Norway tightens measures as COVID-19 cases surge

Norway tightens measures as COVID-19 cases surge
People waiting for public bus transport wearing facemasks during covid-19 pandemic in Norway that will tighten health measures to combat a surge in cases, the government said on Tuesday. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 08 December 2021

Norway tightens measures as COVID-19 cases surge

Norway tightens measures as COVID-19 cases surge
  • From four weeks starting at midnight on Thursday, authorities will limit the number of guests in a home to 10
  • The number may be raised to 20 over the Christmas period

OSLO: Norway will tighten health measures to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases, including a limit on the number of people at parties, the government said on Tuesday.
From four weeks starting at midnight on Thursday, authorities will limit the number of guests in a home to 10 – in addition to the people in the household.
Last week, a suspected outbreak of the newly discovered omicron variant among dozens of partygoers who had all been vaccinated led the government to introduce new restrictions to deal with COVID-19 in and around the capital Oslo.
“The situation is now so serious that we have to take new measures to keep the pandemic under control,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told a press conference.
However, the number may be raised to 20 over the Christmas period, so long as at least a meter (three feet) is kept between guests, it said.
Masks will also be compulsory – but again, only if social distancing cannot be maintained at one meter, while table-only service will be mandatory at restaurants and bars.
“The risk of overloading health services and the spread of the more contagious omicron variant now requires new strict measures in our country,” Store said.
Norway has recorded 29 omicron cases so far.


Widow of lynched Sri Lankan seeks justice from Pakistani prime minister

Widow of lynched Sri Lankan seeks justice from Pakistani prime minister
Updated 58 min 50 sec ago

Widow of lynched Sri Lankan seeks justice from Pakistani prime minister

Widow of lynched Sri Lankan seeks justice from Pakistani prime minister
  • Mob killed the Sri Lankan manager at a Pakistani company and burnt his body on Dec. 3 over blasphemy allegations
  • Blasphemy is considered a deeply sensitive issue in Pakistan and mere accusations of it can trigger violence

COLOMBO: The wife of a Sri Lankan national who was lynched by a mob in Pakistan has pleaded for justice from the Pakistani prime minister during a memorial event at Islamabad’s mission in Colombo.

Kumara, 48, a general manager at a sports apparel factory in the eastern city of Sialkot, was attacked by a mob of hundreds of people, dragged into the street and set ablaze in the eastern city of Sialkot on Dec. 3. Police said workers at the factory accused him of desecrating religious posters.

Dozens of people have been arrested in connection with the violence, and Prime Minister Imran Khan has promised severe punishment for those found guilty.

High-ranking Sri Lankan officials, including the speaker of parliament, ministers, lawmakers, and Buddhist and Muslim religious figures attended the memorial event organized by Pakistan’s high commissioner designate, Umar Farooq Burki, on Thursday evening.

Kumara’s widow, Nilushi Dissanayaka, arrived with their two sons.

“I request Imran Khan to bring justice to my husband and punish the culprits as soon as possible. This is not to take revenge. But this should not happen to anyone in future,” she said.

“I thank all the Pakistanis who supported me in this difficult situation and all staff of the high commission for arranging this event. Also, I would like to thank the Sri Lankan president, prime minister, other ministers and media institutions for supporting me.”

Dissanayaka told Arab News her goal in life was now to educate her children, Gavith and Lithula, to become professionals and useful members of society.

The business community in Sialkot has raised $100,000 for Kumara’s family. Rajco Industries, where Kumara worked, has pledged to take care of their financial needs by sending a monthly salary of $2,000 for the next 10 years. The Pakistani high commissioner said the funds were transferred to the widow earlier this week.

He said that around $54,000 has also been collected for the family by Pakistani expatriates in the US and Canada.

“Each and every person in Pakistan from the Prime Minister Imran Khan to a common man on the street was aggrieved and strongly condemned this inhumane act,” Burki said.

Pakistani authorities last month announced that suspects in the case will be presented before an anti-terrorism court in jail. “On strict directions of the prime minister of Pakistan, the trial of the murderers and abettors is continuing,” Burki said. “The prime minister is directly supervising the proceedings of this trial.”

Blasphemy is considered a deeply sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan and carries the death penalty. Mere allegations of blasphemy can trigger mob violence.

International and domestic rights groups say accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.


PIA pilot refused to continue Riyadh-Islamabad flight over ‘safety of passengers’

PIA pilot refused to continue Riyadh-Islamabad flight over ‘safety of passengers’
Updated 21 January 2022

PIA pilot refused to continue Riyadh-Islamabad flight over ‘safety of passengers’

PIA pilot refused to continue Riyadh-Islamabad flight over ‘safety of passengers’
  • PIA aircraft was scheduled to arrive in the Saudi Arabian capital on Jan. 14 and return to Islamabad
  • Upon reaching Riyadh after severe delay, the pilot decided to stop the journey due to duty timing limit

KARACHI: A Pakistan International Airlines pilot who last week refused to complete a Riyadh-Islamabad flight because his duty timings had ended made the decision in compliance with aviation rules for the safety of passengers, airline officials have said.

A PIA plane was scheduled to arrive in the Saudi Arabian capital on Jan. 14 and then return to Islamabad, but technical issues delayed its departure from Pakistan, and bad weather in Riyadh forced it to make an emergency landing in Dammam, where it stayed another six hours before clearance.

Upon finally reaching Riyadh, the pilot of PK 9754 decided to end the journey and did not fly the aircraft back to Islamabad. The pilot’s announcement triggered a protest by passengers, who eventually had to be calmed by airport security personnel.

PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan told Arab News the captain’s action was in line with the airline’s policy and aviation rules.

“An impression has been created if the airline wanted the captain to operate the flight and he refused. This is completely wrong. The pilot didn’t operate the flight because his duty hours had exceeded due to diversion of the flight to Dammam,” he said on Thursday evening. “Upon reaching Riyadh the duty time of the pilot had completed.”

According to the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority rules, a person whose duty time has been exceeded is not permitted to act as a crew member and must be provided a specified period of rest.

A PIA official familiar with the matter said the captain’s “prime concern was the safety of the passengers.”

“When asked to fly, the captain refused and said: ‘What I’m doing, I am doing it as per rules. The prime responsibility as captain is to protect aircraft and the passengers’,” the official told Arab News.

“All of the 200 to 250 passengers were dependent upon him,” he said. “This was prime responsibility of captain is to protect aircraft and the passengers. Then the reputation of your company — the airline — and your country is also important. The compliance with rules is important for their image as well.”

“One takes a decision keeping all these things in mind.”

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Nigeria extremists kidnap 20 children: residents

Nigeria extremists kidnap 20 children: residents
Updated 21 January 2022

Nigeria extremists kidnap 20 children: residents

Nigeria extremists kidnap 20 children: residents
  • Fighters from the Daesh in West Africa Province stormed Piyemi on Thursday afternoon, killing two men and seizing 13 girls and seven boys
  • A local Chibok government official confirmed the attack without giving details

KANO, Nigeria: Extremists killed two people and kidnapped 20 children in Nigeria’s Borno state, where Islamist militants are waging a more than decade-long insurgency, a community leader and residents said Friday.
Thursday’s assault on Piyemi village took place near Chibok town where eight years ago Boko Haram extremists abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in an attack that sparked international outcry.
Fighters from the Daesh in West Africa Province (DWAP) stormed Piyemi on Thursday afternoon, killing two men and seizing 13 girls and seven boys, according to the residents and the community leader.
The DWAP militants dressed in military uniforms started shooting and looting shops in the village and setting homes on fire, they said.
“They shot dead two people and took away 13 girls and seven boys aged between 12 and 15,” local resident Samson Bulus told AFP by phone.
The militants who attacked from nearby Sambisa forest herded “the 20 kidnapped children into a truck they seized from the village and drove them into the forest,” said another resident Silas John.
Military officials were not immediately available to comment on the attack.
But a local Chibok government official confirmed the attack without giving details.
A community leader also gave similar details about the extremist assault and the abducted children.
“This attack was the third in recent days and underscores the risks villages around Chibok face from extremists,” said Ayuba Alamson, the community leader from Chibok.
Thursday’s kidnapping came as Nigeria struggles with a string of abduction-for-ransom attacks on schools by criminal gangs over the last year in its northwestern states.
Around 1,500 schoolchildren were seized last year in 20 mass kidnappings in schools across the region, with 16 students losing their lives, according to the UN children welfare agency UNICEF.
Most of the hostages were released after negotiations with the criminal gangs known locally as bandits, but some are still in captivity in forest hideouts.
Following Thursday’s raid, residents said they returned to Piyemi village Friday after spending the night in the bush to escape the DWAP attackers.
The extremists razed part of the village, including a church, and burnt 10 vehicles in the three-hour long attack, said resident John.
Troops have been stationed in Chibok since the infamous 2014 schoolgirl abduction but deadly extremist raids continue in the area, with the militants launching attacks from their nearby forest enclaves.
DWAP, which split from Boko Haram in 2016 seized Sambisa forest from rival Boko Haram following the death of Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau in May in clashes between the two factions.
More than 40,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million people displaced by the extremist conflict in the northeast of Nigeria.


Algerian boy, 15, wins scholarship to UK’s most prestigious school

Eton costs nearly £50,000 per year ($65,804), and counts prime ministers and members of the British royal family among its alumni. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Eton costs nearly £50,000 per year ($65,804), and counts prime ministers and members of the British royal family among its alumni. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 21 January 2022

Algerian boy, 15, wins scholarship to UK’s most prestigious school

Eton costs nearly £50,000 per year ($65,804), and counts prime ministers and members of the British royal family among its alumni. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Ilyan Benamor cares for his mother, who suffers from chronic health issues and requires assistance
  • He won a full scholarship to Eton College, which counts Boris Johnson and Princes Harry and William among its alumni

LONDON: An Algerian boy who works as a caretaker for his wheelchair-bound mother in their East London flat has won a scholarship for Eton College, one of the most prestigious schools in the world.

Eton counts prime ministers and members of the British royal family among its alumni — and soon 15-year-old Ilyan Benamor will join that elite club.

While many of those at Eton hail from the British and international elite, Benamor has taken a different route to reach the school.

He has cared for his mother Lalia Amal Chikhaoui, 49, since he was 11, spending his time cooking, cleaning, and shopping.

Chikhaoui fled Algeria just before her son was born, and Benamor’s father died in a hit-and-run car accident in the North African country soon after.

She was diagnosed with cancer when Benamor was nine, and now suffers from a chronic debilitating health condition that limits her mobility.

But despite these odds, Benamor succeeded through days of grueling tests, assessments and interviews to win a full scholarship to Eton, where he will rub shoulders with the children of the UK’s elite.

Eton costs nearly £50,000 per year ($65,804), but the huge price appears to be worth it for the children of those stumping up the funds. Twenty former UK prime ministers studied at Eton, not to mention the current prime minister, Boris Johnson. Both Prince Harry and Prince William attended, and countless more business leaders and politicians are among the school’s old boys.

Benamor said he wants to join their ranks and become a politician.

“Eton is incredible, it is the number one school in the world,” he said. “I am so excited to be a part of it. It feels almost like a dream that I will be going there.

“I want to be a politician so I can make a difference (to) my homeland and help them fix the problems that still plague the country today.”

He continued: “It is an incredible story. Maybe I will write a book one day. It is certainly (a) triumph over adversity because it has been very difficult at times.

“I am so proud of my mum. Everything she has been through,” he added. “If it was not for her fighting to get us to the UK then I would never have got this chance. I love her so much and am so happy at how proud she is.”

The young man won the 2017 Newham carers award for the help he provides his mother, and later was successful in his application to Eton through a scheme that provides exceptional young people who are disadvantaged with opportunities to study at the UK’s top schools.

His mother told the Daily Mail: “I am so happy and relieved. Living in East London you worry when they get to teenage years something may happen, because of gangs and knife crime.

“But Eton is not a place where you have to worry about these things. He can have a new life. It is like a gift from God, all my prayers have been answered.”

She added: “This gives me peace because I know if anything happens to me, he is on the right path in life, he is in the right place.”


Booster shots needed against omicron, CDC studies show

Booster shots needed against omicron, CDC studies show
Updated 21 January 2022

Booster shots needed against omicron, CDC studies show

Booster shots needed against omicron, CDC studies show
  • They are the first large US studies to look at vaccine protection against omicron, health officials said
  • The first study looked at hospitalizations and emergency room and urgent care center visits in 10 states, from August to this month

NEW YORK: Three studies released Friday offered more evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are standing up to the omicron variant, at least among people who received booster shots.
They are the first large US studies to look at vaccine protection against omicron, health officials said.
The papers echo previous research — including studies in Germany, South Africa and the UK — indicating available vaccines are less effective against omicron than earlier versions of the coronavirus, but also that boosters significantly improve protection.
The first study looked at hospitalizations and emergency room and urgent care center visits in 10 states, from August to this month.
It found vaccine effectiveness was best after three doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in preventing COVID-19-associated emergency department and urgent care visits. Protection dropped from 94 percent during the delta wave to 82 percent during the omicron wave. Protection from just two doses was lower, especially if six months had passed since the second dose.
The second study focused on COVID-19 case and death rates in 25 states from the beginning of April through Christmas. People who were boosted had the highest protection against coronavirus infection, both during the time delta was dominant and also when omicron was taking over.
Those two articles were published online by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Journal of the American Medical Association published the third study, also led by CDC researchers. It looked at people who tested positive for COVID-19 from Dec. 10 to Jan. 1 at more than 4,600 testing sites across the US
Three shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were about 67 percent effective against omicron-related symptomatic disease compared with unvaccinated people. Two doses, however, offered no significant protection against omicron, the researchers found.
“It really shows the important of getting a booster dose,” said the CDC’s Emma Accorsi, one of the study’s authors.