Egypt to allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter without PCR test

Egypt to allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter without PCR test
An empty street in downtown Cairo, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, during the traditional spring holiday of Sham Ennessim, Cairo, Egypt, May 3, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 June 2021

Egypt to allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter without PCR test

Egypt to allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter without PCR test
  • Travelers must present officially issued QR-coded certificates to prove they have received one of the six vaccines approved by the Egyptian Drug Authority and the WHO
  • Egypt lifted many restrictions at the beginning of June and hopes to see an upsurge in tourism this year, as that sector usually accounts for 15% of the country’s GDP

CAIRO: The Egyptian Ministry of Health announced on Thursday that the country will allow some foreign travelers who have received their full course of approved COVID-19 vaccines to enter without taking a PCR test.

Travelers must present officially issued QR-coded certificates to prove they have received one of the six vaccines approved by the Egyptian Drug Authority and the World Health Organization: Sputnik, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Sinopharm, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson (which only requires one dose).

In a statement to airports and ports, the ministry said that entry without a PCR test will be granted to those who received their second jab more than 14 days before traveling.

However, travelers from high-risk countries including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Brazil, will have to take an ID NOW COVID-19 test on arrival, regardless of their vaccination status. If the result of that test is positive, a PCR test will be performed. If that test is also positive, the passenger will be transferred to a designated hospital to quarantine.

On Thursday, Egypt reported 466 new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 278,761.

Egypt lifted many restrictions at the beginning of June and hopes to see an upsurge in tourism this year, as that sector usually accounts for 15 percent of the country’s GDP.


Israel’s president gets third COVID-19 shot, urges boosters for over-60s

Israel’s president gets third COVID-19 shot, urges boosters for over-60s
Updated 48 min 22 sec ago

Israel’s president gets third COVID-19 shot, urges boosters for over-60s

Israel’s president gets third COVID-19 shot, urges boosters for over-60s
  • Israel was a world leader in the vaccination rollout, and around 57 percent of the 9.3 million population has been double-vaccinated

JERUSALEM: Israeli President Isaac Herzog received a third shot of coronavirus vaccine on Friday, kicking off a campaign to give booster doses to people aged over 60 as part of efforts to slow the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Herzog, 60, received a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv. He said he was proud to launch the booster vaccination initiative “which is so vital to enable normal circumstances of life as much as possible in this very challenging pandemic.”
The president was accompanied by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who urged the importance of booster shots in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and pledged that Israel would share all the information it gleaned from the initiative.
“Israel is a pioneer in going ahead with the third dose for older people of the age of 60 and above. The fight against the COVID pandemic is a global fight. The only way we can defeat COVID is together,” Bennett said.
The booster campaign, with shots administered by health maintenance organizations, will effectively turn Israel into a testing ground for a third dose before approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
On the eve of the booster rollout Bennett said Israel had already given 2,000 immunosuppressed people a third dose with no severe adverse events.
His government hopes that stepped up inoculation efforts will help avoid further costly lockdowns.
Israel was a world leader in the vaccination rollout, and around 57 percent of the 9.3 million population has been double-vaccinated. Many seniors got their first shots in December, January and February as they were regarded as the most vulnerable sector of the population.
But since the emergence of the Delta variant, the health ministry has twice reported a drop in the vaccine’s efficacy against infection and a slight decrease in its protection against severe disease.
Daily new infections have spiked to more than 2,000, up from a handful of cases per day a few months ago and about 160 people are currently hospitalized with severe symptoms.


British military group: Israel ship reportedly attacked off Oman

British military group: Israel ship reportedly attacked off Oman
Updated 30 July 2021

British military group: Israel ship reportedly attacked off Oman

British military group: Israel ship reportedly attacked off Oman

DUBAI: An Israeli-owned merchant ship reportedly came under attack off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea, the British military said Friday, offering few other details about the incident.
Israeli officials did not immediately acknowledge the incident, but it comes amid heightened tensions between it and Iran as negotiations remain stalled over Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers. Other Israeli ships have been targeted in recent months as well amid a shadow war between the two nations, with Israeli officials blaming the Islamic Republic for the assaults.
An brief initial statement from the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said an investigation was underway into the incident, which it described as happening late Thursday night just northeast of the Omani island of Masirah. The location is over 300 kilometers (185 miles) southeast of Oman's capital, Muscat.
The statement did not elaborate, other to say that it suspected the attack did not involve piracy. Earlier on Thursday, the British military group had said it was investigating another unexplained incident in the same area, but it did not elaborate.
Later Friday, the British Defense Ministry identified the nationality of the ship's owners, but did not elaborate further.
Oman did not immediately acknowledge an attack and officials there did not respond to requests for comment. The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which patrols the Mideast, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The incident comes amid heightened tensions over Iran's tattered nuclear deal and as negotiations over restoring the accord have stalled in Vienna. Since then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018, there have been a series of ship attacks in the region suspected to have been carried out by Tehran.
Iranian media did not immediately acknowledge the attack Friday.


Jordan tourism expected to boom by 2023, tourism officials say

The tourism sector in Jordan has gradually started to signs of a positive trend after a near collapse. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
The tourism sector in Jordan has gradually started to signs of a positive trend after a near collapse. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Updated 56 min 32 sec ago

Jordan tourism expected to boom by 2023, tourism officials say

The tourism sector in Jordan has gradually started to signs of a positive trend after a near collapse. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
  • Regional tourism has started picking up and international tourists are expected to return in August, September and October
  • King Abdullah II directed the government to work intensively, through its ambassadors, to depict Jordan as a ‘green’ country for traveling

AMMAN/LONDON: The tourism sector in Jordan has gradually started to show signs of a positive trend after a near collapse due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, tourism officials said.
The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) began opening up to domestic tourism, and then to Gulf and neighboring countries, in order to facilitate border movement, Dr. Abed Al-Razzaq Arabiyat, the managing director of the JTB told Arab News.
“We expect the return of international tourism during August, September and October after overcoming several obstacles,” Arabiyat added.
Jordan stood out for its low COVID-19 rates at the start of the pandemic but then saw an exponential rise in confirmed cases, and by November recorded the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths per capita in the Middle East. Authorities declared a state of emergency and imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, hitting the tourism sector hard.
Jordan has since managed to flatten the epidemiological curve, has moved from a UK “red list” country to an “amber” one, and in February significantly accelerated its inoculation campaign.

 


“Societal immunity is high and our epidemiological situation gives positive indications that a complete breakthrough for tourism in the kingdom is near,” Arabiyat said, adding that Jordan has eased more restrictions compared to many other countries, which will play a major role in attracting tourists.
He said King Abdullah II directed the government to work intensively, through its ambassadors, to depict Jordan as a green country, and that it is “clearly moving in that direction.” Marketing campaigns are in place and tourism offices are ready to cooperate, as some countries have already moved the kingdom to their “green” lists. Jordanian hotels and resorts have also begun receiving international bookings from September to November.

The tourism sector in Jordan has gradually started to signs of a positive trend after a near collapse. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

Minister of Transport Wajih Azayza said that Queen Alia International Airport received 9 million passengers in 2019, and hopes to return to these numbers after the pandemic.
The airport said on July 17 it welcomed over 1.2 million passengers during first half of the year, with the highest number recorded in June with more than 389,000 passengers. The airport’s total economic contribution exceeded $3.53 billion (about 8.9 percent of GDP).

The government has also implemented subsidization programs and launched a tourism risk fund valued at $28.2 million to support the sector and alleviate damages. In 2019, Jordan received a record 3 million visitors, bringing in $5.78 billion, which fell to $1.41 billion in 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a disaster for Jordan’s tourism industry, which suffered its worst contraction in decades last year. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

Last month, the king called for unified efforts to help the tourism and travel sector recover, which accounts for about 20 percent of GDP, and promote tourism to the “Golden Triangle” of Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba.
Arabiyat said that Petra, one of the seven wonders of the world, was most affected due to its high dependence on international tourism, but expects to “hear positive news by September, as there is a demand for the ‘Golden Triangle.’”
From July 1, authorities implemented the second phase of Jordan’s strategy to return to normal life, with tourist facilities permitted to reopen at full capacity. The curfew in the areas of the “Golden Triangle” in the south were lifted, and fully vaccinated visitors may enter as they have been declared COVID-free zones. Phase 3 will begin on Sept. 1, provided that cases remain low and the government reaches its immunization target.

Jordan has greatly eased restrictions compared to many countries, which will play a major role in attracting inbound tourism. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

Arabiyat said JTB has also launched the “Breathe” summer marketing campaign to target tourists, particularly families, from Gulf countries.
He said after enduring two exhausting years of the pandemic, “returning to life as we knew it became a dream that everyone was yearning to live once more; yearning to travel and enjoy life, yearning to feel alive again, hence the name of our campaign ‘Breathe’… where people can enjoy life and just breathe.”
Fawzi Al-Hammouri, chairman of Jordan’s Private Hospitals Association, said there had been a remarkable increase in the number of patients arriving for treatment in Jordan in June, specifically from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, after witnessing a decrease during the past year.
Arabiyat said, however, the greatest concern was preserving employment within the tourism sector.

Jordan is taking several steps to get the number of foreign tourists back to the record 3 million visitors in 2019. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

Layali Nashashibi, director of communications and public relations at Movenpick Hotels and Resorts, said they did not let go of any staff throughout the pandemic, even though they had to close both hotels in Petra and one in Aqaba, while the hotel in the Dead Sea was taken over by the government and used for quarantining when it started to bring Jordanians home from abroad.
“Aqaba, at the beginning, it was clean from COVID-19, but Aqaba has tourism and the port. So, if both closed, then the economy will suffer, so they decided that Aqaba would remain open from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m.,” Nashashibi told Arab News.
“I had to interfere with the government to extend some hours of the (hotels and) restaurants, as well as to have more facilities open,” she said, adding that after speaking with the prime minister, they managed to extend opening hours until 10 p.m. across the whole kingdom.

Government efforts to revive the tourism sector appear to be paying off but officials expect two years of recovery. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

“Now we are depending on international tourism to come back to Jordan … We are optimistic and we have been promised by the government, the Ministry of Tourism, and Jordan Tourism Board that Ryanair and EasyJet will resume flights (to Aqaba) by October,” she added. EasyJet has started taking bookings for Aqaba from November, while cruise ships have also began to trickle in with one from Jeddah expected to arrive in Aqaba at the beginning of August.
Nashashibi said they also hosted familiarization trips for tour operators. Authorities are offering different types of tax reductions and discounts on landing fees, and tourists from Eastern Europe started coming to Aqaba from the end of June, with planes from Russia expected to increase in the coming period.
The city is regulated by the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority, which has turned it into a low-tax, duty-free city, attracting several mega investment projects like Ayla Oasis, Saraya Aqaba, Marsa Zayed and the expansion of the port, all of which were greatly affected.

Officials announced special measures for Jordan’s ‘Golden Triangle’, which includes Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba, and fully vaccinated visitors may enter as they have been declared COVID-free zones. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

“Hopefully, COVID-19 will disappear and we return like before or better than before,” Nashashibi said, adding that she does not see tourism improving until the third quarter of 2022, and expects a boom in the tourism and economic sectors by 2023.
Sally Abu Hijleh, from Montana Travel and Tourism agency, also said it will take about a year for tourism to return, adding that they are working on offers and discounted prices to encourage travel.
For Marwan Eid Abo Al-Adas, owner of souvenir shop Bazaar Al-Wadeeh in Jarash, even if tourists return this summer, all the tourism sectors have suffered such heavy losses that, he believes, they will still struggle.“The compensation will be greater after two or three years (as) there must be continuity in the tourism sector,” he said.
Marwan Soudi, a Jordanian living abroad, who was not able to return home last year, said: “The way they are handling the pandemic here in Jordan, and the way they rolled out vaccines really fast, the authorities are saying that the tourism and just everything being back to normal by 2022-2023, I would say that sounds like a reasonable aim.”

 


Saudi tourist Abdul Aziz Al-Shalawi said due to Jordan having one of the lowest rates of infections, tourists from Saudi Arabia prefer to visit this summer more than any other country, especially Europe, as its “safety is excellent.”
He said Jordan was beautiful and diverse and that Saudis were also attracted to the kingdom for its medical options. “Jordan has potential and very good doctors and is focused on attracting tourists for treatment, whilst also enjoying their time,” he added.
American tourist Tom Langdon said he hoped tourism would open up more from July to help the Bedouins in Petra, and the people that rely on tourism.
“It’s pretty unfortunate. I went to Petra, and I think there was like maybe 20 people there, and one of the vendors showed me a video, and it looked like a rock concert, it looked like you could barely move without touching someone and he said that that’s how it used to be before COVID-19,” Langdon said.
“I think (Jordan) is an untapped source, I think it’s unfortunate that a lot of this isn’t known to more people. Pretty much every place that I’ve been here in Jordan has been absolutely beautiful (and) I’ve been having a pretty good time.”


US to hit Iran with more sanctions for missile, drone program

Officials are concerned that Iran’s missile and drone program — administered exclusively by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) — represents an immediate danger to US allies and Middle East stability. (Reuters/File Photo)
Officials are concerned that Iran’s missile and drone program — administered exclusively by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) — represents an immediate danger to US allies and Middle East stability. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 30 July 2021

US to hit Iran with more sanctions for missile, drone program

Officials are concerned that Iran’s missile and drone program — administered exclusively by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) — represents an immediate danger to US allies and Middle East stability. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • They will make it harder for Iran to illicitly import parts necessary for the manufacturing of drones and missiles
  • US allies, including Saudi Arabia, have seen an uptick in attacks from the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen

LONDON: The Biden administration is planning a sanctions campaign against Iran’s growing precision drone and missile strike capability, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Officials are concerned that Iran’s missile and drone program — administered exclusively by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) — represents a more immediate danger to US allies and Middle East stability than Iran’s nuclear enrichment and ballistic missile programs.

While some elements of Iran’s missile program have already been sanctioned, the new measures will cast a wider net by targeting its procurement networks, such as part-providers.

“It’s part of a comprehensive approach so we’re dealing with all aspects of the Iranian threat,” a senior U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal.

The new measures come as US forces and allies in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East have increasingly found themselves on the receiving end of drone and missile attacks by Tehran’s IRGC-aligned regional proxies.

“Iran’s drones are becoming an increasing threat to our allies in the region,” said another U.S. official.

The planned sanctions come as the Biden administration considers tightening enforcement of existing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry amid a stall to nuclear negotiations ongoing in Vienna.

Biden has offered a reduction in sanctions if the Islamic Republic returns to the terms of the 2015 deal, which saw curbs to Iran’s nascent nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions.

However, the issue of Iran’s sub-atomic weaponry, including ballistic missiles, guided missiles and drones has increasingly become a bone of contention between the two longtime enemies.

Iran’s pursuit of further-reaching, more accurate and more powerful missiles earned it a suite of US sanctions, and the Biden administration has made clear that those sanctions are outside the scope of the ongoing nuclear negotiations.

Tehran said it would only return to the 2015 deal if all sanctions on its missile program are lifted, as well as the terror designation the US and others have placed on the IRGC.

The US Treasury department, which is in charge of implementing sanctions, has already placed a variety of restrictions on the Iran-backed Houthi terrorist group in Yemen. The Houthis have used Iranian weapons to wage their ongoing war against the UN-recognized Yemeni government, as well as to target Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region.

In 2019, drones were used to target an important oil refinery in Saudi Arabia, seriously damaging the facility and disrupting the global oil market.

Saudi Arabia alone has been attacked over 100 times in recent months by Iran’s proxies in Yemen, using Iranian equipment including large and small drones, ballistic missiles, and precision missiles.

Iran’s growing domestic arms and drone manufacturing base has proved useful in supplying its proxies, and the new sanctions will aim to disrupt elements of the industry that rely on illicit imports from abroad.

Robert Czulda, an assistant professor specializing in Iran at Poland’s University of Lodz, told the Wall Street Journal that the sanctions “would notably disrupt Iran’s defense supply chain.”


Coronavirus challenges persist in some Arab countries

Coronavirus challenges persist in some Arab countries
Updated 39 min 21 sec ago

Coronavirus challenges persist in some Arab countries

Coronavirus challenges persist in some Arab countries
  • The continuing spread of the more-contagious delta variant mean that countries spared the worst effects early in the pandemic are now at great risk
  • During discussion on the Ray Hanania Radio Show, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were highlighted as success stories in the efforts to limit the spread of the virus

CHICAGO: COVID-19 remains a serious risk to Arab nations and the threat could escalate as the delta variant continues to spread, experts said on Wednesday.

Although many Arab countries were spared the most drastic infection rates seen elsewhere in the world during the first wave of the virus in early 2020, thanks to good health planning, the delta variant poses an even more serious threat, according to Dr. Zaher Sahloul, the president of MedGlobal, which coordinates the work of non-governmental organizations that provide healthcare to under-served populations and refugees in the Arab world, and Arab News journalist Rebecca Anne Proctor.

During a discussion on the Ray Hanania Radio Show, they highlighted Saudi Arabia and the UAE as success stories in the efforts to limit the spread of the virus, but warned that recent events, particularly in North African countries such as Tunisia, are a worrying sign that alarming rises in infection rates in some places could spread.

“The Gulf has been really on top of the game in terms of abiding by various restrictions and mask wearing and social-distancing measures,” said Proctor, who reports on the Middle East for Arab News. “We have seen that the Gulf has led the way in terms of vaccine campaigns. So I think right now we are seeing where a lot of the inequalities (are), and where the work might have been done better.

“Just a few weeks ago, Saudi Arabia closed its border to several countries. The UAE is now also issuing a few more restrictions, particularly over religious holidays. But where we have a big discrepancy is in various countries in North Africa, as we have seen in Tunisia, and then also in Syria, and Lebanon in particular, and Yemen — places that perhaps are not able to get access easily to (intensive care) beds, oxygen and vaccines.

“The countries that can handle this virus better, and the rise of delta, which seems to be the dominate variant … are the ones that have been able to really maintain their restrictions and have really strong vaccine campaigns.”

Perceptions of the pandemic affect how governments are responding. Many saw that infections seemed to be declining, which prompted governments to ease restrictions and created a sense of complacency.

“I would say, in general, many of the countries in the Arab world were spared … the large number of deaths and sickness because of the pandemic” in the early days, compared with the US, India and countries in Europe and Latin America, said Sahloul.

He added that some of those countries are being hit hard now, especially Tunisia but also Algeria and Morocco.

“Some countries have done very well, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar. And Jordan especially,” he said. This reflects the fact that some nations prepared and reacted more effectively as the virus spread while others did not, according to Sahloul.

“Some have not done well, including North African countries, and that is why we are seeing the spread of the virus there, and in Iraq, of course,” he said.

He is concerned about the effect the delta variant will continue to have. Because it is more contagious than the original version of the virus, and appears to be more dangerous to younger people, he said it is much more of a threat and continues to spread at a time when authorities in many better-off countries have begun a return to normal life and the start of economic recovery.

“What I am worried about is that the countries that felt immune to the pandemic in the beginning, they will be hit hard now by the delta (variant) because it spreads so much more faster and also it can cause more disease among the young,” said Sahloul.

“I am afraid that countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Sudan will be hit hard by the delta (variant) that is right now spreading in North Africa.”

The spread of this variant, which was first identified in India, is having “devastating” effects, Sahloul said. There are a number of reasons for this.

As vaccinations rates increase in some countries, authorities have started to ease some pandemic restrictions, including rules for face masks, social distancing and large gatherings.

In other countries, such as Tunisia, volatile political environments are exposing the public to COVID-19 risks, Proctor said. The problem, she added, is that when people start to see what appears to be a turning point in the pandemic, they start to take greater risks and infections start to climb again, “a bit like what has happened in Tunisia.”

“Politics plays a big role in COVID all over the world … we are seeing a lot of people that are just frustrated with being controlled — they don’t want to be controlled,” she said.

Sahloul said the challenges are compounded by the fact that many health professionals, including doctors and nurses treating COVID-19 patients, have themselves been infected.

“Doctors and healthcare workers were impacted in the same way as the general public — and even worse because, as you know, physicians and nurses are the front-line healthcare workers,” he said.

“At the beginning of the crisis we had shortages of personal protective equipment in the Arab world (especially countries that) have less means, such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. Physicians in North African countries struggled to find masks, gowns, gloves and so forth.

“Hospitals were affected because of the large number of hospitalizations. There were shortages of oxygen, especially. This was the first time in my life that we were seeing this shortage of oxygen. What is killing patients in Tunisia more than anything is a shortage of oxygen.”

Sahloul said there is little official data on the number of doctors, nurses and other medics who have died as a result of the pandemic, but the numbers he has seen are “staggering.”

It was reported several months ago that more than 200 doctors had died in Yemen, he said, and there are similar reports from Syria.

“This is a tragedy because it is not easy to replace a physician, a doctor or a good nurse,” he added.

Proctor and Sahloul appeared on the July 28, 2021 edition of The Ray Hanania Radio Show, broadcast on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News. The show is broadcast live in Detroit and Washington DC on WNZK AM 690 and WDMV AM 700 radio, and is available to stream at Facebook.com/ArabNews.