British Muslim billionaire brothers: Plans for ‘landmark’ mosque in north west England approved

British Muslim billionaire brothers: Plans for ‘landmark’ mosque in north west England approved
Plans by the Issa brothers to build a “landmark” mosque in Blackburn, north west England have been approved. (Monte Blackburn Ltd /Issa Foundation)
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Updated 20 March 2021

British Muslim billionaire brothers: Plans for ‘landmark’ mosque in north west England approved

British Muslim billionaire brothers: Plans for ‘landmark’ mosque in north west England approved
  • Local council approved mosque plans after the Issa Foundation addressed 21 issues that had been raised
  • The Issa Foundation pledged £30,000 to improve safety at a junction close to the mosque and employ parking marshals to reduce road safety risks

LONDON: Plans by the British Muslim brothers who own supermarket chain Asda to build a “landmark” mosque in north west England have been approved.
The £5 million ($6.9 million) project to build a mosque in Blackburn by the billionaire siblings had faced objections over the height of its minarets and the noise it may have caused, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported on Friday.
However, the local council approved the plans after the Issa Foundation agreed to address 21 issues that had been raised.
Councillor Phil Riley told the BBC it would be an “impressive facility” which could “only enhance the spirit of the town.”
Permission for the project to go ahead on the site of a former school was granted on Thursday.
Amongst concerns raised by Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Browne to a committee about the mosque was the height of the minaret towers and the noise created by the call to prayer.
However, planning manager Gavin Prescott said the proposed 29 meter towers “are considered to frame the surrounding area with the existing church towers associated” with two local churches.
He added that noise would be limited with no amplified calls to prayer.
Riley, the council’s lead on regeneration, said it was “going to be no ordinary mosque,” and “an absolutely landmark building at a very important gateway.”
“With its Islamic architecture, it obviously reflects the changing face of modern Blackburn... and this will show Blackburn in the new light of a place where there is diversity, but also where communities mix,” Riley added.
The Issa Foundation has also pledged £30,000 to improve safety at a junction close to the mosque and employ parking marshals to reduce road safety risks.


500 Afghan refugees to be airlifted to Italy, says defense minister

In this handout image courtesy of the US Navy, Afghan evacuees disembark a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, Italy on August 22, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)
In this handout image courtesy of the US Navy, Afghan evacuees disembark a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, Italy on August 22, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 10 sec ago

500 Afghan refugees to be airlifted to Italy, says defense minister

In this handout image courtesy of the US Navy, Afghan evacuees disembark a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, Italy on August 22, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Refugees will be relocated in cities nationwide
  • Italy completed troop withdrawal on June 30

ROME: A new Italian Air Force airlift is bringing 500 more Afghan refugees to Rome, Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini said on Monday in Parliament.

The refugees are Afghan citizens and family members who worked with the Italian armed forces while they were deployed in Afghanistan, mostly in Herat province. They have all so far been displaced in countries close to Afghanistan.

Guerini named the operation “Aquila Omnia-Bis.” At the end of it, nearly 5,000 Afghans will be taken to Italy.

He told parliamentarians: “Last summer's evacuation of Afghan citizens from Kabul was a very complex operation, but the incessant and silent work of the Italian armed forces has continued in the last few months too. Thanks to the collaboration between the defense, foreign affairs and interior ministries and the National Information Services we can say we are satisfied.”

Over 1,500 Italian military have been working on this airlift since it began in the second half of August.

A source in the Italian Defense Ministry told Arab News that, in the past few days, the first seven Afghan citizens of this second humanitarian airlift had reached Italy, including a woman in her final month of pregnancy. 

She was transferred to Grassi Hospital in Ostia, on the outskirts of Rome, immediately after landing at Rome Fiumicino. She gave birth to a girl.

After an isolation period in special facilities, all the refugees will be relocated in different cities nationwide.

More arrivals are expected in the coming days.

Italy completed its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan on June 30, ending a 20-year deployment.

According to the Italian Foreign Ministry, 50,000 Italian soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan in the period after the 9/11 attacks. Over that period, 53 soldiers died and 723 were injured.

Italy was one of the five countries most involved in Afghanistan along with the US, Turkey, Britain and Germany as part of the Resolute Support Mission.


Italian company designs anti-omicron COVID-19 vaccine

An Italian medical company said it has designed a version of its COVID-eVax vaccine to combat the new omicron variant. (Reuters)
An Italian medical company said it has designed a version of its COVID-eVax vaccine to combat the new omicron variant. (Reuters)
Updated 27 min 40 sec ago

Italian company designs anti-omicron COVID-19 vaccine

An Italian medical company said it has designed a version of its COVID-eVax vaccine to combat the new omicron variant. (Reuters)
  • Pre-clinical tests ‘within weeks,’ Takis Biotech CEO tells briefing attended by Arab News
  • But lack of funding ‘prevents us from continuing clinical trials’

ROME: An Italian medical company said it has designed a version of its COVID-eVax vaccine to combat the new omicron variant.

Takis Biotech added that this new version of the vaccine — developed with Rottapharm Biotech, another Italian company — will be ready for pre-clinical tests “within weeks.”

Luigi Aurisicchio, CEO and scientific director of Takis, told a press briefing in Rome attended by Arab News: “As we seek to defeat the pandemic, it’s imperative to be proactive while the virus evolves. In recent months, we’ve generated almost in real time modifications of COVID-eVax against the alpha, beta, gamma, delta and many other variants.”

He said unlike previous variants, omicron has a high number of mutations so it is difficult to predict whether the current vaccines are still protective.

“This is why we’re moving as fast as possible to adapt our vaccine against this variant. Thanks to what we’ve learned since the beginning of the pandemic, we designed the COVID-eVax vaccine — the omicron version — in a few hours,” he added.

However, Aurisicchio said a lack of funding “prevents us from continuing clinical trials to carry out the development of this Italian vaccine.”

Takis said there is “a lot of promising pre-clinical data” regarding the new version of the vaccine, which “has completed phase 1 in humans, with over 90 percent of the volunteers enrolled for the trial developing a specific immune response against the spike protein.”

Lucio Rovati, president and scientific director of Rottapharm, said: “Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our lives and on the world economy, Italy can play its part and make its own experience available.”


‘Tonight’s the night’: Barbados prepares to become a republic

‘Tonight’s the night’: Barbados prepares to become a republic
Updated 39 min 3 sec ago

‘Tonight’s the night’: Barbados prepares to become a republic

‘Tonight’s the night’: Barbados prepares to become a republic
  • Britain’s Prince Charles has arrived to join the inauguration of President-elect Sandra Mason in replacement of Queen Elizabeth
  • The move may spur other former colonies that have Queen Elizabeth as their sovereign, which include Jamaica, Australia and Canada

BRIDGETOWN: Barbados on Monday prepared to remove Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as its head of state and become a republic, as it severs imperial ties some 400 years after English ships first reached the Caribbean island.
Britain’s Prince Charles arrived on Sunday night to join the inauguration of President-elect Sandra Mason in replacement of Queen Elizabeth, a move by Barbados to shed the final vestiges of a colonial system that once spanned the globe.
“Tonight’s the night!” read the front-page headline of Barbados’ Daily Nation newspaper.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the leader of Barbados’ republican movement, will help lead the ceremony. Mottley has won global attention by denouncing the effects of climate change on small Caribbean nations.
“I am happy. We are on our own now with no king or queen from England,” said Nigel Mayers, 60, who sells oranges at a stall in central Bridgetown. “This is the full drop after independence.”
A celebration including Barbadian music and dance will begin at 8 p.m. local time (0000 GMT), with Mason to be inaugurated just after midnight — coinciding with Barbados Independence Day.
Prince Charles will give a speech highlighting the continuing friendship of the two nations despite the change in constitutional status.
Barbados will remain a republic within the Commonwealth, a grouping of 54 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.
British colonialists shipped over captured African slaves to work the island’s sugar cane fields and Barbados became a focus of the brutal transatlantic slave trade. Today’s population of under 300,000 is overwhelmingly of African descent.
Monday’s elegant celebration comes at a time when Barbados is struggling with inflation due to supply-chain disruptions driving up prices in a country that must import most goods. Its tourism industry, a crucial part of the economy, is still recovering from earlier coronavirus travel restrictions.
Some residents acknowledge they are uncertain what the transition to a republic even means or why it matters. Others would have preferred not to change.
“They should leave Queen Elizabeth be — leave her as the boss. I don’t understand why we need to be a republic,” said Sean Williams, 45, standing in the shadow of an independence monument.
The last time the queen was removed as head of state was in 1992 when Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean, proclaimed itself a republic.
The shift may spur discussion of similar proposals in other former British colonies that have Queen Elizabeth as their sovereign, which include Jamaica, Australia and Canada.


UK extends Covid vaccine booster program to all adults

UK extends Covid vaccine booster program to all adults
Updated 29 November 2021

UK extends Covid vaccine booster program to all adults

UK extends Covid vaccine booster program to all adults
  • The move, approved by Health Secretary Sajid Javid, comes as the UK government said it needed to react swiftly to the new variant
  • Until now, only adults aged 40 and over were eligible for a booster dose six months after their second

LONDON: All adults in Britain will now be able to get a third Covid jab, a government scientific advisory body said Monday, as concern mounted about the spread of the new Omicron variant.
The move, approved by Health Secretary Sajid Javid, comes as the UK government said it needed to react swiftly to the new variant, which was first detected in South Africa.
“We’re advising that the booster program should now be extended to adults aged 18 to 39 years old,” said Wei Shen Lim, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI).
Until now, only adults aged 40 and over were eligible for a booster dose six months after their second.
At the same time, the advisory body also recommended second doses of vaccine for children aged 12 to 15.
Since last week, the government in London has slapped a travel ban on 10 southern African countries, including South Africa, to try to control the spread of Omicron.
It has also reintroduced compulsory testing for travelers, and mandatory mask-wearing in shops and public transport in England, as well as self-isolation for contact cases.
The JCVI approved the government’s proposed expansion of the rollout of booster jabs of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech to include more people within a shorter time.
Britain is one of several countries to have announced cases of the new variant on their soil, including Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
Six cases of the new strain were detected in Scotland on Monday, two of them in the largest city of Glasgow. Five others were confirmed in England, Javid told parliament.
“We expect cases to rise over the coming days,” he added.
“In this race between the vaccines and the virus the new variant may have given the virus extra legs,” he told MPs.
“So our strategy is to buy ourselves time, and to strengthen our defenses,” he said of the extension of the booster program.
Britain, currently chair of the G7 group of nations, on Monday hosted an emergency meeting of health ministers to discuss the Covid crisis.
The ministers said in a joint statement that the Omicron variant was highly transmissible and needs “urgent action.”


S.Africa’s COVID-19 cases could triple this week, says expert

S.Africa’s COVID-19 cases could triple this week, says expert
Updated 29 November 2021

S.Africa’s COVID-19 cases could triple this week, says expert

S.Africa’s COVID-19 cases could triple this week, says expert
  • South African hospitals could be under pressure from a flood of admissions within two to three weeks
  • WHO said on Monday that the variant posed a very high global risk of infection surges

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s daily COVID-19 infection rate could triple to more than 10,000 by the end of this week as the new Omicron variant spreads rapidly, a top infectious disease expert said on Monday.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, the government’s chief adviser during the initial response to the pandemic, also said that, while existing vaccines should be effective at preventing severe disease from the variant, South African hospitals could be under pressure from a flood of admissions within two to three weeks.
“Even if Omicron is not clinically worse, and certainly the anecdotes don’t raise any red flags just yet ..., we are going to see this (pressure on hospitals) in all likelihood because of the rapidity of transmission,” he told a news conference.
The discovery of the variant in southern Africa has caused global alarm, with countries limiting travel from the region and imposing other restrictions for fear it could spread quickly even in vaccinated populations.
The World Health Organization said on Monday that the variant posed a very high global risk of infection surges, though further research was needed to assess its potential to evade protection against immunity induced by vaccines and previous infections.
Abdool Karim, a professor at South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal and Columbia University in the United States, said vaccines were still likely to confer good protection against Omicron because of T-cell immunity, different from the antibody immunity that often blocks infections.
“Even if there’s some escape from antibodies it’s very hard to escape T-cell immunity,” he said.
Doctors who have treated South African COVID-19 patients say Omicron so far appears to be producing mild symptoms, including a dry cough, fever and night sweats. But public health experts say it is too early to draw firm conclusions.
The government says it is doing everything possible to prepare health facilities to cope with the variant and is asking countries that imposed travel restrictions on southern Africa to reverse them, Health Minister Joe Phaahla told the same news conference.
So far, there hasn’t been a steep increase in hospital admissions or COVID-19 deaths since the variant was first detected in South Africa last week, in samples from earlier in November.
On Sunday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases reported 2,858 new cases, down from 3,220 on Saturday but compared to roughly 300 two weeks ago when the country, where around 35 percent of adults have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, was experiencing a lull after a third wave of infections.