EU approves fifth jab as WHO urges greater effort to end pandemic

Members of the public queue outside the newly-set up Wembley Stadium vaccination centre to receive their the Covid-19 vaccine or booster at a mass vaccination event in London on December 19, 2021. (AFP)
Members of the public queue outside the newly-set up Wembley Stadium vaccination centre to receive their the Covid-19 vaccine or booster at a mass vaccination event in London on December 19, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 21 December 2021

EU approves fifth jab as WHO urges greater effort to end pandemic

Members of the public queue outside the newly-set up Wembley Stadium vaccination centre to receive their the Covid-19 vaccine or booster at a mass vaccination event in London on December 19, 2021. (AFP)
  • WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for nations to redouble efforts to help end the pandemic, calling for new year events to be canceled because it was better to “celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later

BRUSSELS: The European Union approved its fifth Covid-19 vaccine Monday, stepping up its battle against the omicron virus variant as the WHO called for greater efforts to ensure the pandemic ends next year.
Europe is already far ahead of other parts of the world with its rollout of vaccines and booster shots, but the omicron variant has helped fuel record case surges, forcing a return to harsh restrictions in some countries.
Despite indications that omicron is not more severe than the still-dominant Delta variant, early data suggests it could be more infectious and possibly have higher resistance to vaccines.
Since it was first reported in South Africa in November, omicron has been identified in dozens of countries, dashing hopes that the worst of the pandemic is over.
But US President Joe Biden said Monday that he was not planning on “locking the country down.”
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for nations to redouble efforts to help end the pandemic, calling for new year events to be canceled because it was better to “celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later.
“We have to focus now on ending this pandemic,” he said.

London on Monday announced it had canceled a New Year’s Eve event in the central Trafalgar Square for 6,500 people.
Paris has already canceled its new year celebrations and Germany is expected to roll out tight restrictions on private parties and close nightclubs, according to a proposal seen by AFP.
“New Year’s Eve celebrations with a large number of people are unjustifiable in the current situation,” reads the draft document.
German government advisers were already urging much tighter restrictions across the board, with experts in several countries warning repeatedly that vaccinations alone will not be enough to stop omicron.
Morocco has announced a blanket ban on New Year’s Eve celebrations.
But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ruled out any further tightening of England’s coronavirus rules over Christmas, while pledging to keep the situation “under constant review.”
Queen Elizabeth II is nonetheless understood to have canceled plans to spend Christmas at her Sandringham estate and will instead take “sensible precautions” and stay at Windsor Castle, according to British media.
The Netherlands has already imposed a Christmas lockdown and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen has warned that the omicron variant could be dominant in Europe by mid-January.
The EU’s authorization of the jab from US firm Novavax, which uses a more conventional technology than other Covid vaccines, has raised hopes that people worried about getting vaccinated might now come forward.
It is the fifth vaccine approved in the bloc after shots from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, and the EU has already signed a deal to buy up to 200 million doses of the two-shot Novavax vaccine.
“At a time where the omicron variant is rapidly spreading... I am particularly pleased with today’s authorization of the Novavax vaccine,” von der Leyen said in a statement.

As the pandemic gathers pace, weary populations are faced once again with new rounds of restrictions and cancelations of big events.
The World Economic Forum said it was postponing its annual January get-together of the world’s rich and powerful in the Swiss ski resort of Davos because of the new variant.
“Despite the meeting’s stringent health protocols, the transmissibility of omicron and its impact on travel and mobility have made deferral necessary,” the WEF said Monday.
Israel’s health ministry recommended banning nationals from traveling to the United States, and added several European countries to its Covid “red list.”
The world of sport continues to be buffeted by the virus spread with several English Premier League football teams recording outbreaks that forced games to be abandoned in recent days.
However, the Premier League said after a meeting on Monday it had rejected a plan to temporarily halt the season, saying “it is the League’s collective intention to continue the current fixture schedule where safely possible.”
Tennis also continues to suffer major blows, with Spanish star Rafael Nadal the latest player to test positive, throwing his participation in next month’s Australian Open into doubt.
“As a consequence of the situation, I have to have total flexibility with my calendar and I will analyze my options depending on my evolution,” he said.


4 killed when stands collapse during Colombian bullfight

4 killed when stands collapse during Colombian bullfight
Updated 27 June 2022

4 killed when stands collapse during Colombian bullfight

4 killed when stands collapse during Colombian bullfight
  • The disaster took place in a stadium in the city of El Espinal in Tolima state during a traditional event called “corraleja”

BOGOTA, Colombia: Part of the wooden stands collapsed during a bullfight in central Colombia Sunday, sending spectators plunging to the ground and killing at least four people and seriously injuring about 30, authorities said.
The disaster took place in a stadium in the city of El Espinal in Tolima state during a traditional event called “corraleja” in which members of the public enter the ring to engage the bulls.
Videos taken during the bullfight show a three-story section of the stands collapsing as people screamed.
“We have activated the hospital network in Tolima,” Tolima Gov. José Ricardo Orozco told local Blu Radio. “Four people have died, as of this moment: two women, a man and a minor.”
Authorities said about 30 people had been seriously injured
Orozco said he had asked for the traditional “corralejas” to be suspended in Tolima earlier Sunday but this one was held anyway.
President-elect Gustavo Petro urged local officials to ban such events, noting that it was not the first time an incident like this had taken place.
“I ask mayors not to allow more events involving the death of people or animals,” he said.
Current President Iván Duque on Twitter announced an investigation of the disaster.
“We lament the terrible tragedy registered in El Espinal, Tolima, during the festivals of San Pedro and San Juan, with the collapse of the stands during a corraleja. We will call for an investigation.”


Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry

Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry
Updated 27 June 2022

Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry

Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry
  • About 70 percent of gas stations across the island closed 
  • Government will send ministers to Russia to discuss urgently needed imports  

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka is struggling to secure fresh supplies of fuel, the energy minister said on Sunday, with the crisis-hit country fast running out of petrol and diesel to keep essential services running. 

For months, the island nation of 22 million people has lacked the foreign currency to pay for essential imports, including fuel, food and medicine. Amid the chronic shortages, Sri Lankans have formed long queues outside pumping stations, with some waiting in line for days. 

Sri Lanka’s Power and Energy Minister, Kanchana Wijesekera, said that the country is now down to just 15,000 tons of petrol and diesel, while 70 percent of fuel stations have closed due to delays in expected shipments. 

“We are struggling to find suppliers. They are reluctant to accept letters of credit from our banks. There are over $700 million in overdue payments, so now suppliers want advance payments,” he told reporters. 

“The remaining stock will be finished soon.”

In the past two months, Sri Lanka has received its fuel supply via a $500 million credit line from India that ran out in mid-June. A petrol shipment due last Thursday failed to arrive and officials are unable to confirm the next delivery, Wijesekera said. 

The military will begin issuing tokens to people queuing for fuel on Monday.

Meanwhile, the government will send ministers to Russia to discuss fuel imports and has told 1 million public employees to work from home until further notice. 

Sri Lanka also increased fuel prices in the early hours of Sunday, with the price hike expected to further push inflation, already running at 40 percent. 

The fuel crisis is also affecting medical services in the country, as both patients and healthcare workers struggle to reach hospitals due to the shortages. 

“Staff attendance today was remarkably low,” Omar Sheriff, CEO of Colombo’s largest kidney facility, told Arab News. “And outpatients have dropped from 300 to 40.” 

Pathmanathan, who drives a three-wheel taxi in Colombo, said that he waited in line for 12 hours from Saturday afternoon, only to be turned back as he almost reached the fuel station. 

“I lost my daily wage waiting for fuel in the queue on Saturday,” he told Arab News.

“Today, Sunday, I was informed that the oil price had risen again. I just can’t understand how we can charge so much money in fares to our customers,” Pathmanathan said. “It’s very sad.” 


UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report

UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report
Updated 27 June 2022

UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report

UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report
  • The Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund (PWCF) received the payments

LONDON: The heir to the British throne Prince Charles accepted a suitcase of cash as a charitable donation from the former prime minister of Qatar, UK media claimed on Sunday.

The Sunday Times reported that three bundles of cash were given as charitable donations from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani to the Prince of Wales.

The three lots, which totalled €3 million ($3.16 million), were handed to the prince personally between 2011 and 2015, the paper reported.

Despite no suggestion of any illegal payments, according to the paper, Sheikh Hamad, 62, presented the prince with €1m packed into carrier bags from the luxury department store Fortnum & Mason.

The Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund (PWCF) received the payments, according to the report, including an entity that bankrolls the prince's private projects and his country estate in Scotland.

Clarence House has released a statement following the report, saying: “Charitable donations received from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim were passed immediately to one of the prince's charities who carried out the appropriate governance and have assured us that all the correct processes were followed.”


Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits

Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits
Updated 26 June 2022

Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits

Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits
  • Joko Widodo will push President Vladimir Putin for immediate ceasefire
  • Visit is ‘unlikely to change the situation in Europe,’ analyst says

INDONESIA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo said that he will urge his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts to open room for dialogue, as he departed for a peace-building mission to the warring countries on Sunday.

Four months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the conflict has disrupted global supply chains and stoked an energy crisis after Moscow — a major oil and gas producer — was slapped with international sanctions, leading to rising inflation in many countries.

Widodo, who is also chairing Indonesia’s G20 presidency this year, will be the first Asian leader to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin since the war started in late February.

“The mission is to invite the Ukrainian president to open room for dialogue in the interest of peace,” Widodo said before leaving for Germany to attend the G7 Summit.

“With the same mission I will ask President Putin to open room for dialogue, and to immediately have a ceasefire and stop the war.”

Indonesia’s mission is to strive for peace in Ukraine while also attempting to resolve the ongoing global energy and food crisis, Widodo said, adding that the visit is important to prevent developing and low-income countries from falling into extreme poverty and hunger.

“War has to be stopped and global food supply chains need to be reactivated,” he added.

As Indonesia holds the rotating G20 presidency, the Southeast Asian nation has come under pressure to exclude Russia from the summit scheduled to take place in Bali in November.

Widodo had previously invited both Zelenskyy and Putin to attend the summit. The Indonesian leader called for a peaceful resolution to the months-long fighting, though largely maintained a neutral position.  

Dr. Ahmad Rizky Mardhatillah Umar, an Indonesian international relations researcher at the University of Queensland, Australia, said that Indonesia was concerned about how the war will affect its G20 presidency, as well as its domestic energy and food security.

“Indonesia wants to make sure that Russia and Western countries do not make the G20 a battlefield to advance their cause,” Umar told Arab News.

As it remains unclear what Indonesia will propose to both Zelenskyy and Putin in the upcoming meetings, Widodo’s visit is “unlikely to change the situation in Europe,” Umar said.

“Indonesia is not in the capacity to mediate the conflict and offer long lasting and strategic solutions to end the war.”


At Gwadar’s first boat cafe, a sip of tea with views of Arabian Sea

At Gwadar’s first boat cafe, a sip of tea with views of Arabian Sea
Updated 26 June 2022

At Gwadar’s first boat cafe, a sip of tea with views of Arabian Sea

At Gwadar’s first boat cafe, a sip of tea with views of Arabian Sea
  • Cafe Padizar is one of few hangout spots in the impoverished Balochistan region of southwest Pakistan
  • Brothers Fahad and Qadeer Ishaq opened the venture last month after renovating their family’s old fishing boat

QUETTA: Fahad Ishaq and his brother Qadeer are busy arranging chairs and tables as visitors arrive from different parts of Gwadar to enjoy a sip of tea and watch the sunset from their three-story boat cafe — the first of its kind in the southwestern Pakistani port.

Cafe Padizar, which opened in May, takes its name from the beach where it is docked, overlooking the high, rocky cliffs of the coast of Balochistan province and the Arabian Sea.

The boat, which belongs to Ishaq’s family, was left unused for years after its engines broke down.

In 2021, after graduating in business administration, Ishaq decided to put his degree to good use and began renovating the old vessel.

Together with his brother, the 21-year-old invested Rs1.5 million ($7,200) to restore the boat back and, two years later, turned it into a hangout spot — one of only a few in the impoverished, underdeveloped region.

“We decided to turn the boat into a cafe,” Ishaq told Arab News. “The internal parts of the boat were completely damaged, and now there is space for more than 100 customers.”

The cafe serves tea, coffee and snacks, but the brothers plan to introduce more food items to its menu and offer work to more people.

“Right now, we have hired six workers to serve customers,” Ishaq said. “But we have plans to expand the cafe.”

Business ventures are not always a certain success in Balochistan, a sparsely populated mountainous region bordering Afghanistan and Iran. Despite Gwadar being the center of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, it has been reaping few rewards from the multibillion-dollar infrastructure and energy plan.

Cafe Padizar is not the only business Ishaq runs. His company BOASIS Tourism specializes in bringing visitors from Karachi, Quetta and Islamabad to the sandy beaches of Balochistan.  

“Tourism and traveling have been my passion since childhood,” he said. “Cafe Padizar will help in fostering tourism in Gwadar.”

The cafe, the first of its kind in Gwadar, has so far been successful in attracting customers, something entirely new in a city where the last cinema closed almost two decades ago.

One customer, Aurangzaib Abdul Rauf, said that previously only fishermen could enjoy the views now available to anyone from the top deck of the former fishing boat.

“The cafe has been attracting tourists from the nearest towns,” he told Arab News. “Most of us come here in the evening to enjoy the sea covered by the mountains.”

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