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.


KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation
Updated 6 sec ago

KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

JEDDAH: The 3rd annual Red Sea Film Festival has opened its doors to cinema world enthusiasts to register and receive accreditation for the inaugural in-person edition of the most anticipated cinematic event of the year.

From red carpet premieres  and concerts, an industry program, workshops, interactive community events to acclaimed festival gems and beautifully restored treasures, the festival will be held in Saudi Arabia’s most evocative historical quarter — Jeddah Old Town — from Dec. 6-15.  It is an annual festival, launched in 2019, but the past two editions were held virtually due to the pandemic.

With more than 100 films from around the world to be showcased, including the best cinematic works from the region, the festival will provide industry professionals with an exclusive opportunity to be part of a unique experience.

The festival provide a platform for Arab filmmakers and industry professionals from around the world to connect, host feature and short film competitions, and present a series of events, master classes, and workshops to support emerging talent. 


Saudi Arabia calls for greater global efforts toward disaster relief

Saudi Arabia calls for greater global efforts toward disaster relief
Updated 35 min 21 sec ago

Saudi Arabia calls for greater global efforts toward disaster relief

Saudi Arabia calls for greater global efforts toward disaster relief

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia has urged the need for greater international efforts toward disaster relief assistance at the UN in New York.

It came as the Kingdom addressed the UN Sixth Committee, the body’s primary forum for legal questions.

The 76th session of the UN General Assembly was held Monday to discuss agenda item 87, “the protection of persons in the event of disasters.”

In a speech, Nidaa Abu Ali, a member of the Kingdom’s permanent delegation to the UN in New York, addressed item 87 as a “fundamental principle” of humanitarianism.

Abu Ali said that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic “demonstrated the fast-paced speed at which disasters occur,” urging the need for a global response framework and cooperation in disaster situations.

She added that the Kingdom is a leading country in implementing strong and immediate measures in response to emergency crises while also assisting at the international level by providing humanitarian relief and economic assistance to developing countries.

Abu Ali noted that since its establishment in 2015, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center has contributed to meeting urgent needs in cooperation with international organizations by combating disasters and food scarcity through financial and logistical support. During the Kingdom’s 2020 G20 Presidency, Abu Ali said that the most notable effort in combating the global pandemic and salvaging the global economy was the $11 billion allocated for medical support in developing countries.

On a national level, Abu Ali stressed the Kingdom’s initiative, associated with the Sustainable Development Goals, to activate a national strategy to reduce disaster risks, integrating measures into local development activities.

The strategy will aid in the reduction of risk, especially in vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

In her final comments, Abu Ali urged the need to find a common legal framework to facilitate international humanitarian aid and international cooperation.

She expressed the Kingdom’s support for preparing an international legal instrument and convention to ensure the protection of people during times of disaster in a manner that does not conflict with the sovereignty or national legislation of countries around the world.


Saudi Arabia postpones return of elementary students to classrooms

Saudi Arabia postpones return of elementary students to classrooms
Updated 20 October 2021

Saudi Arabia postpones return of elementary students to classrooms

Saudi Arabia postpones return of elementary students to classrooms
  • Pupils under the age of 12 will continue to be taught remotely for safety reasons pending further studies, officials said

JEDDAH: With less than two weeks to go until elementary students were due to return to classrooms in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Education has announced that they will continue to be taught remotely until further notice, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The proposed Oct. 31 return to in-person teaching has been postponed for safety reasons, the ministry said.

It added that it requires further epidemiological data about the COVID-19 situation in the Kingdom as part of a risk assessment before a decision can be made on the resumption of in-person learning for children below the age of 12.

“The ministry will continue its efforts to offer virtual learning to the age group through ‘Madrasati’ (online platform) for the elementary level and ‘Rawdaty’ for preschool level,” it said.

The Ministries of Health and Education have been working together to ensure the successful resumption of in-person education for middle-school and high-school students.

In August, the Ministry of Education announced that, in accordance with regulations issued by the Health Ministry, fully vaccinated students over the age of 12 would return to classrooms. Those who are not fully vaccinated will continue to be taught remotely, with classwork uploaded to the ministry-approved Madrasati platform.

On Oct. 12, the Ministry of Education issued a directive urging education authorities across the Kingdom to ensure that all students are fully vaccinated, and reiterating that those who are not will have to remain at home. Students were given two weeks from the start of the semester to complete the vaccination process.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Ministry of Health on Tuesday reported 49 new COVID-19 cases in the Kingdom and two related deaths.

The latest figures put the total number of cases so far recorded in the country at 548,018 and the overall death toll at 8,767.

Health officials said there were currently 2,214 active cases, of which 90 patients were in a serious or critical condition.

Among the newly reported cases, 16 were in Riyadh, nine in Jeddah, three in Jubail, and two in both Al-Darb and Makkah.

The ministry also announced that 38 patients had recovered from COVID-19, taking the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 537,037.

A further 45,275 polymerase chain reaction tests had been carried out in the last 24-hour period, meaning that to date more than 29.8 million PCR checks had been conducted in the country.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that at least 44.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign started and more than 20.8 million people were now fully vaccinated.


We will not see his like again: Saudi royal tribute to British journalist Roger Harrison

We will not see his like again: Saudi royal tribute to British journalist Roger Harrison
Updated 20 October 2021

We will not see his like again: Saudi royal tribute to British journalist Roger Harrison

We will not see his like again: Saudi royal tribute to British journalist Roger Harrison
  • Prince Sultan bin Salman pays tribute to former Arab News senior reporter Roger Harrison, who documented his landmark glider tour of the Kingdom

RIYADH: In a heartfelt tribute to former Arab News staffer Roger Harrison, who has died on the Spanish island of Mallorca at the age of 75, Prince Sultan bin Salman, the first Arab and Muslim astronaut, said that the journalist’s love of Saudi Arabia and its people was obvious in all that he did.

“He wasn’t doing those things only for his job with Arab News, but because he enjoyed it,” he said.

In an exclusive interview, Prince Sultan recalled that he was head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism when he met Harrison, a senior reporter with Arab News from 2001 until 2013, for the first time.

“Arab News was doing some fantastic articles about Saudi Arabia,” he said. “I think I noticed his name and subsequently we connected. It became a real friendship because his feelings were overwhelming.

“We ended up also doing some traveling together in different parts of the country. We invited him to come to our farm for various conferences. Basically Roger was often there when we had guests, official or nonofficial.

“And then in 2006, Bandar bin Khaled Al-Faisal came up with the idea of doing, for the first time ever, an aerial tour of Saudi Arabia using a glider.”

Harrison’s work in his seminal 2014 book, “Wings Over Arabia,” a photographic record of the three-man glider mission that flew over and photographed many spectacular and rarely seen areas of the Kingdom, has been widely praised. Prince Sultan explained how the adventure came about and how Harrison became a part of it.

“I got my gliding license in 1986 in Hawaii but I really hadn’t flown much after that,” he said. “Bandar and I started gliding in the 2000s. We met John Bally who was an English gliding instructor and he joined us when we started gliding in the Alps.

“Then we developed the idea of coming to Saudi Arabia and gliding in the Kingdom. We brought the team that worked on the documentary series. Then I brought Roger in as part of the Tourism Commission to document the mission and he threw himself completely into it.”

The prince said Roger became totally involved with the team planning Wings Over Arabia.

“It was a big team and I am very sorry to say that three of them have now passed away,” he said. “Ahmed Al-Zahrani was our mechanic in the Aviation Club. He unfortunately died in an accident. He was a great guy and you can see him in the video. I am still actually looking out for his two sons and his family.

“The other one was Captain Zakariah from Sri Lanka. He passed away only a few months ago, after he retired. He was with me for years and he flew a Twin Otter airplane, which you can see in the movie and also in the book.

“The Twin Otter was given to us by Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, though it was originally given to King Fahd. It’s a great airplane but a very slow one so we took the door off. It was then used by the photography team, the American team that comprised the other photographers and the cinematographers for the documentary.”

Prince Sultan said that he brought Harrison and Bally to the team, while Prince Bandar assembled the documentary crew.

“John came in to fly with us and, in fact, he had a great deal more experience than we did,” he said. “I was actually the most experienced pilot in the group because I had started flying in 1976 and was in the Saudi Royal Air Force. I have probably done 10,000 hours of flying jets but I had the least gliding experience in the group.

“John had the most and, of course, there was Bandar who had some gliding experience and was a great pilot, too. We flew around the Kingdom and planned the trip. Roger’s role was to do photography and write articles.”

Prince Sultan said Harrison was a vital part of the team that flew in the Twin Otter.

“He always told me he always felt sick in the plane but he kept flying, even though the door was open and he was hanging by a small strap,” said the prince. “We basically just went around Saudi Arabia on seven or eight-day trips.

“Roger of course published a number of things and we worked together on various ideas, and one of them was Saudi Colors. This was an initiative I supported within the Tourism Commission and it sponsored an annual event for photography and photographers.

“We sent Saudi photographers, and others, out of the country and, basically, we had an awards program that developed into making movies and videos. Ultimately the program even included expats and I wish it had continued. It showcased the great talents not only of Saudis but of expats as well.”

Talking about his passion for flying, Prince Sultan said: “It’s all about trying to live life fully. I do a lot of serious work, a lot of charity work, a lot of government work, and a lot of ministry work. After all, I live here.

“There are many people who tell me they have never seen me in a building because so much of my life is outside. In my childhood, Riyadh was much smaller and my brothers and I enjoyed horseback riding in the desert. The desert was not as far away as it is now; it was nothing but sand dunes and there was a small stable and a small villa which my father let us use.”

There were also more formal events, including visits from foreign dignitaries, but even these often had an outdoors element.

“There were a lot of beautiful dinners and I asked my father to host some visitors, such as the king of Morocco, the president of Lebanon and other people, in a big tent,” the prince said. “It was a real desert event and we rode horses and showed our falcons. We went hunting in the southern Iraqi desert north of Saudi Arabia, which is another empty quarter.

“The outdoors, for me, has always been something that I love and that is true even today. I can’t imagine life without being outdoors; I often sit outdoors and, especially in the evenings, I go to the desert.”

Prince Sultan said he developed a love of aviation when he was in America.

“I had a friend there, Joe Clarke,” he explained. “He owned a lot of airplanes and he is another fine man who has passed away. America is the country of adventure and is the most amazing place, too. I lived in Colorado and most of the time there I skied. I do hardcore skiing, and I used to go camping but not any more.”

Now, he has other places that inspire him.

“I sometimes go to Africa now, though I don’t shoot animals; instead I use a camera,” he said. “We go in cars following the animals as they do their seasonal migrations. I have worked with National Geographic and with some of its great photographers who have published books. I took National Geographic to places they wanted to go in the Kingdom.”

Prince Sultan said the Kingdom’s heritage and traditions remain extremely important to him.

“Our national heritage became an issue for me, and I live in a mudhouse here,” he explained. “I always pay attention to traditional things and ways of living and I visit a lot of towns and villages. I still go to Taif, for its high altitude, and just last weekend I went on a beautiful high-altitude hike there.

“The flying part is the cream on the cake in terms of adventure because you see the world from a different perspective. You can always see the beauty of the universe and of our country.

“Its beauty was opened up by Saudi Colors. We saw Saudi Arabia from so many different perspectives: That of thousands of Saudis, and thousands of photographers and movie makers. A whole industry grew from that and, InshaAllah, we will recreate it. I am working on that now.”

Roger Harrison’s affection for Saudi Arabia was also clear, the prince added.

“I think Roger was, first of all, a man who loved Saudi Arabia and loved its people too,” he said. “That’s basically what fired him up to research and write all those stories. He was a man with a lot of energy and it drove him to do many things and opened many doors. I worked with him on lots of ideas; some came (to pass) and as for the others, we had been waiting for the coronavirus to go away.

“I think Roger was somebody who appreciated beauty and adventure and the life of the people. I connect with those kinds of people: People who can feel life and not just live it, people who can identify things and ideas and run with them.

Harrison was born in 1946. He arrived in Saudi Arabia with his wife in 1996. (Supplied)

“Roger was truly unique and I always enjoyed time with him, whether it was a casual meeting or when he came to my farm for lunch or dinner. He always added an element of enthusiasm that we could all enjoy because he had been to places that he talked about and impressed us with his adventurous spirit.”

Prince Sultan said that when he was asked recently to make a video for an award presentation he immediately thought of Roger.

“In the US there is a huge aviation community and there is an annual award given to what they call ‘Legends of Aviation,’” he said. “To be an aviator is different from being a pilot, you know. A pilot is like a driver but to be an aviator is to have a passion, rather than simply a hobby you indulge in every once in a while.

“To my surprise, I was informed that the community wanted to nominate me for the award. They asked me for a two-hour video and the first person I thought of to do it was Roger. A month before, a mutual friend from the US had sent me a message saying he had been trying unsuccessfully to get in touch with Roger. So three or four days ago, I asked my assistant to reach out to Roger and tell him I wanted to talk to him about doing the video and also find out how he was.

“When my assistant finally got an answer, he spoke to Roger’s son who said: ‘My father passed away on Saturday.’"

The sad news was a great shock to the prince.

“That blew me away,” he said. “We had made plans to meet in Mallorca (where Roger had settled with his wife). Roger had even sent me suggestions of places to visit, where the Arabs from Spain had been (Al-Andalus). I was looking forward to going there in the off-season and enjoying spending some time with Roger again.

“After I had heard the bad news, I spoke to Roger’s wife and son and they were interested in seeing what Arab News had published about their husband and father. I told them there would be an event to honor Roger and we would bring them here.”

Prince Sultan said he had previously persuaded Roger to mount an exhibition of his photographs of Saudi Arabia, similar to one the prince had worked on with another distinguished expat, Richard Bodeker.

“Bodeker was a brilliant landscaper,” he said. “In fact, there is a YouTube movie called ‘The Gardener and the Princess’ that tells the story of Richard Bodeker and what he accomplished in Saudi Arabia.

“I had talked him into doing a documentary about his work; he probably had 20,000 to 30,000 photos of Saudi plants and of the landscaping he had done in the Diplomatic Quarter and Wadi Hanifah. He did the landscaping for the National Museum and though he died about a year and a half ago, his company and his son are still here. There is a garden in the Diplomatic Quarter that is named for him in acknowledgment of his 40 years in Saudi Arabia and the fantastic work he did.

“As with him, so with Roger and his achievements: We will not see his like again."


Rap star Pitbull to launch Riyadh Season with sold-out concert

Rap star Pitbull to launch Riyadh Season with sold-out concert
Updated 20 October 2021

Rap star Pitbull to launch Riyadh Season with sold-out concert

Rap star Pitbull to launch Riyadh Season with sold-out concert
  • Grand parade and fireworks display in opening ceremony of the Middle East’s largest entertainment festival

RIYADH: The Cuban-American rap star Pitbull will launch this year’s Riyadh Season festival with a sold-out concert on Wednesday that will be broadcast live.
The opening ceremony of the Middle East’s largest celebration of music, dining, and entertainment will also feature a parade and fireworks show.
The festival site covers 5.4 million square meters, divided into 14 zones — Boulevard Riyadh City, Al’Athriyah, Oasis, Combat Field, Riyadh Front, Qariat Zaman, Winter Wonderland, the Groves, VIA Riyadh, Riyadh Safari, Nabd Al Riyadh, Alsalam Tree, Almurabaa, and Khaloha.
There will be 16 events this month alone — WWE Crown Jewel on Oct. 21, Rush Gaming Festival from Oct. 22 to 26, the Crystal Maze live experience on Oct. 22, the Global Town Festival on Oct. 27, the Champions of Magic show on Oct. 27, and the Messi 10 Cirque Du Soleil show on Oct. 29.
And that’s just the start, with a total of 7,500 events, programs and activities for all age groups and interests. This year, children and fans of the nursery rhymes show CoComelon will be able to meet the characters while visiting their home, school, and farm in the Winter Wonderland zone.
Most events are free, and those that require tickets will be listed on the Riyadh Season 2021 website. Visitors must link their tickets to the Tawakkalna app, which has a new security feature to prevent tickets being misused or resold.
The entertainment sector will be a key contributor to the growth of the economy as part of Vision 2030. Riyadh Season will support the tourism and leisure sector and provide a unique experience for visitors. It continues until March 2022.