Coronavirus booster dose ‘unnecessary,’ say Saudi experts

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
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Updated 19 September 2021

Coronavirus booster dose ‘unnecessary,’ say Saudi experts

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
  • New recoveries reported amounted to 77, raising the total number to 535,450

JEDDAH: A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is unnecessary, according to Saudi health experts.

“If the two doses of the vaccine prevent severe illness/staying in hospital/death, it does not make sense for the general population to receive a third dose,” said deputy health minister for preventive health, Dr. Abdullah Assiri.

Assiri, who is also an infectious diseases consultant, added: “At this stage of excellent vaccination coverage, we need to reconsider the rationale and method of laboratory testing for COVID-19, and judge the pandemic only from the perspective of the burden of disease on society.”

The comments came after news of proposed booster shots of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for the general public, and third jabs for people aged 65 and older and other vulnerable groups.


Meanwhile, infectious disease expert, Ahmed Al-Hakawi, said that accelerating demand for approval of a third (booster) dose for everyone was not supported by a study he cited.

FASTFACT

546k

The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 546,479.

Titled “Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine through 6 Months,” the study, published on Sept. 15, was conducted on more than 45,000 participants in 152 sites in six countries.

The study concluded that “through 6 months of follow-up and despite a gradual decline in vaccine efficacy, BNT162b2 had a favorable safety profile and was highly efficacious in preventing COVID-19.”

“The vaccine still provides protection against severe disease even six months after the second dose,” said Al-Hakawi, who is also a hospital epidemiologist in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia recorded 68 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 546,479, the Ministry of Health said.

Of Saturday’s cases, 20 were in Makkah, 17 in the Riyadh region and seven in the Eastern Province. Hail and Najran were the regions with the lowest case count, posting just one each.

New recoveries reported amounted to 77, raising the total number to 535,450.

With the high recovery rate, the number of active cases has declined to 2,373, of which 361 are in critical care.

Five people have died in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of deaths to 8,656.

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom at the rate of 201,505 a day.

At this rate, Saudi Arabia could have 70 percent of its population fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.

The Ministry of Health said that 587 centers across all regions of the Kingdom processed the inoculations. Those who have not yet received a vaccine were urged to get one.

The ministry renewed its call for citizens and residents to adhere to precautionary measures and to register with the Sehhaty app to receive vaccines.

Meanwhile, testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have helped millions of people since the pandemic outbreak.

Taakad 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 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.


COVID-19 booster dose required to maintain fully vaccinated status in Saudi Arabia

 COVID-19 booster dose required to maintain fully vaccinated status in Saudi Arabia
Updated 16 sec ago

COVID-19 booster dose required to maintain fully vaccinated status in Saudi Arabia

 COVID-19 booster dose required to maintain fully vaccinated status in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: People in Saudi Arabia will be required to receive a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine eight months after getting double-jabbed to maintain their vaccinated status.

As of February 1,2022, adults aged 18 and above will need to have their booster dose in order to keep their fully vaccinated status on the Tawakkalna application, an interior ministry source said.

Having a fully vaccinated status on the app allows people to do the following:

1. Take part in any economic, commercial, cultural, sports or tourist activity.

2. Attend any cultural, scientific, social or recreational event.

3. Enter any governmental or private establishment.

4. Travel on planes and public transport.

Those exempt from taking the vaccine against coronavirus as listed on the app do not need to take the booster dose.

The source stressed the need for everyone to adhere to all precautionary and preventive measures and approved health protocols.


UN official lauds Saudi support in ‘saving day’ for Syrian refugees in Jordan, stabilizing Yemeni food security situation

UN official lauds Saudi support in ‘saving day’ for Syrian refugees in Jordan, stabilizing Yemeni food security situation
Updated 03 December 2021

UN official lauds Saudi support in ‘saving day’ for Syrian refugees in Jordan, stabilizing Yemeni food security situation

UN official lauds Saudi support in ‘saving day’ for Syrian refugees in Jordan, stabilizing Yemeni food security situation
  • Corinne Fleischer: ‘KSrelief has provided $1 billion since 2018 to our operations in Yemen – this makes a very, very important difference to the people in Yemen’
  • Fleischer: ‘I have been in some of these camps in Jordan, and the situation of these refugees is dire, and they can’t survive without having what the WFP provides them, with the help of KSrelief’

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia had “saved the day” for Syrian refugees in Jordan and stabilized the food security situation in Yemen through its generous financial backing, a top UN aid official has said.

Corinne Fleischer, regional director of the World Food Program for the Middle East and North Africa, made her comments following a meeting in Riyadh with Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, the general supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief).

During talks at the center’s headquarters in the Saudi capital, the two officials discussed strengthening cooperation between KSrelief and the WFP to help fight hunger and poverty and assist countries in the MENA region to meet sustainable development goals.

In a press conference after the meeting, Fleischer said: “KSrelief has provided $1 billion since 2018 to our operations in Yemen. This makes a very, very important difference to the people in Yemen.

“And specifically, this year, thanks to the contribution of KSrelief, we were able to increase our assistance that we previously had to cut because of lack of funds, and we were able to bring it back to the same level for a large number of people.

“The impact of this has been very quick. We have seen that the food security situation of the people has stabilized as they have received full rations again.”

On the situation in Jordan, she added: “KSrelief has really saved our day in Jordan with the Syrian refugees. We were about to have to cut rations to about half the Syrian refugees we are supporting in Jordan. Thanks to the very generous contributions of KSrelief, we can actually continue at the same level.

“I have been in some of these camps and settlements in Jordan, and the situation of these refugees is dire, and they can’t survive without having what the World Food Program provides them, with the help of KSrelief.”

Lauding the center for its ongoing support for the WFP in the region, Fleischer said: “I’m really happy to be here, in this building, where I can finally see where our relationship with KSrelief has gone for years, has been strengthened for years, and has become more important for years.

“The Saudi Arabia government is a very important partner to the WFP, not only because they give us very important and vital contributions to our projects worldwide … but we are also deepening our relationship with KSrelief on drivers of food insecurity and how together we can tackle some of these drivers, bringing the expertise from both organizations together so that we can make a marked impact on people’s lives,” she added.

KSrelief, on behalf of Saudi Arabia, has implemented more than 600 food security sector projects around the world, many of them in partnership with the WFP.


First AlUla art residency program launched at Saudi heritage site

First AlUla art residency program launched at Saudi heritage site
Updated 03 December 2021

First AlUla art residency program launched at Saudi heritage site

First AlUla art residency program launched at Saudi heritage site
  • Six artists are currently part of the pilot residency running until January 14

The Royal Commission for AlUla and the French Agency for AlUla Development (Afalula) have announced the launch of the first art residency program at the Saudi heritage site.

The 11-week project, to be operated by Manifesto, aims to foster dialogue, exchange, and collaboration between the artists in residence and the community of experts working on the ground in AlUla, as well as local practitioners and other members of the community, a statement said.

Six artists are currently part of the pilot residency running until Jan. 14.

The work of Riyadh-based conceptual artist and arts educator Rashed Al-Shashai, from Saudi Arabia, explores the purpose of human existence and the functions of society with everyday objects and imagery.

French multidisciplinary artist Sara Favriau, who is based in Paris, produces sculptures, installations, and performances that investigate the very permanence of self, nature, and works of art.

Talin Hazbar, from Syria, works out of Sharjah, in the UAE, and is an architect and visual artist. Her work and processes aim to showcase the overlapping boundaries in nature, history, and ecology.

Paris-based French multimedia artist Laura Sellies finds new ways to understand the relationship between sculptures, people, images, and sounds through her work.

Sofiane Si Merabet, also French but operating from Dubai, is a multimedia artist who interrogates memories, identities, and migration.

And from his base in Riyadh, Saudi multidisciplinary artist Muhannad Shono explores what lies beneath the surface of the human experience.

Nora Al-Dabal, the RCU’s arts and creative planning director, said: “This pilot artist residency is a new milestone in AlUla’s cultural development. Our goal is not only to provide unique cultural experiences for visitors but also to contribute to creating a flourishing cultural ecosystem with a vibrant arts district and space for artists and creatives in AlUla.

“The art residency pilot program will lay solid grounds for such ambition.”

The pilot edition will be based in Mabiti AlUla, a palm grove and guest house in the heart of AlUla’s oasis. It will subsequently be established in Madrasat AdDeera, an arts and design center.

Artists in residence have already started building collaborations with local artisans through programs held at Madrasat AdDeera while delving deeper and focusing their research on the local materials of AlUla, and its craft and cultural practices, the statement added.

It is anticipated that Madrasat AdDeera will become a key anchor asset of the future arts district of AlUla, a dynamic cluster of programs, education, and production that will form an active and vibrant arts destination for communities, students, artists, and visitors.

Afalula scientific director, Jean-Francois Charnier, said: “The originality of this very first art residency program developed in partnership between the Royal Commission for AlUla and the French Agency for AlUla Development relies on the cooperation between international artists with the impressive array of scientific experts currently working in the oasis, including archaeologists, anthropologists, agriculture experts, botanists, and many more.”

Arnaud Morand, Afalula’s head of creation and innovation, said: “It is an unprecedented experiment to associate at this level artistic vision and scientific approaches in the writing of the narratives and the reimagination of a destination.

“This will undoubtedly contribute to further mark the originality of AlUla as a cultural destination of a new kind.”

And Laure Confavreux-Colliex, executive director at Manifesto, said: “We are very proud that Manifesto has been chosen to launch this first artists’ hub in the heart of AlUla’s oasis. We are working on site to make this the very start of a destination truly built by artists.”


Saudi sports minister follows up on preparations of Kingdom’s F1 race

Saudi sports minister follows up on preparations of Kingdom’s F1 race
Updated 03 December 2021

Saudi sports minister follows up on preparations of Kingdom’s F1 race

Saudi sports minister follows up on preparations of Kingdom’s F1 race
  • The minister said that the Kingdom is proud of the work made by the hands of Saudi citizens, as well as Saudi companies

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal was briefed on the latest developments of the Formula One Grand Prix which will be hosted by Jeddah Corniche from Dec. 3 to 5, state news agency SPA reported.
“We have the privilege of hosting this huge sporting event, which represents a dream for all motorsport lovers, and this event would not have been witnessed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia without the grace of Allah Almighty and then the support and follow-up of the Crown Prince. We promise everyone better hosting to achieve the goals of the Kingdom's Vision 2030,” he said.
The minister added that the Kingdom is proud of the work made by the hands of Saudi citizens, as well as Saudi companies.
On Sunday, Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, advisor to King Salman, was briefed on the latest preparations for the Saudi Formula One race.
Al-Faisal listened to an explanation by Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal about the 27-turn, 6,175-meter-long circuit, the second-longest track in F1 history. 
Prince Khalid, who is the president of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, confirmed the completion of the preparations for hosting the F1 race.


Frankly Speaking: France has a lot to learn from Saudi Arabia on combating terror financing, says Senate member Nathalie Goulet

Frankly Speaking: France has a lot to learn from Saudi Arabia on combating terror financing, says Senate member Nathalie Goulet
Updated 03 December 2021

Frankly Speaking: France has a lot to learn from Saudi Arabia on combating terror financing, says Senate member Nathalie Goulet

Frankly Speaking: France has a lot to learn from Saudi Arabia on combating terror financing, says Senate member Nathalie Goulet
  • Leading French politician and foreign affairs expert makes the comments as President Macron embarks on Saudi visit
  • Gulet gives her views on “Frankly Speaking,” the series of video interviews with regional and international policymakers

DUBAI: France and the rest of Europe can learn from Saudi Arabia’s approach to combating the financing of terrorism, a leading French politician and foreign affairs expert has told Arab News.

Nathalie Goulet, a member of the Senate of France and the country’s commission on foreign affairs and defense, said: “Saudi Arabia has its own place on the subject of fighting financing of terrorism, and they do it very seriously. It is matching international standards on the subject.”

Goulet, who recently returned from a visit to the Kingdom for meetings with senior policymakers about the campaign to halt terrorism finance, highlighted Saudi initiatives with Etidal, the center for combating extremist ideology, as well as actions by the Saudi Central Bank, and financial intelligence services.

“In Europe and especially in France there has sometimes been a kind of bad habit to link Saudi Arabia with the financing of terrorism and we have to break this image and what is now purely fake news,” she added.

Nathalie Goulet noted that the Muslim Brotherhood was still playing a significant role in terrorism funding in Europe.

Goulet, speaking just before a visit to the Kingdom by French President Emmanuel Macron, gave her views on “Frankly Speaking,” the series of video interviews with prominent regional and international policymakers and businesspeople.

In a wide-ranging interview, she also spoke of the rising threat from the Muslim Brotherhood and its role in terrorism finance, the volatile relationship between France and Algeria, and the reforms in Saudi Arabia under the Vision 2030 strategy.

On terror funding, she contrasted the practice among the Muslim community in France, where zakat donations are made in cash and therefore harder to control, with the situation in the Kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia put in place a system to prevent any collection of zakat by cash. Everything is by banking transfer to a special NGO and that is very useful, very clever, and also very, very safe.

“On collecting zakat, Saudi Arabia can be an example for us because we are absolutely unable to track the money and, at the same time of course, most of the zakat is giving (money) for good purposes. But sometimes it’s not and we try to ban cash as much as possible. Saudi Arabia is giving us an excellent example,” she said.

Frank Kane hosts Frankly Speaking: Watch more episodes.

She noted that the Muslim Brotherhood was still playing a significant role in terrorism funding in Europe and pointed out the organization’s influence in the Islamic community and within humanitarian organizations.

“First of all, they have a lot of humanitarian actions but then they use the same money to sponsor terrorism all over Europe. We have to ban those people, definitely. Austria already banned the Muslim Brotherhood from Austria; Germany is on the way. France – not yet – but I am pushing them a lot,” she added.

Goulet hit out specifically at the role of the Islamic Relief organization, which she alleged had been aiding terrorism finance, supported the terror-designated Hamas organization in Palestine, and claimed its executives had been responsible for spreading anti-Semitic messages on social media.

“So, what we have to do is track the money and then try to ban any financing for those people. We have to check and have strong investigations into how they collect money and what they are doing with this money, and we have to stop any terror financing absolutely,” she said.

Statement by Islamic Relief Worldwide

Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) categorically denies funding terrorism and also denies any support for Hamas. As a registered charity regulated by the Charity Commission of England and Wales, IRW is independently audited on behalf of governments, UN bodies, and other significant institutional donors several times a year. Between 2009 and 2019, the organization underwent over 500 internal and external audits which found no evidence of using funds for anything other than saving lives and contributing to the global humanitarian agenda in line with the important humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence.

We have stringent checks in place to ensure that money only goes to where it is needed – helping the most vulnerable. We routinely screen all trustees, senior management, staff, volunteers, partners, and contractors to ensure they have no links to proscribed groups or entities of any kind.

IRW rejects and condemns terrorism and believes that all forms of discrimination – including anti-Semitism – are unacceptable. Regrettably, there have been historic cases of individuals falling short of our values, but these have been dealt with firmly and swiftly, and the individuals involved are no longer with the organization. Following these past incidents, the Charity Commission of England and Wales conducted a fact-finding review last year which concluded that we had responded thoroughly and appropriately. In addition, an independent review was conducted by the former UK Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC, which found that the organization was not institutionally anti-Semitic.


You can find a link to the Independent Commission report here.

You can find the Charity Commission’s statement on the completion of its fact-finding review here.

The Kingdom’s resolve in tackling the funding of terrorism was an example of the positive changes taking place in the country under the Vision 2030 reform plan, which was having a profound effect on life in Saudi Arabia.

“When you see the difference on the streets, the way that the youth is happy in the country, and when you see the development, it is clear that something has happened. And it’s the Vision 2030 of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman which has brought it about and will bring such a lot of hope in the country,” Goulet added.

On French foreign policy toward Muslim countries, she thought that the issue was complicated by France’s colonial history. “It’s always very emotional,” she said.

With regard to Algeria, France’s former colony, relations with which have been strained owing to comments made by Macron, and some visa issues, Goulet expected the situation to improve, adding that “links with Algeria are very strong.”

On Lebanon, a country Macron has visited several times in attempts to help it through its intensifying crisis, she said the Lebanese people should look to a new political generation to repatriate the proceeds of corruption held in overseas havens, rather than seeking financial bailouts from countries such as France.

However, she spoke out against French policy in Lebanon with regard to Hezbollah. “The government for the last 15 years has been treating Hezbollah in a very strange way – like there is a political Hezbollah and a military Hezbollah, and we have to ban the military Hezbollah to discuss with the political Hezbollah.

“But the reality is that there is just one Hezbollah. Just as there is one Hamas, there is one Hezbollah, there is not one military and one political. It’s the same terrorist group,” she said.
Goulet was also critical of attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims within France. A recent Arab News survey with YouGov showed that 64 percent of French people had a negative impression of the minority groups.

“I think it’s a fact unfortunately and it’s because of the major political leaders surfing on the wave of populism right now. It’s something which will help them collect votes,” she added, referring to the presidential elections in France next year.

“We also have the yellow vests (movement) and street agitation, along with conspiracy theories, and everything is boiling in the same pan to produce something that smells very bad.”

Goulet, who is a member of the Centrist Union political grouping in the French Senate, was disparaging of the presidential prospects of Eric Zemmour, the rightwing populist who recently gained ground in opinion polls.

She said: “I think these things will collapse soon. It was just like a small fire. His campaign will collapse. That is not France, I mean that cannot be France. I mean this guy is a pure populist. He has no team and I hope he will run out of money soon and then will disappear in the trash because he doesn’t deserve anything else but trash.”

The politician expressed hope that relations between France and Britain – under increasing strain since Brexit and the arrival of the government of Boris Johnson – could improve but noted that the “misunderstandings” in Anglo-French affairs went all the way back to French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte.

With regard to the latest flashpoint – the migration of refugees across the English Channel – Goulet said the situation was “unbearable,” but pointed out that higher levels of social benefits were available to refugees in the UK compared to France and other EU countries.

“I know for sure that Britain attracts emigrants because it’s easier for them to live there and have some subsidies and help. So, maybe one of the keys is for Britain to be more restrictive regarding migrants so it doesn’t look so attractive – maybe.”