Tunisia strengthens virus restrictions ahead of Ramadan

Health worker prepares for coronavirus vaccination in Tunisia that announced extended night curfew 7pm-5am ahead of Ramadan till April 30. (Reuters)
Health worker prepares for coronavirus vaccination in Tunisia that announced extended night curfew 7pm-5am ahead of Ramadan till April 30. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 April 2021

Tunisia strengthens virus restrictions ahead of Ramadan

Tunisia strengthens virus restrictions ahead of Ramadan
  • Night curfew applies from 7pm until 5am, from Friday until at least April 30
  • Prime Minister ruled out a new nationwide lockdown given Tunisia’s difficult economic situation

TUNIS — Tunisia is extending its nighttime curfew by three hours and tightening other restrictions ahead of Ramadan following an uptick of COVID-19 infections.
The measure will apply from 7pm until 5am, from Friday until at least April 30.
Government spokeswoman Hasna Ben Othman also announced other measures late Wednesday, including a ban on all public and private gatherings, the shuttering of weekly markets, and stronger enforcement of mask-wearing and social distancing.
Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown, given what he described as the country’s difficult economic situation.
The Muslim holy festival of Ramadan starts next week. The month of religious fasting usually sees large crowds gathering in shops, cafes and public spaces, and nationwide family gatherings.
According to the latest figures published on Wednesday by the Tunisian Health Ministry, the number of COVID-19 deaths stands at more than 9,000, with overall infections at nearly 265,000 in a population of 11.7 million.
Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi said that 80% of hospital intensive care beds are currently occupied, adding that Tunisia expects to receive a donation of 30 ICU beds Thursday from the United States.


Gunmen kill two Guard members in Iran’s Kurdish area

Gunmen kill two Guard members in Iran’s Kurdish area
Updated 3 min 38 sec ago

Gunmen kill two Guard members in Iran’s Kurdish area

Gunmen kill two Guard members in Iran’s Kurdish area
  • Guard members killed two gunmen and wounded few accomplices in shootout near Kurdish town of Marivan
  • Iran’s Kurdish area has seen occasional fighting between Iranian forces and Kurdish separatists

TEHRAN: Unknown gunmen suspected of terrorism killed two members of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, the official IRNA news agency reported on Thursday.
The Guard members also killed two gunmen and wounded several of their accomplices in the Wednesday night shootout near Kurdish town of Marivan, near the border of Iraq.
It said other several other members of the terrorist group fled the site of the clash.
The report identified the fallen Guard members as Osman Jahani and Nasser Amini without giving their rank. It said they were buried on Thursday in Marvian cemetery, which suggested they were local forces of the Guard.
Iran’s Kurdish area has seen occasional fighting between Iranian forces and Kurdish separatists, as well as militants linked to the extremist Daesh group.
In December, unknown gunmen killed three Iranian border guards in the Kurdish area near the country’s northwestern border with Turkey. In July, Iran said “terrorists” killed two people and wounded a third person in an attack in a Kurdish area. In June, Iran attacked bases of Iranian Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.


New definition of anti-Semitism that accepts criticism of Israel gathers support

New definition of anti-Semitism that accepts criticism of Israel gathers support
Updated 22 April 2021

New definition of anti-Semitism that accepts criticism of Israel gathers support

New definition of anti-Semitism that accepts criticism of Israel gathers support
  • Jewish Declaration on Anti-Semitism challenges International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition
  • ‘Just like every other state, Israel needs to be subject to criticism,’ Jewish professor tells Arab News

ATLANTA: More than 200 Jewish-studies scholars and academics have endorsed a definition of anti-Semitism that accepts criticism of Israel.

The Jewish Declaration on Anti-Semitism (JDA) challenges the definition proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and adopted by the US government.

The IHRA’s definition treats criticism of Israel, including calls to boycott the country or its products, as anti-Semitic.

The JDA, however, considers valid criticism of Israel and Zionism as a legitimate form of protected speech, and does not consider the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the country as anti-Semitic.

Pro-Palestinian rights activists say equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is an attempt to muzzle discussion about Palestinian suffering.

Prof. Barry Trachtenberg, a scholar of Jewish studies and anti-Semitism at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, told Arab News that he signed the JDA because he thinks enacting a law to protect Jews specifically reinforces the perception of Jewish exceptionalism.

“The pro-Israel crowd wants to prevent any criticism of Israel as entirely anti-Semitic. Obviously this isn’t correct because Israel is a political entity, and just like every other state it needs to be subject to criticism,” he said.

“Israel doesn’t represent the entire Jewish people, but even if it did, because it’s a political entity it should be subjected to valid criticism.”

Joshua Cooper — a mathematics professor at the University of South Carolina, and a member of the US-based group Jewish Voice for Peace — told Arab News that the JDA is “mostly a positive development in countering the harmful definition of the IHRA.”

However, he expressed concern about the JDA’s “vague” Article 10, which opposes “denying the right of Jews in the State of Israel to exist and flourish, collectively and individually, as Jews, in accordance with the principle of equality.”

Cooper said: “If someone believes that the radical Jewish settlers living in stolen homes and terrorizing Arabs … should leave, is this an anti-Semitic stance? Surely not.”

Iyman Chehade, a history professor and pro-Palestinian human rights activist in Chicago, told Arab News that the JDA’s definition is a step up from the IHRA’s.

However, he said the JDA “reinforces the false and misleading idea that Israel and the Palestinians live on the same moral plain.”

He added: “It’s ironic that while the signatories rightfully seek to protect one group, they ignore the rights as well as the suffering of the Palestinians in the process.”


UAE suspends flights from India as COVID-19 cases spike

UAE suspends flights from India as COVID-19 cases spike
Updated 51 min 57 sec ago

UAE suspends flights from India as COVID-19 cases spike

UAE suspends flights from India as COVID-19 cases spike
  • India recorded the world's highest daily tally of 314,835 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday
  • Health officials across northern and western India including the capital, New Delhi, said they were in crisis

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates on Thursday suspended all flights from India, including transit passengers, as coronavirus cases in the country spiked to global records.
Some 300 flights a week were operating between the UAE and India before the ban was announced, according to local media, making the air corridor one of the busiest in the world.
"The decision to suspend flights came after studying and evaluating the epidemiological situation in the friendly Republic of India," the General Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement carried on state news agency WAM.
The GCAA said that those coming from India through other countries must stay in that third destination for at least 14 days.
UAE nationals and passengers in private jets are exempt from that requirement.
Cargo flights between the two countries will continue after the ban, which comes into effect on April 25 for a period of 10 days "that can be extended".
"This comes in response to the proactive precautionary and preventive health measures issued by all concerned authorities in the country to limit the spread" of the pandemic, WAM cited authorities as saying.
The UAE is home to some 3.3 million Indians who make up a third of the population - most of them in Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make up the federation.
India announced Thursday that nearly 315,000 new cases of coronavirus had been recorded during the past 24 hours, in the highest daily toll in the world.
New Delhi sent out warnings that patients could die if oxygen supplies in hospitals were not replenished.
The country's long-underfunded healthcare system is being stretched to the limit by a devastating second wave of the pandemic blamed on a "double mutant" variant and "super-spreader" mass gatherings.


Turkey probes cryptocurrency exchange for possible $2B fraud

Turkey probes cryptocurrency exchange for possible $2B fraud
Updated 22 April 2021

Turkey probes cryptocurrency exchange for possible $2B fraud

Turkey probes cryptocurrency exchange for possible $2B fraud
  • Thodex cryptocurrency exchange is under probe following complaints from users unable to access their assets
  • Suspected owner could face possible charges of fraud and forming a criminal organization, Haberturk said

ANKARA: Turkish prosecutors launched an investigation into a cryptocurrency exchange Thursday over allegations it may have defrauded some 390,000 investors of an estimated $2 billion.
The office of Istanbul’s chief prosecutor said it was probing the Thodex cryptocurrency exchange following complaints from users unable to access their assets.
Thodex owner Faruk Fatih Ozer deactivated his social media accounts and is believed to have fled Turkey for Tirana, Albania, Turkish broadcaster Haberturk reported.
Ozer could face possible charges of fraud and forming a criminal organization, Haberturk said, adding that a police cybercrimes unit searched Thodex’s Istanbul offices on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the country’s financial crimes investigation agency blocked all Thodex’s funds, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
In a written statement carried by Haberturk and other Turkish media, Ozer denied the allegations of fraud and said he had left Turkey to hold meetings with foreign investors. He said he would return to Turkey within “a few days” to cooperate with the Turkish authorities.
Ozer also maintained that access to the cryptocurrency exchange was temporarily closed down to allow Thodex to investigate an alleged cyberattack.
Earlier in the week, Thodex notified users that it would halt operations for six hours for maintenance and later extended that period to 4-5 days.
Last week, Turkey’s central bank announced that it was banning the use of cryptocurrencies for the payment for goods, saying they presented “irrevocable” risks.
The decision came as many in Turkey have turned to cryptocurrencies to shield their savings from rising inflation and the Turkish currency’s slump.


Deals signed to make coronavirus vaccine in Egypt

Deals signed to make coronavirus vaccine in Egypt
Updated 22 April 2021

Deals signed to make coronavirus vaccine in Egypt

Deals signed to make coronavirus vaccine in Egypt
  • The plan is to take advantage of the vaccine developed by the Chinese company Sinovac
  • Sinovac will provide technical support and assistance to Vacsera in building and equipping manufacturing facilities to meet the required standards

CAIRO: Two agreements have been signed between the Egyptian Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (Vacsera), and the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech for biopharmaceuticals, to manufacture the coronavirus vaccine in Egypt.
The signing of the agreements comes as part of efforts to achieve technical cooperation in this vital field.
The plan is to take advantage of the vaccine developed by the Chinese company Sinovac, a leader in research, development, production and marketing in pharmaceutical preparations, and exchange experiences to support Vacsera, a specialist in the manufacture of vaccines in Egypt.
The move is expected to contribute to limiting the spread of the virus.
Both agreements were signed by Heba Wali, Vacsera head and Sinovac Biotech vice president.
The first agreement concerns the manufacturing technology for the coronavirus vaccine, Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed said.
Under this deal, the Chinese company Sinovac gives Vacsera a limited license to use manufacturing technology and technical knowledge for the purpose of manufacturing the local final product of the COVID-19 vaccine, in Vecsera’s manufacturing sites inside Egypt — using the ready-made product of the vaccine provided by Sinovac.
This agreement also stipulates that the Chinese company will provide Vacsera with all technical information related to the vaccine and provide technical assistance.
It includes examining the manufacturing places of Vacsera, and manufacturing the local final product using the ready-made product provided by Sinovac.
This is in addition to testing the local end-product, manufacturing methods and technical processes used, as well as equipment, tools or machines, repair and maintenance of Vacsera’s manufacturing facilities.
Quality management and quality control are also part of this process.
The second agreement relates to the local manufacture of the COVID-19 vaccine, Zayed said.
It provides for the Chinese company, Sinovac, to grant a permit to Vacsera to refill, package and manufacture the local final product of the COVID-19 vaccine in Vacsera’s own facilities.
It provides for Vacsera obtaining regulatory approvals, manufacturing technology and technical knowledge for the use of the ready-to-fill product provided by Sinovac, Zayed added.
The agreement stipulates that Vacsera will equip its current facilities or construct, build and equip new facilities to serve as manufacturing facilities.
An effective quality-management system will be set up for each step of production.
It enables the local manufacturer to meet the requirements, specifications and standards of operating procedures of Sinovac.
Sinovac will provide technical support and assistance to Vacsera in building and equipping manufacturing facilities to meet the required standards.
The agreement also stipulates that Sinovac is ready, at the request of Vacsera, to provide the necessary training for Vacsera employees in manufacturing facilities in Egypt or at its own facilities in Beijing, regarding final packaging and final quality-control operations.