Sdiri, clapping and smiling while listening to the music. “I hope to get out of this place in good health, that’s what I wish.”


Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people

Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people
Updated 14 April 2021

Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people

Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people
  • The decisions can either be relaxed or toughened, depending on the pandemic situation

DUBAI: Oman has imposed a night-time ban on all commercial activities and movement of people throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

All types of gatherings, including iftars in mosques, tents or public places typical during Ramadan are affected by the prohibition against mass assembly, which starts from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m.

Oman’s Supreme Committee, which was created to deal with all coronavirus pandemic related developments, also imposed a ban on all social, sports and cultural activities and any other group activities throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

Key sectoral workers such as in oil, healthcare, utilities, food supply and media were however exempted from the movement ban, provided they have permissions, as well as three-ton trucks. Pharmacies were also allowed to operate during the night-time commercial ban.

The decisions can either be relaxed or toughened, depending on the pandemic situation, according to Dr. Abdullah Nasser Al-Harrasi, the minister of Information and a member of the COVID-19 Supreme Committee.


UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight

UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight
Updated 14 April 2021

UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight

UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight
  • UAE health officials reported 2,022 new coronavirus cases overnight

DUBAI: The UAE administered 1118,805 more doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight, bringing total jabs given to residents and citizens to 9,156,728 or about 92.58 doses per 100 individuals.

The nationwide inoculation program aims to give the population immunity from coronavirus that will help curb its spread as well as bring down infection cases.

UAE health officials reported 2,022 new coronavirus cases overnight, bringing the country’s caseload to 487,697 since the pandemic began. Four deaths were also confirmed due to COVID-19 complications, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 1,537.

Meanwhile, an additional 1,731 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 471,906.


Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE

Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE
Updated 14 April 2021

Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE

Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden’s administration has told Congress it is proceeding with more than $23 billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, including advanced F-35 aircraft, armed drones and other equipment, congressional aides said on Tuesday.
A State Department spokesperson said the administration would move forward with the proposed sales to the UAE, “even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials” related to the use of the weapons.
The Democratic president’s administration had paused the deals agreed to by former Republican President Donald Trump in order to review them.


Israel shocked by self-immolation of traumatized ex-soldier

Israel shocked by self-immolation of traumatized ex-soldier
An honour guard of Israeli soldiers with their rifles stands to attention during a one minute siren, as they partake in a state ceremony for Memorial Day in Jerusalem on April 13, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 14 April 2021

Israel shocked by self-immolation of traumatized ex-soldier

Israel shocked by self-immolation of traumatized ex-soldier
  • ‘He saw horrible things and nobody took care of him,’ his tearful brother Avi Saidian told journalists at the hospital

JERUSALEM: Israel was shaken Tuesday after a 26-year-old former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since the 2014 Gaza war set himself on fire, suffering severe injuries.
Itzik Saidian went to a support service for wounded soldiers near Tel Aviv on Monday, doused himself with a flammable liquid and lit it, “due to significant psychological distress,” the army said.
He was rushed to the intensive care unit of Tel Hashomer Hospital near Tel Aviv and was in “critical condition” with “deep burns all over his body,” the hospital said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “very shocked” and “determined to undertake a complete reform of the way we take care of our disabled and wounded veterans.”
The young man had been recognized as partially disabled because he suffered from PTSD related to his service during the 2014 war between Israel and the armed Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Around 2,250 Palestinians were killed in the war, mostly civilians, and 74 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
Saidian’s self-immolation came on the eve of Israel’s Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers and attack victims.
It sparked controversy over the support system for wounded or psychologically ill soldiers, which is often deemed inefficient and bureaucratic.
“He saw horrible things and nobody took care of him,” his tearful brother Avi Saidian told journalists at the hospital.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced a “thorough investigation to find the reasons for this tragic event.” His ministry pledged to “substantially improve the treatment of post-traumatic soldiers.”
Military service is mandatory in Israel for 18-year-olds. Women serve two years and men two years and six months.


Lebanon’s president says new maritime claim needs government approval

Lebanon’s president says new maritime claim needs government approval
Updated 13 April 2021

Lebanon’s president says new maritime claim needs government approval

Lebanon’s president says new maritime claim needs government approval
  • Aoun's decision could significantly delay the process
  • Israeli Energy Minister said Monday Lebanon's expanded claim would derail talks

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s president said on Tuesday a draft decree expanding its maritime claims in a dispute with Israel must be approved by the caretaker government, rejecting a request to grant it swift presidential approval.
The dispute with Israel over the maritime boundary has held up hydrocarbon exploration in a potentially gas-rich area of the eastern Mediterranean.
The decree, approved by Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, defense minister and minister of public work on Monday, would add around 1,400 square km (540 square miles) to an exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean claimed by Lebanon.
Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s office said the decree should be approved by President Michel Aoun so that the new maritime coordinates setting out Lebanon’s claim could be submitted to the United Nations.
But the presidency said it should be approved by Diab’s full cabinet, even though the government resigned eight months ago following a devastating explosion in Beirut, because of the gravity of the issue.
The draft decree “needs a collective decision from the council of ministers..., even under a caretaker government, due to its importance and the consequences,” a statement from Aoun’s office said.
Aoun’s decision could significantly delay the process. Since the government resigned in August it has referred all issues for exceptional approval by the president, leaving them to get formal endorsement when a new government is finally agreed.
Negotiations were launched in October to try to resolve the dispute with Israel yet the talks, a culmination of three years of diplomacy by the United States, have since stalled.
Israel already pumps gas from offshore fields but Lebanon has yet to find commercial gas reserves in its own waters.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday Lebanon’s expanded claim would derail the talks rather than help work toward a common solution, warning that Israel would implement “parallel measures.”
Lebanon, in the throes of a deep financial meltdown that is threatening its stability, is desperate for cash as it faces the worst economic crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war. But political leaders have failed to bridge their differences and form a new government.