In Israel, omicron, confusion drive ‘real panic’ for tests

In Israel, omicron, confusion drive ‘real panic’ for tests
Medical staff carry out tests for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a drive-through site as Israel faces a surge in Omicron variant infections, in Jerusalem, January 10, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 12 January 2022

In Israel, omicron, confusion drive ‘real panic’ for tests

In Israel, omicron, confusion drive ‘real panic’ for tests
  • Coronavirus testing reached a peak for the current wave, with more than 342,141 PCR and antigen tests conducted on Sunday

TEL AVIV: Aviran Yael fetched rapid antigen kits from a pharmacy in Tel Aviv’s busy center, placed them in the light blue bag strapped to the back of his motorbike and headed off to deliver them.

With that, Yael on Monday joined a growing army of couriers toting Wolt delivery boxes around Israel, a sight that has become ubiquitous in the three years since the Finnish company began operating here.

The payload in the blue boxes changed when the Israeli government last week authorized more at-home testing to take the burden off of testing centers.

Almost immediately, as the omicron coronavirus variant set infection records, rapid antigen tests became the platform’s most in-demand product — even more than food, its core delivery business, officials said.

By Monday, as Wolt opened a modern headquarters in a blue building in Tel Aviv, someone was ordering an antigen test every three seconds — a reflection of widespread public anxiety and confusion over the government’s constantly changing pandemic policies.

“There’s real panic for these tests,” said Yael.

Even in relatively wealthy, small Israel, the government and the governed are struggling with the stunning surge of omicron as it rips around the globe, raising anxiety in a place already known for tension. Since the variant emerged in South Africa in November, the government has closed and reopened the airport, changed testing policies, tightened and loosened quarantine requirements and confused people about whether and how to send their kids to school.

In the latest twist, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced late Monday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, making him the most senior Israeli official to contract COVID-19.

“I am confirmed with corona,” he wrote on Twitter. “I feel excellent because I am vaccinated. Get vaccinated, wear a mask and we will be through this together.”

With his government facing sagging public support, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned this week that between 2 million and 4 million people among Israel’s population of 9.4 million are expected to be infected by the variant.

On Monday, Israel reported 21,514 new cases, another all-time high. The number of serious cases crept up to 222, a figure that remains well below the highs experienced during previous waves of the coronavirus. Bennett has said preventing serious illness and hospitalizations is his main concern.

Testing has skyrocketed nationally, another sign of the concern about the variant’s spread.

Coronavirus testing reached a peak for the current wave, with more than 342,141 PCR and antigen tests conducted Sunday, according to Health Ministry figures.

That’s the second highest single-day figure behind a spike of more than 414,000 in late August, as Israel was rolling out its booster shots.

“It is hard to control a virus that spreads four times as fast as what we’ve known in the past,” Sharon Alroy-Preis, the Health Ministry’s top public health official, said on Channel 13.


Duterte vows to continue ‘war on drugs’ after Philippine presidency

Duterte vows to continue ‘war on drugs’ after Philippine presidency
Updated 5 min 40 sec ago

Duterte vows to continue ‘war on drugs’ after Philippine presidency

Duterte vows to continue ‘war on drugs’ after Philippine presidency
  • ICC estimates the death toll from the anti-drug campaign could be 30,000
  • Rodrigo Duterte’s term will end on June 30

MANILA: Outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has announced he will carry on with his “war on drugs” even after the expiry of his term in office next month.
The Philippines has come under pressure from the UN to investigate allegations of systematic killings of drug suspects under the anti-drug campaign, which Duterte has led since assuming power in 2016.
According to official data, Duterte’s war on drugs has led to the deaths of over 6,000 Filipinos, but the International Criminal Court estimates the death toll could be 30,000.
The court’s prosecutors launched an investigation into the anti-drug campaign in September last year, saying it appeared to have been “a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population” and could amount to crimes against humanity.
The probe was suspended two months later to assess a deferral request from the Philippine government and has not resumed since.
As Duterte’s six-year term expires on June 30, he said in a televised meeting with Cabinet members that drugs would make Philippine society “dysfunctional.”
“We can continue this fight even if I am already a civilian,” he said, adding that he would rather see drug lords and drug peddlers “dead than alive.”
“If you destroy my country, it is as if you ended our lives. So, I want drug lords to know I will forever remain your enemy. Remember that.”
Once he leaves office, Duterte will not have the official power to pursue his war on drugs.
“He cannot do that in his official capacity anymore,” the president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers Edre Olalia told Arab News. “But, of course, you and I know that he’s still in power through proxies.”
Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is the running mate of Ferdinand Marcos, who scored a landslide victory in this month’s presidential election and is set to be inaugurated on June 30.
During his presidential campaign, Marcos vowed to continue Duterte’s policies, although he told the media he would also focus on education and rehabilitation in dealing with the country’s drug problems.
For Olalia, the fact that the drug problem still exists proves that Duterte’s approach has not helped address it.
“Otherwise, we will be harvesting the fruits of such an approach, if indeed there was now a lower supply of drugs in the market, fewer drug addicts, and if there were no more drug lords. That’s the best proof that it really is not working.”


US adds Hamas-linked individuals and entities to sanctions list: Treasury website

US adds Hamas-linked individuals and entities to sanctions list: Treasury website
Updated 7 sec ago

US adds Hamas-linked individuals and entities to sanctions list: Treasury website

US adds Hamas-linked individuals and entities to sanctions list: Treasury website

WASHINGTON: The United States has added four individuals and six entities with links to Palestinian Islamist group Hamas to its sanctions list, the Treasury Department said on its website on Tuesday.


Three Turkish soldiers killed in Iraq

Three Turkish soldiers killed in Iraq
Updated 24 May 2022

Three Turkish soldiers killed in Iraq

Three Turkish soldiers killed in Iraq
  • Another four soldiers were wounded during fighting, said the ministry statement, which did not say where the clash took place
  • Turkey's official news agency Anadolu said the Turkish soldiers had clashed with fighters from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)

ISTANBUL: Three Turkish soldiers serving in northern Iraq as part of operations against Kurdish militants were killed Tuesday, the defense ministry announced.
Another four soldiers were wounded during fighting, said the ministry statement, which did not say where the clash took place.
Turkey’s official news agency Anadolu said the Turkish soldiers had clashed with fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara and its western allies say is a terrorist organization.
The PKK has training camps and bases in autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan and has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, a conflict that has killed 40,000 people, many of them civilians.
Ankara has launched a series of operations against PKK fighters in Iraq and Syria, the latest one in northern Iraq beginning in April.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Turkey would soon launch a new military operation into northern Syria which he said was designed to create a 30-kilometer (19-mile) “security zone” along their border.
Since 2016, Turkey has also launched three offensives into northern Syria against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian-Kurdish group it considers to be part of the PKK.
Turkey wants to use these security zones to keep Kurdish militants at a safe distance — and to house some of the 3.7 million Syrian refugees currently sheltering inside its own borders.


COP27 will launch plans to fulfill climate pledges: Egypt FM

COP27 will launch plans to fulfill climate pledges: Egypt FM
Updated 24 May 2022

COP27 will launch plans to fulfill climate pledges: Egypt FM

COP27 will launch plans to fulfill climate pledges: Egypt FM
  • Sameh Shoukry is Egypt’s foreign minister and designated president of the summit at the World Economic Forum in Davos

CAIRO: COP27 will witness the launch of initiatives in partnership with various parties with the aim of fulfilling climate pledges, Egypt’s foreign minister and designated president of the summit said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Sameh Shoukry said Egypt’s vision for COP27, which the country will host in November, is based on the need to focus on effective and rapid implementation of countries’ climate pledges in a way that maintains the goal of reducing global temperatures by 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“This vision also includes the importance that international climate action be based on the latest scientific facts and data regarding the phenomenon of climate change away from any politicization, as well as the need to work with all parties and partners concerned with climate action, including the private sector, which plays an important role in this regard along with governments,” he added.


Omani receives Italy’s highest civilian honor

Omani receives Italy’s highest civilian honor
Updated 24 May 2022

Omani receives Italy’s highest civilian honor

Omani receives Italy’s highest civilian honor
  • Award given to National Museum chief Jamal Hassan Al-Musawi

LONDON: Jamal Hassan Al-Musawi, secretary-general of Oman’s National Museum, has received the Star of Italy, the country’s highest civilian award.

President Sergio Mattarella bestowed the award via Italy’s Ambassador to Oman Federica Favi at a ceremony in Muscat.

Al-Musawi was recognized for his work in enhancing relations between the two countries, having collaborated with Italian experts on projects since 2011.

He told the Omani News Agency: “We benefited from recruiting Italian experts in the foundational phase of the National Museum, to contribute to restoring elements of the cultural heritage of Oman.”