Second dose of coronavirus vaccine available from July in Saudi Arabia

Second dose of coronavirus vaccine available from July in Saudi Arabia
Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. (AP)
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Updated 19 June 2021

Second dose of coronavirus vaccine available from July in Saudi Arabia

Second dose of coronavirus vaccine available from July in Saudi Arabia
  • Health Ministry reports 1,236 new cases, 1,050 recoveries, 15 deaths

JEDDAH: A second dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine will be available to everyone from July, Saudi TV channel Al-Ekhbariya reported on Friday.

The Ministry of Health announced on Thursday that a high COVID-19 immunization rate had been achieved among members of the Kingdom’s population aged 60 years and over.
Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said the country’s leadership was keen to provide highly effective vaccines to tackle the virus.
Dr. Abdullah Assiri, assistant deputy minister of preventive health, said that a delay in receiving a second dose could better stimulate immunity in some vaccines.
“There is no need to worry about delaying the second dose for some groups of society for the public good, and the follow-up of immunity levels after the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines shows that there is no ideal period between the two doses,” he added.
Meanwhile, all foreign travelers and those accompanying them to the Kingdom must complete registration for their COVID-19 immunization data before departure, according to the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA).
GACA said the protocol would help ease entry procedures and reduce waiting periods. Registration will apply to all citizens from Gulf Cooperation Council countries, holders of new visas, residents, and their companions whether vaccinated or not.

INNUMBERS

471,959 Total cases

453,259 Recoveries

7,650 Deaths

The authority noted that the move was, “in line with efforts made by the Kingdom to limit the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring the safety of citizens and residents.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Friday reported 15 more COVID-19-related deaths, taking the overall toll to 7,650.
There were 1,236 new cases, meaning that 471,959 people in the country had now contracted the disease. A total of 11,050 cases remained active, of which 1,496 patients were in critical condition.
Of the newly recorded cases, 372 were in Makkah, 240 in Riyadh, 213 in the Eastern Province, and 65 in Madinah.
In addition, the ministry said 1,050 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 453,259.
Saudi Arabia had so far conducted 20,799,293 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, with 86,695 carried out in the past 24 hours.
Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
Among them, Taakad (make sure) centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual. Tetamman (rest assured) clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.
Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app. Meanwhile, 16,387,147 people in the country had to date received a jab against COVID-19.


Film Commission launches its strategy to develop Saudi film, cinema sector

The Film Commission launched its strategy at a ceremony in Riyadh, held under the patronage of Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan. (SPA)
The Film Commission launched its strategy at a ceremony in Riyadh, held under the patronage of Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan. (SPA)
Updated 25 min 44 sec ago

Film Commission launches its strategy to develop Saudi film, cinema sector

The Film Commission launched its strategy at a ceremony in Riyadh, held under the patronage of Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan. (SPA)
  • The strategy aims to increase direct GDP contribution, increase job opportunities, and increase the number of locally produced feature films

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Film Commission on Sunday launched its strategy to develop the Kingdom’s film and cinema sector at a ceremony in the capital, Riyadh.
The ceremony was held under the patronage of Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, the minister of culture and chairman of the commission.
Hamed Fayez, the deputy minister of culture and vice chairman of the commission’s board of directors, said that the strategy, with its diverse and comprehensive programs and initiatives, represents a first step toward developing the sector and supporting and empowering Saudi filmmakers.
Fayez said the Kingdom has great potential in the industry due to creative Saudi talent winning awards at regional and international film festivals, Saudi films that have achieved remarkable recognition locally and internationally, and the growth of the production movement in recent years.
The Film Commission’s CEO Abdullah Al-Ayyaf said the strategy contributes to achieving the goals of the Ministry of Culture and the Kingdom’s Vision 2020 National Culture Strategy, by achieving growth in the Saudi film production sector and transforming it into a competitive industry.
It includes producing local cinematic content to attract Saudi and international audiences, and presenting the Kingdom as a leading global center for film production in the Middle East, he added.
The strategy was based on a benchmark comparison with the 20 most important countries in the film industry.
It includes six strategic pillars, including talent development, infrastructure, local production in the Kingdom, international production in the Kingdom, regulatory framework, film distribution and screening.
According to the strategy, the Film Commission will work on 19 strategic initiatives aimed at creating a large movement in the Saudi film sector, providing an infrastructure for film production, and empowering Saudi talents and capabilities.
The commission said its strategy was designed to increase direct contribution to the gross domestic product, increase the number of job opportunities in the film sector, and increase the number of locally produced feature films. 
The Film Commission is one of 11 cultural bodies affiliated with the Ministry of Culture and was established in February last year.


Kaspersky, Saudi Technology Control to combat cyberattack

Dr. Bandar Al-Haqbani, Dr. Abdulaziz Alhussain, Engineer Mohammad Alwashmi and Mohammad Hashem at the conference. (Supplied)
Dr. Bandar Al-Haqbani, Dr. Abdulaziz Alhussain, Engineer Mohammad Alwashmi and Mohammad Hashem at the conference. (AN photo by Rahaf Jambi)
Updated 31 min 39 sec ago

Kaspersky, Saudi Technology Control to combat cyberattack

Dr. Bandar Al-Haqbani, Dr. Abdulaziz Alhussain, Engineer Mohammad Alwashmi and Mohammad Hashem at the conference. (Supplied)
  • Saudi Arabia is currently developing digitization and advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, blockchain, fintech and 5G across its public and private sector

RIYADH: Global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky has signed a strategic agreement with Technology Control Company, a security services, digital services and big data company in Saudi Arabia, at the @Hack Infosec Conference 2021.
The managed security service provider agreement was marked at the conference, one of Saudi Arabia’s most anticipated information-security events of the year.
The move is in line with Technology Control Company’s commitment to providing its customers in Saudi Arabia with enhanced managed security services.
Mohamad Hashem, country manager at Kaspersky, told Arab News how new technologies increased the risk and exposure to cyberattacks by opening new avenues of attack.
“Taking this into account, Kaspersky is delighted to expand and strengthen Technology Control Company’s portfolio and offer customers in Saudi Arabia the most effective prevention, detection and response capabilities to the market,”  he said.

Dr. Abdulaziz Alhussain from TCC and Mohammad Hashem singing the agreement in @hack conference. (AN photo by Rahaf Jambi)

“Our innovative solutions and extensive expertise will ensure that our customers in the region receive the best data protection possible via a trusted local technology and service provider,”  he said.
Technology Control Company will be offering Kaspersky’s resources and services such as Security Operations Center consulting, security assessment, awareness and training.
The Kingdom is currently developing digitization and advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, blockchain, fintech and 5G across its public and private sector.

Taking this into account, Kaspersky is delighted to expand and strengthen Technology Control Company’s portfolio and offer customers in Saudi Arabia the most effective prevention, detection and response capabilities to the market.

Mohamad Hashem, Country manager at Kaspersky

As the country continues its road to digitization and adoption of these technologies, Kaspersky expects a steady rise in cyberattacks.
The partnership will play a key role in navigating these risks by helping Technology Control Company deliver security monitoring, incident response, threat hunting, threat intelligence, managed detection and response, security assessment and security awareness services in a cost-efficient, scalable and flexible way.
Technology Control Company’s customers in Saudi Arabia will be able to subscribe to next-generation SOC services based on solutions in line with global industry standards. Providing training such as incident response, malware analysis and digital forensics is another essential element of the alliance.
Hashem expressed his excitement about participation at @hack event and said that this was the first time the event was being held outside the US.
“Of course, we had to be a part of this great event because Kaspersky is one of the leading companies in the cybersecurity realm, and we are glad to be here,”  Hashem said.
He said that the company had signed an initiative with Cyberkids to help promote a better understanding of cybersecurity.
Muhammad Alwashmi, security services director at Technology Control Company, said that they were glad to partner with an international company with worldwide exposure and intelligence specific to the region.
“This agreement will support and provide our customers with premium protection to their businesses through the best solutions available in the market. Having Kaspersky on board will contribute to our success, and we are looking forward to a prosperous collaboration,”  Alwashmi said.


Who’s Who: Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz Al-Mogrin, chair the UNESCO Executive Board Program and External Relations Commission

Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz Al-Mogrin. (SPA)
Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz Al-Mogrin. (SPA)
Updated 17 sec ago

Who’s Who: Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz Al-Mogrin, chair the UNESCO Executive Board Program and External Relations Commission

Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz Al-Mogrin. (SPA)

Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz Al-Mogrin was recently elected to chair the UNESCO Executive Board Program and External Relations Commission for two years.
During the 213th session of the UNESCO executive board in Paris, the executive council named Princess Haifa, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to UNESCO, for the position.
The Kingdom’s presidency of UNESCO’s programs and external relations committee reflects its pivotal role in UNESCO to support the decision-making process in a systematic and fair way.
Commenting on the election, Princess Haifa posted on Twitter: “Glad to announce that Saudi Arabia will continue its pursuits to ensure a better future for all as chair of the Executive Board Program and External Relations Commission.”
Princess Haifa received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Riyadh-based King Saud University in 2000 and a master’s degree in science in economics with reference to the Middle East from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in 2007.
In 2009, she briefly took up a part-time role lecturing at King Saud University, before starting work with the UN Development Programme. In 2013, she was promoted to the role of program analyst there, covering social development and human rights.
She joined the Ministry of Economy and Planning as head of the sustainable development goals sector in 2016 and was appointed assistant deputy minister for sustainable development affairs in 2017.
She also served as the assistant deputy minister for G20 affairs under the Ministry of Economy and Planning from 2018. That same year, she was a speaker at the Second Urban Planning Forum — a testament to her expertise in the empowerment of youth and human rights advocacy.


Saudi falconry festival starts in Riyadh

Saudi falconry festival starts in Riyadh. (SPA)
Saudi falconry festival starts in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 23 min 54 sec ago

Saudi falconry festival starts in Riyadh

Saudi falconry festival starts in Riyadh. (SPA)
  • The festival holds a competition to select the most beautiful falcons in seven rounds, two are allocated for the Farkh category and five are for the Qirnas category

RIYADH: The King Abdulaziz Falconry Festival 2021 started on Sunday in Malham, north of Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

It runs until Dec. 16 and is being organized by the Saudi Falcons Club, which has allocated more than SR25 million ($6.66 million) for winners.

The festival, the largest of its kind in the world, opened with the qualifying runs for Saudi falconers. These started with the Shaheen Farkh category of Saudi owners, with strong competition for a place in the final rounds for the King Abdulaziz Cup.

There will be runs for international falconers in the categories of owners and professionals.

The festival also holds a competition to select the most beautiful falcons in seven rounds, two are allocated for the Farkh category and five are for the Qirnas category.

Through these events, the festival aims to preserve Saudi heritage, pass on the hobby of falconry to future generations, educate children about their history and values, and enhance the spirit of competition among falconers.

The festival continues to register falcons in some categories until Dec. 9 to accommodate the largest number of falconers wishing to participate.

 


Early global response to omicron variant could save lives, says Saudi virologist

Early global response to omicron variant could save lives, says Saudi virologist
Updated 37 min 6 sec ago

Early global response to omicron variant could save lives, says Saudi virologist

Early global response to omicron variant could save lives, says Saudi virologist
  • As of Sunday, Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry said that no omicron cases had been detected in the country so far
  • Kingdom suspended flights from 14 African countries

JEDDAH: With the COVID-19 omicron variant prompting renewed concern about the pandemic, a virologist has told Arab News that its early detection is a positive first step to overcoming the mutation.

Omicron, or the B.1.1529 strain of the coronavirus, was marked a variant of concern on Nov. 26 by the World Health Organization, the fifth variant of concern to date.

But, as of Sunday, Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry said that no omicron cases had been detected in the country so far.

All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, change over time. Most changes have little to no impact on the properties of the virus. 

However, some may affect the transmissibility rate, associated disease severity, or the performance of vaccines.

Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Abdullah Algaissi, a virologist and assistant professor at the college of medical sciences at Jazan University, said: “The interesting thing about omicron is that it accumulated a very high number of mutations compared to other VOCs. The total number of mutations in the spike, the most important part of the virus, was 32, 10 of which were detected that bind to receptors on human cells. That's more than the delta variant, hence the concern.”

The WHO called for increased surveillance of the variant and laboratory experiments to better understand its biology.

The delta variant had nine mutations in the spike gene. According to Algaissi, there are shared mutations between the two, but what makes omicron more of a concern is the additional mutations.

HIGHLIGHT

Saudi Arabia suspended inbound and outbound flights from 14 African countries: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius, and Comoros.

“Based on what we know from the genetic sequencing, we don't have information that could tell us if these mutations will make the virus more lethal, more transmissible, if it will impact the immune response either after infection or vaccination. As of now, we don't know.”

Data shows that most of the infected patients in South Africa were unvaccinated, indicating that the vaccine's efficacy may still protect against omicron, but further studies are needed to determine by how much vaccine efficacy is reduced.

“Of the many concerns when it comes to VOCs is the effect it has on the diagnostic tool, in this case, the PCR tests,” added Algaissi. “Looking at the omicron mutation, early analysis shows that the current PCR used, especially here in the Kingdom, will still detect the variant.”

According to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data database, more than 5.5 million COVID-19 genome sequence submissions have been made so far.

Last month, Saudi Arabia urged residents to get their booster shots to increase herd immunity further. Currently, 70 percent of the Kingdom's 34.8 million population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

As of Sunday, Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended inbound and outbound flights from 14 African countries: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius, and Comoros.

Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday it would extend the validity of resident permits and exit and re-entry visas from countries facing entry suspension. The General Directorate of Passports said the move was the implementation of directive from King Salman.

The visas are extended until Jan. 1, 2022, without fees or charges. People were notified by email, where an e-visa form was attached.

Another concern is transmissibility. Algaissi noted the difficulty of measuring an increase in the transmissibility rate by the number of infected cases. Multiple factors could increase reported cases, such as the ease of restrictions and low vaccination rates.

“Further studies and experiments are needed to determine if the mutations in omicron enhance its binding to cells, thus becoming more transmissible, and it'll take scientists weeks to understand the omicron variant, including how quickly it can spread and what the illness that results from infection looks like.”

According to South African health experts, omicron symptoms have been “pretty mild" so far.

In a joint press conference on Sunday, the acting CEO of Saudi Arabia's Public Health Authority Dr. Abdullah Algwizani said the variant was being monitored and residents were urged to complete their vaccination schedule, to be wary of large gatherings, and adhere to precautionary measures.

The Kingdom's Health Ministry said that 24 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded on Sunday, raising the total number of cases to 549,695. There have been 32 further recoveries, raising this total to 538,856.

There are currently 2,006 active cases, 48 of which are in critical care. One death was reported.