Immigrants ‘overrepresented’ in severely ill COVID-19 patients in Germany

Ethnic minorities are more likely to live in geographical areas that are hard hit. (AP)
Ethnic minorities are more likely to live in geographical areas that are hard hit. (AP)
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Updated 03 March 2021

Immigrants ‘overrepresented’ in severely ill COVID-19 patients in Germany

Immigrants ‘overrepresented’ in severely ill COVID-19 patients in Germany
  • Ethnic minorities need support due to additional pressures, researcher tells Arab News
  • Number of Muslim intensive care patients above 50% despite making up 5% of Germany’s population

LONDON: More than 90 percent of severely ill COVID-19 patients in Germany have a “migrant background,” a leading doctor has said, amid concerns that minority ethnic groups require more support in the fight against the virus.

Thomas Voshaar, a top doctor at a German lung hospital, said a survey of leading medics had found that many of the most gravely ill patients were what he described as “patients with communications barriers.”

Saloni Dattani, a science writer and researcher at OurWorldInData, told Arab News: “The reasons that ethnic minorities are more likely to develop severe disease are well-understood. In the UK and the US, ethnic minorities are more likely to live in geographical areas that are hard hit, more likely to work in essential services where they come into contact with more people, more likely to live in dense areas, and more likely to live in multigenerational households.”

She added: “In sum, a greater proportion of severely ill patients are from ethnic minority backgrounds because a greater proportion of all COVID-19 patients are from ethnic minority backgrounds.”

The head of Germany’s top diseases institute, Lothar Wieler, said the number of intensive care patients with a Muslim background was “clearly above 50 percent,” despite making up just 5 percent of Germany’s 83 million population.

Voshaar told a conference call of journalists that government warnings about the dangers of the virus are “simply not getting through” to migrant communities.

Jonathon Kitson, a fellow at the London-based Adam Smith Institute, told Arab News: “This shows the need for an acceleration in Germany’s vaccination program to reach all members of society.”

He added: “Although vaccine acceptance rates in the UK amongst BAME (black, Asian and ethnic minority) people have initially been lower than the rest of the population, thanks to outreach and personal testimony this is beginning to change.”

Wieler said doctors had compiled figures from intensive care wards toward the end of 2020 and the start of 2021, the peak months of the second wave.

“According to my analysis, more than 90 percent of the intubated, most seriously ill patients always had a migrant background,” he said.

“We agreed among ourselves that we should describe these people as ‘patients with communications barriers.’ We don’t seem to be getting through to them,” he added.

“There are parallel societies in our country. You can only put that right with proper outreach work in the mosques, but we’re not getting through. And that sucks.”

Minority groups have been hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19 in many countries, including in the UK, where studies have shown a higher mortality rate among black and Asian people.

But Germany does not publish official figures on infection or death rates among different ethnic groups.

“Since it’s more difficult for ethnic minorities to self-isolate and protect themselves from exposure to COVID-19, it’s all the more important to vaccinate and provide support for ethnic minorities,” Dattani said.
 


Long wait for justice continues for descendants of Armenian genocide survivors

The atrocities started with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople in 1915 and continued with a centralized program of deportations, murder, pillage and rape until 1923. (AFP/Getty Images/File Photo)
The atrocities started with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople in 1915 and continued with a centralized program of deportations, murder, pillage and rape until 1923. (AFP/Getty Images/File Photo)
Updated 9 min 56 sec ago

Long wait for justice continues for descendants of Armenian genocide survivors

The atrocities started with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople in 1915 and continued with a centralized program of deportations, murder, pillage and rape until 1923. (AFP/Getty Images/File Photo)
  • Ethnic Armenians watching closely for signs of formal genocide recognition by US President Biden
  • Armenians wonder if Ottoman Turkey’s crimes set a precedent for subsequent mass killings

DUBAI: Armenians mark April 24 each year as a day of sorrow. It was on this date in 1915 when the Ottoman Empire launched the first in a brutal succession of atrocities against the ethnic group living under its dominion, going on to kill more than 1 million and driving many more into exile.

To this day, modern Turkey refuses to acknowledge the crimes committed during the twilight of the ancient regime.

Whether living in the Middle East, North America, Russia or modern-day Armenia, it is likely every Armenian has a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent who witnessed the genocide firsthand.

This year, many of them will be watching closely for signs of formal recognition from the US government.

“Virtually every Armenian alive today is a descendant of a survivor of the Armenian Genocide,” said Chris Bohjalian, the New York Times bestselling author of “The Sandcastle Girls.” His sweeping historical love story, published in 2012, draws on his own Armenian heritage and the experiences of his grandparents.

“The Ottoman Empire systematically annihilated 1.5 million of its Armenian citizens, plus 300,000 Assyrians and countless Greeks, and that was after exterminating 250,000 Armenians a generation earlier in the Hamidian massacres. Moreover, Turkey denies the blood on the hands of its Ottoman predecessor,” he told Arab News.

On that spring day in the early months of World War I, Ottoman authorities rounded up and executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals. In the weeks that followed, thousands of ordinary Armenians were forced from their homes and sent on death marches across the Mesopotamian desert.

“The day means an enormous amount to Armenians because we are grieving our ancestors, the loss of much of our homeland, and our culture in eastern Turkey — and we are grieving it all as an open wound because Turkey has never acknowledged the crime and much of the world doesn’t even know it occurred — or its magnitude, if they know a little bit.”

In fact, Bohjalian wonders whether the Nazi Holocaust, which came a quarter of a century later, would have occurred without the precedent of the Armenian Genocide.

A picture released by the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute dated 1915 purportedly shows soldiers standing over skulls of victims from the Armenian village of Sheyxalan in the Mush valley, on the Caucasus front during the First World War. (STR/AGMI/AFP)

“It might have. But in ‘Justifying Genocide,’ scholar Stefan Ihrig argues convincingly that the Armenian Genocide made the Holocaust more likely. The most quoted line from my novel ‘The Sandcastle Girls,’ is this: ‘There is a line connecting the Armenians and the Jews and the Cambodians and the Bosnians and the Rwandans. There are obviously more, but really, how much genocide can one sentence handle?’ So, I believe we still have lessons to learn,” he added.

Indeed, the parallel is often drawn between the Armenian Genocide and the many other mass displacements and wholesale slaughters that followed over the course of the 20th century.

Joseph Kechichian, senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, in Riyadh, told Arab News: “(Former German leader Adolf) Hitler is famous for having used the term, ‘who remembers the Armenian nation?’ when he embarked on his own murderous deeds.

“One supposes that the other significant consequence of the Armenian Genocide is the denial that successive Turkish governments practiced, even if the last Ottoman rulers acknowledged it and actually tried a number of officials who were found guilty.

“Contentious does not even begin to explain the hurt that Armenians feel, for denial translates into a second genocide — albeit a psychological one. Eventually, righteous Turks — and there are a lot of them — will own up to the dark chapters of their history and come to terms with it. But it seems that we are not there yet,” he said.

Turkey acknowledges that many Armenians were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I but disputes the figures and denies that the killings were orchestrated or constitute a genocide.

THENUMBER

* 1.5m - Highest estimate of Armenian deaths by massacre, starvation or exhaustion.

Kechichian’s own paternal grandmother was among the victims. “Imagine how growing up without a grandmother — and in my orphaned father’s case, a mother — affects you,” he added.

“We never kissed her hand, not even once, and she was always missed. We spoke about her all the time and my late father had teary eyes each and every time he thought of his mother.”

Almost every Armenian family has a similar story to tell.

“But we are believers and pray for the souls of those lost. We also ask the Lord to forgive those who committed the atrocities and enlighten their successors so that they too can find peace. Denial is ugly and unbecoming and it hurts survivors and their offspring, no matter the elapsed time,” Kechichian said.

For Armen Sahakyan, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America — Western Region, the genocide never really ended.

“It continues to this very day in Turkey and Azerbaijan’s ongoing attempts to attack, empty, and ultimately erase the presence of Armenians in their ancient homeland,” he told Arab News, referring to last year’s Nagorno-Karabakh war.

“The Armenian Genocide is Turkey’s ‘original sin,’ setting the stage for over a century of human rights violations and repression against all dissidents of the Turkish state and undermining its own democratic future.”

According to Sahakyan, without a truthful, just, and comprehensive resolution of the Armenian Genocide, Turkey stands no chance of becoming a reliable ally of the West and “will continue its destructive domestic as well as foreign policy throughout the wider Mediterranean.”

US President Joe Biden has indicated he will officially recognize the displacement and slaughter of the Armenian people in 1915 as a genocide — a move that would mark a significant break with past administrations, ever cautious not to offend their nominal NATO ally, Turkey.

US President Joe Biden has indicated he will officially recognize the displacement and slaughter of the Armenian people in 1915 as a genocide. (AFP/File Photo)

Always quick on the draw, the Turkish government has given warning that the US “needs to respect international law.”

Speaking recently to broadcaster Haberturk, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said: “Statements that have no legal binding will have no benefit, but they will harm ties. If the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs.”

Bohjalian said recognition from Washington would mean a great deal. “It would thrill me. But will we ever see justice? We may see the word ‘genocide’ used by a US president on April 24 this year, but will we ever get back Van? Ararat? Shusha? Not in my lifetime. Nevertheless, I hope with all my heart that Biden uses the word ‘genocide.’”

Sahakyan noted that such a recognition from the White House — following on the heels of 2019’s Congressional resolutions — would be the culmination of a century of tireless work by the Armenian-American community and friends of Armenia.

“It must inform US policy, at every level, including in supporting Armenia — a blockaded, landlocked, partitioned, genocide-survivor state — against continued attempts by Ankara and Baku to complete this crime.

Armenian orphans being deported from Turkey in around 1920. (Shutterstock/File Photo)

“The US recognition of the Armenian Genocide would also be a tribute to America’s own heroic role in saving hundreds of thousands of survivors of the genocide through the Near East Relief,” he said.

Even a century on, the genocide remains a landmark event in modern history and one that besmirches the character of Turkey even today, said Peter Balakian, author of “The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response” — another New York Times bestseller.

He told Arab News: “Turkey has shown no apology, let alone restitution and reparation. Other nations have demanded that Turkey deal with the Armenian Genocide aftermath, but it seems that this will only happen when Turkey can develop a true democracy in which its government can foster a culture of self-criticism and minority and human rights.”

For Balakian, recognition is the first step, no matter how long it takes. “We have waited for some semblance of justice for over a century,” he added.

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


No oxygen, hospitals overwhelmed as India faces pandemic hell

A man performs the final rites of a relative who died of COVID-19, at a crematorium in Jammu, India, Friday, April 23, 2021. (AP)
A man performs the final rites of a relative who died of COVID-19, at a crematorium in Jammu, India, Friday, April 23, 2021. (AP)
Updated 23 April 2021

No oxygen, hospitals overwhelmed as India faces pandemic hell

A man performs the final rites of a relative who died of COVID-19, at a crematorium in Jammu, India, Friday, April 23, 2021. (AP)
  • India reports world’s highest daily tally of coronavirus cases for second day on Friday as oxygen supplies run out
  • In the latest tragedy to hit India’s health care system, 13 coronavirus patients died in a hospital fire on the outskirts of Mumbai on Friday 

NEW DELHI: On a day when intensive care patients died when a fire broke out at a coronavirus hospital on the outskirts of Mumbai, dozens of others choked to death as India’s health care system was overwhelmed, facing a critical shortage of oxygen amid a devastating surge in infections.

India has reported 333,000 new cases in the past 24 hours, for a second day recording the world’s highest daily tally of coronavirus.

Daily coronavirus deaths jumped to 2,263, while officials across northern and western India, including the capital, New Delhi, warned that most health facilities were full and running out of oxygen.

The fire that broke out at the ICU of the COVID-19 hospital in the Virar area of the Palghar district killed 13 patients in what was the second major hospital incident in the western state of Maharashtra within a week. On Wednesday, an oxygen leakage at a hospital in Nasik district claimed the lives of 24 patients who were on ventilators.

“Such accidents show the pressure under which these hospitals are working and also the laxity in enforcing quality regulations in hospitals,” Mumbai-based researcher and Indian Journal of Medical Ethics editor, Dr. Amar Jesani, told Arab News.

“The situation is extremely grim across the country. People are not able to find a bed, oxygen. It seems a significant number of deaths are taking place due to the non-availability of critical care,” he said.

READ MORE

India put oxygen tankers on special express trains as major hospitals in New Delhi begged on social media on Friday for more supplies to save COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breathe. Click here for more.

TV channels showed footage of people with empty oxygen cylinders lining up outside refilling facilities across the country, hoping to save critically ill relatives.

While the situation in Maharashtra is the worst, with more than 67,000 new COVID-19 cases and 600 deaths reported in the past 24 hours, New Delhi is also under increasing pressure as it reported 24,000 new COVID-19 cases and a record of 306 deaths in the past 24 hours.

The chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, warned in a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday that there was a “huge shortage of oxygen” at hospitals in India’s capital territory.

At Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, one of the oldest medical facilities in New Delhi, 25 people have died, the hospital’s medical director, Satendra Katoch, said.

“Low oxygen concentration likely contributed to the deaths of critical patients,” he said. “Critical patients need high pressure, stable oxygen supply.”

As the hospital’s statement that another 60 patients were at risk resulted in panic, oxygen was supplied later in the day.

The developments came as Modi held meetings on Friday with experts, chief ministers of states and oxygen manufacturers to address the crisis, which his government has been accused of mishandling.

The main opposition Congress party said that the government’s response was characterized by “shortage, shortcoming and short-sightedness.

“The priorities of the prime minister and home minister reflect that they have entirely become inefficient, incompetent and indifferent toward the COVID-19 crisis,” Congress spokesperson, Abhishekmanu Singhvi, told a press conference.

Dr. Jesani also said there had been no preparedness in dealing with the pandemic.

“The government had one year to strengthen its public health systems, appoint more doctors and nurses, strengthen primary health care centers in districts, but none of those things were done,” he said.

“The government did not prepare the nation to face the crisis.”

As India’s second wave of infections has been blamed on a new virus variant, Jesani added that scientists had not been engaged in the pandemic response.

“The government identified a new variant of the virus in October itself and they did not take it seriously,” he said. “The government from the beginning is not listening to science. It has its own agenda.”


UK MPs anger Beijing by declaring ‘genocide’ against Uighurs in Xinjiang

UK MPs anger Beijing by declaring ‘genocide’ against Uighurs in Xinjiang
Updated 23 April 2021

UK MPs anger Beijing by declaring ‘genocide’ against Uighurs in Xinjiang

UK MPs anger Beijing by declaring ‘genocide’ against Uighurs in Xinjiang
  • So far the government has imposed sanctions on some Chinese officials and introduced rules to try to prevent goods linked to the region entering the supply chain
  • The support for the motion is non-binding, meaning it is up to the government to decide what action, if any, to take next

LONDON: Beijing on Friday criticised British MPs after they approved a symbolic parliamentary motion declaring that Uyghur Muslims in China were “suffering crimes against humanity and genocide,” calling the accusations a “big lie.”

Although the motion, approved late Thursday, is non-binding and does not require the government to act, it is a further indication of the hardening stance of Britain's parliament towards China over the treatment of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.

The Chinese government responded by saying that “the so-called genocide in Xinjiang is a big lie concocted by international anti-China forces.

“The Chinese government and the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang firmly oppose and strongly condemn such allegations,” Zhao Lijian, spokesman of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told AFP in a statement.

“UK's own problems are already enough,” he added. “These British MPs should mind their own business and do more for their own constituents.”

The motion was brought by Conservative former minister Nus Ghani, one of five MPs sanctioned by Beijing for criticising it over the treatment of the Uyghurs.

The British government has said it is “committed to taking robust action in respect of Xinjiang,” but has stopped short of invoking the term “genocide,” arguing only UK courts can make that legal definition.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who has also been sanctioned by China, called it a “historic moment.”

“Even though the government maintains that only a court can determine genocide, parliament has chosen to disregard that and vote itself.

“This puts the UK parliament in line with Holland, Canada and the US.”

British junior foreign minister Nigel Adams in February said that a BBC report into the treatment of the Uyghurs revealed “clearly evil acts.”

In a lengthy investigation based on witness testimonies, the BBC reported allegations of systematic rape, sexual abuse and torture of women detainees by police and guards in the western region.

Ghani said that colleagues had been “reluctant to use the word genocide” but added “there is a misunderstanding that genocide is just one act -- mass killing. That is false.”

Instead, genocide concerns intent to “destroy in whole or in part” a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, she said, arguing that the definition was applicable to China.

“While we must never misuse the term genocide, we must not fail to use it when it's warranted.”

Up to one million Uyghur Muslims are estimated by rights groups to have been detained in internment camps.

The EU, US, Canada and Britain have all imposed sanctions on Chinese officials allegedly involved in rights abuses.

The US has described the situation as genocide and banned all cotton from Xinjiang. Australia's parliament is considering a similar move.


Attacker fatally stabs police employee near Paris, Macron calls it terrorism

Attacker fatally stabs police employee near Paris, Macron calls it terrorism
Updated 10 min ago

Attacker fatally stabs police employee near Paris, Macron calls it terrorism

Attacker fatally stabs police employee near Paris, Macron calls it terrorism
  • The attacker stabbed the woman in the throat, two security sources said
  • The attacker was a Tunisian national residing in France on legitimate papers, the security officials said

PARIS: A man fatally stabbed a police administrative worker as she walked into a police station in a Paris commuter town on Friday, and President Emmanuel Macron said France had again been the victim of a terrorist attack.
The attacker stabbed the woman in the throat, two security sources said.
Macron identified the victim as Stephanie and said the nation stood by her family's side.
"We will stop at nothing in our resolute fight against Islamist terrorism," Macron tweeted from his presidential jet as he flew back from Chad.
The attacker was shot dead by police officers.
France's anti-terror prosecutor said he was leading the investigation because the assailant had previously scouted out the site and because of what he said during the attack.
A judicial source close to the investigation said the attacker had shouted "Allahu Akbar", or "God is Greatest".
The attacker was a Tunisian national residing in France on legitimate papers, the security officials said. BFM TV reported that he had lived in France illegally before obtaining a residency card, which was due to expire later this year.
He was not previously known to France's intelligence agencies, a third security source added.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said France had lost an "everyday heroine" to an act of infinite cowardice.
The police station was located on a leafy residential street in Rambouillet, a middle-class town about 50 km (31 miles) southwest of Paris.
The victim had two daughters, said Michel Camboulives, whose partner was a colleague and close friend of the victim. He said his partner described her as an adorable woman.
"I don't know how such things happen here," Camboulives said. "I mean, we're in France."
"My partner's just in pieces. This was her best friend. She couldn't speak on the phone ... She was saying: 'It could have been me, or it ought to have been me'."
France has seen several attacks by militants or Islamist-inspired individuals in recent years that have killed about 250 people.
Friday's attack came six months after a Chechen teenager beheaded a school teacher in Conflans, another Paris satellite town.
Macron has expressed increasing concern over radicalisation - often non-violent - within Muslim communities, warning that Islamist separatism is threatening to take control in some areas.
He has called for an "enlightened Islam" in France, saying Islam and radical Islamism must not be conflated.
Tackling religious extremism, domestic security and notions of French identity are likely to be important issues in next year's presidential election.
Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right and the strongest challenger to Macron's re-election bid, said the police needed more protection.
"Support the police, expel illegal immigrants, eradicate Islamism," she tweeted.


Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 

Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 
Updated 23 April 2021

Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 

Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 
  • People have started to join combat training camps run by paramilitary groups in eastern Karen State
  • National League for Democracy members are reportedly in talks with ethnic groups to form an army against the Myanmar military 

YANGON: A 24-year-old medical student who never imagined he would ever kill anyone, as his vocation was to save lives, did so in late March after Myanmar security forces shot dead dozens of protesting civilians in one of Yangon’s neighborhoods.

“They even used hand grenades and some kinds of explosive ammunition in cracking down on us,” the Yangon University of Medicine student, Swe Min, told Arab News.

At least 739 protesters have been killed by police and military personnel since the beginning of nationwide demonstrations against the junta that ousted the country’s elected National League for Democracy (NLD) leaders in a coup on Feb. 1, according to Friday’s data from Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma.

The incident in South Dagon township, where more than 30 people were killed on March 29, happened two days after the deadliest crackdown on protesters, when security forces killed 114 people across the country.

Footage shared on social media showed how a barricade built by protesting South Dagon residents was blown up with explosives by security forces.

Witnessing the state violence was beyond Swe Min’s threshold of endurance.

“There were randomly shooting and brutally assaulting residents,” he said.

Swe Min and other protesters seized a plainclothes police officer near the main demonstration site and started beating him indiscriminately.

“Seeing the slaughter of civilians, we got very upset and angry,” he recalled.

“We were out of our minds, and we have beaten and kicked him to death.”

As night raids followed the officer’s killing, Swe Min managed to escape Yangon the next morning with a group of friends.

Earlier this month, they joined a militant training camp in the mountainous eastern Karen State that borders Thailand.

“We have joined combat training a week ago,” he told Arab News over the phone from an undisclosed location. There is not much choice left for us. We have to choose to kill or to be killed.”

Arrest, torture and the daily forced disappearances of protesters since the military regime took power have pushed many like Swe Min to take up arms as they no longer seem to believe in non-violent resistance.

The Karen National Union (KNU), the oldest insurgent group fighting for the eastern state’s greater autonomy, said that thousands of people who are against the regime have sought refuge in their control area.

Padoh Man Man, a spokesperson for one of the KNU’s brigades, told Arab News that many are eager to join their combat training.

“Since they came here, most are determined to take up arms. After witnessing the momentum of brutality by the regime, it is understandable why they are in favor of armed resistance,” he said over the phone earlier this week.

The group, he added, had trained hundreds of volunteers alongside new KNU members in basic guerrilla warfare over the past two months.

“They are, therefore, more or less ready to join armed resistance,” he said.

Not only ordinary citizens but also dissident politicians are considering the option.

The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a group of National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmakers ousted in the February coup that formed a parallel government in mid-April, has reportedly also been in negotiations with ethnic rebel groups in the hope of forming an army against the Tatmadaw — the armed forces of Myanmar.

However, this may not happen soon as, although opposed to the regime, ethnic minorities do not entirely trust NLD, which during its rule had alienated them, Sai Tun Aung Lwin, an ethnic affairs analyst and a researcher with the Yangon-based Pyidaungsu Institute, told Arab News.  

“Small community-based defense units have been formed across the country, but it seems only to defend themselves at the moment,” he said. “People are doing what they have to do. They are dutiful.”

Some are even ready to abandon their monastic life.

A Buddhist monk known for his charity work in Yangon’s Hlaing Thar Yar township, who now identifies himself with a changed name, Ashin Rsara, took off his religious robes and completed combat training in Karen State.

“The regime considers us their enemy, and I witnessed the merciless crackdown in Hlaing Thar Yar last month. Then I realized that we would never have peace as long as it is in power,” he told Arab News.

“Buddha teaches us to love each other in any situation. I have been trying to follow Buddha’s teachings my whole life, but I can’t this time,” he said. “I have to live with hate till the resistance prevails or I die.”