A desalination project signifies the potential of business-academia partnerships in Saudi Arabia 

Special ACWA Power's Sakaka solar plant in Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
ACWA Power's Sakaka solar plant in Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 June 2022

A desalination project signifies the potential of business-academia partnerships in Saudi Arabia 

A desalination project signifies the potential of business-academia partnerships in Saudi Arabia 
  • Partnership between KAUST and ACWA Power to spur adoption of solar energy for water desalination
  • Business leaders eager to tap the Kingdom’s top research universities for carbon-cutting solutions

DUBAI: The worlds of business and academia are too often viewed as mutually exclusive. But as nations search for scalable solutions to the climate crisis, while also attempting to meet the demands of ever-growing populations, there is certainly merit in working to combine the efforts of these two forces.

Take the recent partnership between ACWA Power and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which has already carried out new research into the scaled use of solar power in sustainable desalination of seawater.

Last month, a joint delegation of the two organizations hosted the inaugural Innovation Days event, a platform that brought together leading business executives, innovators and researchers to showcase their expertise in solar energy, green hydrogen, artificial intelligence, and desalination.

The event looked at the critical issues facing green sources of energy and the desalination process, including how to accelerate the adoption of sustainable technologies to advance the integration of renewables and hydrogen in the process.

“We entered into the local innovation system and we started this journey into innovation by identifying a top-notch university in the region,” Thomas Altmann, the executive vice president of innovation and new technology at ACWA Power, told Arab News.

The company, which is owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and has its headquarters in Riyadh, is a leading developer, investor and operator in power generation, desalination and green hydrogen in the MENA region. KAUST is one of the Kingdom’s foremost education and research institutions.

Since 2019, the two organizations have jointly operated a research and development hub called the KAUST-ACWA Power Center of Excellence for Desalination and Solar Power.

“KAUST had several advantages for us,” said Altmann. “(Our initial work) is a collaboration in desalination and solar, and we have already expanded to new areas. The original idea was to improve the operational efficiency of our plants.”

Already, he added, the company has been able to make incremental improvements to its operations and designs as a result of the partnership.

“We have made significant design improvements,” said Altmann. “This academic support drills into some topics a lot deeper, to do lab and pilot tests.”

Partnerships such as this represent an exciting convergence of academia and industry, according to regional experts. Abhayjit Sinha, a strategic advisor at the Middle East Solar Industry Association, said such arrangements are mutually beneficial.




KAUST's MoU signing with ACWA Power. (Supplied)

“On one hand, KAUST researchers receive a real-world test bed to test their hypotheses,” he told Arab News. “On the other hand, ACWA Power benefits from an extended and external research and development facility.

“A critical success factor is balancing the bold, albeit sometimes theoretical, ideas of academicians with economical value sought by industry players.”

Raed Bkayrat, another strategic adviser at MESIA, believes the partnership will have the added benefit of accelerating research into more sustainable desalination, a process that can be extremely energy intensive.

“Worldwide, seawater desalination is producing an ever-growing carbon footprint and is having a wider ecological impact, if left to current commercial solutions,” he told Arab News.

“Such a partnership will help provide mitigation methods as well as new solutions that can produce desalinated water with a minimal carbon footprint.”

FASTFACTS

 

* Partnership between KAUST and ACWA Power is spurring the adoption of solar for water desalination.

* Business leaders are eager to tap Saudi Arabia's top research universities for carbon-cutting solutions.

Saudi Arabia is one of the larger desalination markets in the Middle East and North Africa region. About 2,000 million cubic meters of water are desalinated each year to meet the freshwater needs of the Kingdom’s population and agricultural sector.

Bkayrat believes that combining the efforts of advanced research institutions such as KAUST with major players in the desalination industry could prove key to ensuring the Kingdom meets its net-zero emissions goal by 2060.

“The model of engaging industrial players with research institutions and creating a strong dialogue that helps shape and guide the research work done by the scientists at KAUST is the proper model,” he said.

“It enables industry adoption of new technology and helps bridge the gap between the laboratory and real-world implementation.




The recent partnership between ACWA Power and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (pictured) has already carried out new research into the scaled use of solar power in sustainable desalination of seawater. (Supplied)

“Such models are gaining wider adoption and are helping research universities to make a greater impact and secure additional funding streams while providing a technological and commercial edge to the industry partner.”

Saudi Arabia is transitioning toward renewables in an attempt to reduce its reliance on oil and gas for domestic energy needs. Authorities aim to expand the country’s total solar energy capacity by almost 40 gigawatts by 2025 from the current 455 megawatts.

To achieve this, the government is investing heavily in its research universities and promoting the opportunities for both international investment and domestic entrepreneurism to help stimulate the market for green investments and sustainable solutions.

Business leaders think even more can be done to promote such an environment. Altmann, for example, believes the Kingdom ought to build a platform that allows companies such as ACWA Power to bring new technologies to Saudi Arabia and initially deploy them on a small scale.

“We have proposed something, with any new project, to allow the developer to deploy a new technology up to 1 percent of the total capacity,” he said. “This will allow us to bring in new technology, to scale it, develop it further and make it more mature.

“That would mean a growing independence from the grid, immediately reducing fossil fuel burning in Saudi Arabia by using emerging technologies, many of which are coupled directly with renewable energy.”

Innovation Days, like the one in March, could prove critical to establishing just such an innovative environment in the Kingdom by promoting the bonds between business and leading scientific minds.

“It’s mainly universities, entrepreneurs, corporates like us, and government,” Altmann said.

“We did a lot of innovation in-house and now we opened up about being a technology innovation leader as well.”




Saudi Arabia is one of the larger desalination markets in the Middle East and North Africa region, about 2 billion cubic meters of water are desalinated each year to meet the freshwater needs of the Kingdom’s population and agricultural sector. (AFP)

One of these innovations is hydrogen power, which is regarded by many experts as the clean energy of the future. Green hydrogen, which is produced using solar energy, is a major feature of the energy equation for the NEOM megacity project currently taking shape along Saudi Arabia’s northwestern Red Sea coast.

“We started to expand our cooperation with KAUST in the area of hydrogen electrolysis (which significantly reduces energy consumption), and we are a part of the NEOM project as a shareholder, (with) the largest hydrogen plant in the world under construction,” said Altmann.

“So we have taken a huge step in that direction and now we are doing pilot plants in KAUST with the next generation of hydrogen electrolysis.”

According to Sinha, corporate partnerships are an integral part of KAUST’s business plan, with similar agreements already in place with Lockheed Martin, the US aerospace, arms, defense, information security, and technology corporation, and Elm, a joint-stock company and leading digital-solutions company in Saudi Arabia that is owned by the nation’s Public Investment Fund.

“One benchmark for success is the number of patents filed under such collaborations,” said Sinha. “I expect more partnership announcements in the near future. However, in the long term there will be consolidation where most industry firms will partner with one or two academic institutes.”

Donal Bradley, vice president for research at KAUST, said the university aims to address critical global challenges across energy, water, the environment, food and health, and the digital realm through such research partnerships with industry players.

“We work closely with partners in the Kingdom, including the ministries, NEOM and leading companies,” he told Arab News.

“The Innovation Days event with ACWA Power offers an exciting forum to support the development of technologies that can help solve local and global needs.”

 


Saudi authorities treat over 43K pilgrims before Hajj

Saudi authorities treat over 43K pilgrims before Hajj
Updated 05 July 2022

Saudi authorities treat over 43K pilgrims before Hajj

Saudi authorities treat over 43K pilgrims before Hajj
  • From open-heart surgeries to dialysis sessions, Saudi Arabia’s health ministry offers pilgrims hope for a healthier Hajj experience

RIYADH: Health authorities in Saudi Arabia have treated 43,425 pilgrims ahead of this year’s Hajj season, which begins on Wednesday, the Saudi Press Agency reported Monday.

The ministry figures, between May 31 and July 3, show pilgrims received five open-heart surgeries, 66 cardiac catheterization, 182 dialysis sessions, two endoscopic procedures, and 95 surgeries.

Over 290 pilgrims were admitted to hospitals and one woman gave birth.

Four cases of stroke were also identified through the use of the health ministry’s virtual hospital and more than 740 pilgrims had consultations with healthcare workers through the Sehhaty health app.

In Makkah, Madinah and the ritual locations for Hajj, Saudi authorities have readied 23 hospitals and 147 clinics with a combined capacity of 4,654 beds, including 1,080 ICU beds.

As the Hajj is taking place in one of the hottest months of the year in Saudi Arabia, there will also be 230 beds set aside for pilgrims suffering from heat exhaustion.

An army of 25,000 health practitioners are on hand to serve worshipers during the annual religious event.
 


Legitimate fatwas reconfirm Islam’s flexibility, scholars tell Grand Hajj Symposium

Islam-based fatwas played a significant role in facilitating religious matters and raising awareness about the Hajj. (Supplied)
Islam-based fatwas played a significant role in facilitating religious matters and raising awareness about the Hajj. (Supplied)
Updated 05 July 2022

Legitimate fatwas reconfirm Islam’s flexibility, scholars tell Grand Hajj Symposium

Islam-based fatwas played a significant role in facilitating religious matters and raising awareness about the Hajj. (Supplied)
  • Participants underscored the role of the religious fatwa in achieving the Islamic objectives of the Hajj when it came to contemporary issues

JEDDAH: Fatwas based on genuine Islamic principles reconfirm the religion’s flexibility, scholars told delegates on the second day of the 46th Grand Hajj Symposium.

The event was inaugurated on Sunday by Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah and features ministers and eminent Muslim scholars from different countries.

Participants underscored the role of the religious fatwa in achieving the Islamic objectives of the Hajj when it came to contemporary issues. They also praised the Kingdom’s efforts in facilitating the Hajj.

During a session titled “Islamic Jurisprudence System and Contemporary Calamities,” the speakers said that Islam-based fatwas played a significant role in facilitating religious matters and raising awareness about the Hajj.

Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawki Allam touched on the importance of the Islamic jurisprudence system in adapting legal fatwas in facilitating Hajj rituals for Muslims, saying that flexibility in such situations confirmed that Islam was valid for every time and place.

Dr. Saad bin Nasser Al-Shithri, an adviser at the Royal Court and a member of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, said the Islamic jurisprudence system was capable of dealing with emerging challenges.

The secretary-general of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, Dr. Koutoub Sano, referred to the factual nature of Islamic Sharia and its ability to deal with new problems to help people understand it.

He highlighted the role of institutes and academies devoted to fatwas in qualifying specialists and investing in Sharia studies to extract rulings from the appropriate texts. He also praised Saudi efforts to deploy all its capabilities to provide security and safety for pilgrims.

In Monday’s second session, “Caring for the Pilgrim’s Journey,” Malaysia’s Minister of Religious Affairs Dr. Datuk Idris Ahmad reviewed his country’s efforts in providing services and promoting awareness among pilgrims, including medicines, vaccines, and personal health follow-up programs.

Ahmed said the services provided in cooperation with the Ministry of Health were meant to ensure their pilgrims were free from infectious diseases. He also praised the care and attention paid by the Saudi government to pilgrims over the decades and the remarkable development achieved by the Hajj and Umrah system.

Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat highlighted the Saudi ministries’ digital initiatives that contributed to the issue of more than 2 million e-visas through a portal that included all relevant authorities.

He also spoke about a luggage transport service that allowed pilgrims to focus on the duties of their rituals. He said pilgrims had received multilingual Hajj awareness guidelines before and after their arrival in the Kingdom.

Mashat added that the success of the Hajj and Umrah system was linked to a clear strategy derived from the Guests of God Service Program, one of the Saudi Vision 2030 programs, to enrich pilgrims’ Hajj experience and facilitate their spiritual journey.

“A pilgrim can electronically book all appointments and services, limiting negative practices such as stampeding. It can also ensure the flow of movement, smooth traffic, and easy grouping of pilgrims from one place to another.”

Dr. Ali Arbash, head of Turkish religious affairs, expressed his thanks to the Saudi government for its efforts in providing the appropriate pilgrimage environment in terms of hygiene and health to protect people.

Arbash also reviewed his country’s participation in the Green Hajj Initiative to raise awareness among pilgrims about reducing waste at the holy sites.

Saudi Assistant Minister of Health Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly underscored the efforts to provide the best health services to pilgrims.

He said these services, provided through the latest technology, were closely followed up by the Saudi leadership.

These services included 23 hospitals, 147 health centers, and 16 emergency centers on Jamarat Bridge. He added that more than 25,000 medical personnel were ready to provide all health services.

Dr. Hanan Balkhi, assistant director-general at the World Health Organization, described Saudi Arabia as an important strategic partner for the organization.

She praised the “bold decisions” taken by the Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect pilgrims and limit the spread of coronavirus.

She said Saudi Arabia stood head and shoulders above all other countries due to its cumulative experience in crowd management.

 


Saudi Arabia’s Ithra hosts ‘Amakin’ art exhibit, straight from Jeddah

The event seeks to establish Jeddah as the main destination in the Kingdom’s contemporary art scene. (Supplied)
The event seeks to establish Jeddah as the main destination in the Kingdom’s contemporary art scene. (Supplied)
Updated 05 July 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Ithra hosts ‘Amakin’ art exhibit, straight from Jeddah

The event seeks to establish Jeddah as the main destination in the Kingdom’s contemporary art scene. (Supplied)
  • Three-month exhibit was launched on June 30 and invites audiences to explore artists’ relationships with place
  • ‘Amakin’ displays works from 27 artists previously featured in Jeddah

DHAHRAN: A popular Arabic song by a legendary Saudi singer inadvertently became the inspiration for an entire art exhibition that debuted last year in Jeddah. For the first time, that exhibit is now housed in Dhahran, where original works of art serve as personalized portals of nostalgia that allow viewers to take a trip down memory lane to real or imagined destinations. The works will be displayed at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, or Ithra, for three months, where the exhibit opened on June 30.

FASTFACT

The exhibit was curated by world-renowned expert in Islamic and contemporary Middle Eastern art Venetia Porter and was originally displayed at SAC in Jeddah from March 3 to June 3, 2022. This is the first time it is shown outside of its hometown.

The exhibit wrestles with the simple yet profound question: “What does the notion of place mean to you?” During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the concept of one’s “makan,” or “place,” became a contemplative space for some and a refuge for others. Some escaped to a place created by their imagination, and others used their physical surroundings to build up their idea of a place.

Curator Venetia Porter

In a special treat for Shargiyya residents in eastern Saudi Arabia, the works of 27 artists previously displayed in Jeddah, in addition to the work by local artist Abdulrahman Al-Soliman, were displayed locally. The exhibit was created for the ninth edition of 21,39 by the Saudi Art Council, which was founded in 2013 by a group of local art patrons and led by Princess Jawaher bint Majed bin Abdulaziz.

21,39 Jeddah Arts is a non-profit initiative organized by SAC. Using the geographic coordinates of the city of Jeddah (21.5433°N, 39.1728°E), it seeks to establish Jeddah as the main destination in the Kingdom’s contemporary art scene. The 28th artist, Shargiyya artist and author Al-Soliman, was added by Ithra for this iteration to pay homage to a local pioneer in the Saudi art scene.

Obadah AlJefri’s piece

The exhibit was curated by world-renowned expert in Islamic and contemporary Middle Eastern art Venetia Porter and was originally displayed at SAC in Jeddah from March 3 to June 3, 2022. This is the first time it is shown outside of its hometown.

“The exhibition ‘Amakin’ is inspired by the song ‘All the places long for you,’ by Mohammed Abdu, whom everybody knows. The exhibition started in Jeddah — this was an exhibition that included 27 artists — and each artist tells us, through the work they create about a place that means something to them, whether it’s a physical place or a place in the imagination,” curator Porter told Arab News.

“I am very happy to be talking to you today about our very special exhibition hosted in Gallery One called ‘Amakin’ in collaboration with SAC. ‘Amakin’ means ‘spaces,’ which is very fitting for where we are right now. Ithra is a very unique space within itself and for what it provides,” head of Ithra Museum Farah Abushullaih told Arab News.

Badr Ali’s sketches

The exhibition feels almost like a collage of emotional homes, where emerging Saudi and international artists display their interpretation of a “makan” next to the works of pioneer artists, representing various generations and styles. The works range from photographs to mixed media.

One such artist is Jeddah-born Obadah Al-Jefri, who brought pages from his sketchbook to life, creating a dialogue with his past and current selves, with each giant page representing a different version of his perspective.

“My artwork examines my relationship with a sketchbook and how I found different parts of my identity within the pages of my sketchbook. The work itself feels like a collaborative effort between my present and younger self, and I explore those themes and honor my younger self for pushing me forward to become an artist and to pursue art professionally,” he said.

Badr Ali, another artist, began with paper and shifted to a different medium, employing printmaking techniques to transfer his ideas to silkscreen and using the markings of the five places he frequents, either physically or emotionally.

His family comes from Jeddah, a place that greatly inspired him, but he also grew up in London, worked in Paris and currently lives in Berlin. His fascination with Florence also prompted him to explore those destinations and create a new visual experience. He created drawings for each of these locations and combined them to create new locations.

“My work is based on drawings I made in cities that I live in or have lived in and have a personal connection to. I created a whole series of drawings in each of these places, around 100. In each one, I register memories, feelings, thoughts, and sensations. I chose the method of silkscreen printing as a way to create or combine elements in each of these locations,” he told Arab News.

The 19 artists from Saudi Arabia are: Abdullah Al-Othman, Abdulhalim Radwi, legendary artist Safeya Binzagr, Reem Al-Faisal, Bashaer Hawsawi, Emy Kat, Mohammed Hammad, Obadah Al-Jefri, Sara Abdu, Badr Ali, Asma Bahmim, Hussein Al-Mohasen, Muhannad Shono, Lujain Faqerah and Shadia Alem.

The Shargiyya artists are: Abdulrahman Al-Soliman, Talib Al-Marri, Bader Awwad Al-Balawi and Manal Al-Dowayan.

The remaining nine non-Saudi artists are: Taysir Batniji and Sadik Kwaish Al-Fraji from Palestine; Aisha Khalid and Imran Qureshi from Pakistan; Dia Al-Azzawi, Ghassan Ghaib and Nazar Yahya from Iraq; Ali Cherri from Lebanon and Catalina Swinburn from Chile.

 


Health experts put Hajj season monkeypox concerns into perspective

Health experts put Hajj season monkeypox concerns into perspective
Updated 05 July 2022

Health experts put Hajj season monkeypox concerns into perspective

Health experts put Hajj season monkeypox concerns into perspective
  • Still-unknown routes of transmission and virus’ rapid rate of mutation are a cause for global concern
  • Total number of Hajj pilgrims limited to about 1 million because “pandemic still exists, not over yet”

DUBAI: As Saudi Arabia prepares to receive up to 1 million Hajj pilgrims from around the world for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the shadow of a new virus looms over the horizon, raising the inevitable question of whether monkeypox will be the next global health crisis.

Thus far, more than 5,700 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 52 countries, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Europe accounts for nearly 90 percent of all confirmed and reported cases worldwide since mid-May. As of this week, 31 countries in the continent have reported at least one monkeypox case. A handful of cases have been identified in the Middle East, mainly in the UAE.

The World Health Organization has ruled that the spread of monkeypox does not yet qualify as a global health emergency. However, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director general, has voiced concern over the rapidly evolving threat.

Up to 1 million Hajj pilgrims from around the world will partake in religious rites this year. (SPA)

Experts are divided on whether the jump in the number of monkeypox cases worldwide from 800 to 3,500 during June is a sufficient cause for alarm.

Smallpox, which belongs to the same family of viruses as monkeypox, was eradicated in the 1980s through mass vaccination. Some scientists believe monkeypox is spreading because of the human population’s diminishing protection from smallpox.

Others believe climate change is a likely culprit behind the spread of the virus as the space between human communities and animal habitats shrinks.

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, has suggested that as the planet deals with rising levels of ecological fragility and climate stress, both animal and human behaviors are being affected.

Citing recent findings, researchers at the US National Institutes of Health have said that the monkeypox virus strain has mutated 12 times more than expected since 2018.

The current strain is said to be circulating at an abnormally rapid speed, which could change its regular contamination patterns.

Under the circumstances, how afraid should the Arab world be of the monkeypox virus?

The unprecedented increase in cases is concerning, but the threat can be controlled, says Dr. Abdullah Algaissi, a virologist and assistant professor at the college of medical sciences at Jazan University, Saudi Arabia.

Noting that it is still not clear whether monkeypox is an airborne virus or not, he told Arab News: “While the main route of infection is sexual contact or contact with blisters or rashes of infected persons, there is evidence suggesting that monkeypox can be transmitted through the respiratory system.”

What is known for sure is that close and extended contact with an infected person must take place for contamination to occur.

For the same reasons, according to Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic, monkeypox should not be a significant concern during the upcoming Hajj season.

While those who live with or have close contact with infected persons are at a higher risk of the disease, increased risk of infection during Hajj is “unlikely,” he told Arab News.

Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic. (Supplied)

“Monkeypox is a rare but dangerous infection similar to the now eradicated smallpox virus, but it is nowhere near as transmissible and has a very low fatality rate if treated properly and promptly.”

Signs of monkeypox infection, according to Dr. Algassi, include skin lesions such as blisters around the genitals, hands, legs, face and arms, fever and swelling of the lymph nodes. The symptoms are more severe for immunocompromised individuals, he said, but “rarely fatal.”

Dr. Algassi explained that the first outbreak was reported in monkeys in 1958, before it became clear that rodents were the source of the infection.

“The monkeypox virus is a zoonotic virus that is usually transmitted from animal hosts to humans or even other animals and belongs to a larger family called pox viruses,” he said.

The first human case of monkeypox was diagnosed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970, and quickly became endemic in several African countries. However, the disease has rarely spread outside Africa.
 

A monkeypox virion obtained from a clinical sample associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. (AFP)

A health protocol issued by the Saudi Ministry of Health last month requires pilgrims flying in from Nigeria to complete a monkeypox declaration form 24 hours before departure.

The ministry earlier said it was fully prepared to monitor and deal with any monkeypox cases, and that no cases had been recorded in the Kingdom so far.

All necessary medical and laboratory tests were available in the Kingdom, the ministry said, adding that it issued guidelines to healthcare workers on the matter. The ministry also said it had a complete preventive and curative healthcare plan to deal with any cases.

With regard to COVID-19, the ministry has announced an approved list of vaccines along with the requisite doses for each inoculation. It has also provided plans for managing any cases that emerge during the Hajj season by providing tents for the isolation of infected pilgrims.

FASTFACTS

FASTFACTS • Saudia has dedicated a fleet of 14 aircraft for pilgrims.

• More than 268 international flights from and to 15 stations.

• 32 domestic flights to and from six stations.

• 107,000 International and 12,800 domestic seats in total.

• Pilgrims are flown to King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah or Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah.

Appearing this week on “Frankly Speaking,” the flagship weekly current affairs talk show of Arab News, Hisham Saeed, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah services and official spokesman, said that despite the new threat of monkeypox, “we are ready to handle any case, any scenario.”

A 30,000-strong medical team of doctors and nurses, as well as over 185 hospitals in the Kingdom and more than 100 medical centers in the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Madinah, will be ready to treat pilgrims suffering from any illness, according to Saeed.

He said although more pilgrims will be allowed this year than in the past two years, the total number will still be limited on account of health concerns.
 

Dr. Abdullah Algaissi, a virologist and assistant professor at the college of medical sciences at Jazan University. (Supplied)

“This year we have a decision to go for 1 million, because the pandemic still exists, it’s not over yet, and we are not running the full capacity for this year,” Saeed said.

Indeed, according to Dr. Poland, unlike monkeypox, COVID-19 continues to be a threat in huge crowds and gatherings. “This is the much larger issue as immunization rates are likely to be low or variable and amassing large numbers of such individuals together over days represents a risk and threat,” he told Arab News.

Echoing the same concern, Dr. Algaissi cited the emergence of new variants such as the omicron sub-variant, BA.5, which gives COVID-19 an “evolutionary advantage,” adding that these variants could get introduced from one country to another through travel.

Having said that, he noted that “most of the world is now vaccinated, which provides a primary layer of protection, especially against severe infection or death.”

Health measures are part of the Kingdom’s broader preparations for Hajj, which includes monitoring at the Saudi National Center for Security Operations. (AP)

Dr. Algaissi further pointed to the strict precautionary protocols adopted by the health authorities in Saudi Arabia as key in managing any potential outbreaks during the Hajj season.

Apart from being fully vaccinated, wearing masks in the holy sites and practicing basic hygiene precautions are essential during Hajj.

“Most importantly, if a pilgrim feels any respiratory symptoms during Hajj, they should strictly follow these instructions and avoid contacting others to stop spreading the infection,” Dr. Algaissi said.

Avoiding “skin-to-skin contact with others” will also help reduce chances of the spread of monkeypox.


All preparations in place for new Kaaba cover

All preparations have been finalized to cover the Kaaba with the kiswa this year. (SPA)
All preparations have been finalized to cover the Kaaba with the kiswa this year. (SPA)
Updated 05 July 2022

All preparations in place for new Kaaba cover

All preparations have been finalized to cover the Kaaba with the kiswa this year. (SPA)
  • Nawaf bin Mohammed Al-Maawdah, Bahraini minister of justice, Islamic affairs and endowments, lauded the efforts being exerted by Saudi Arabia for the service of pilgrims

MAKKAH: Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, announced that all preparations have been finalized to cover the Kaaba with the kiswa this year.
The kiswa, the cloth that covers the Kaaba, was sewn at the King Abdulaziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa, in accordance with the highest standards, Al-Sudais said, adding that after one year of hard work and meticulous attention to detail, the Holy Kabba was now ready.
Al-Sudais also inaugurated a campaign to facilitate pilgrims’ access to Zamzam water during their Hajj rituals in Arafat.
He also launched a campaign titled “In Your Languages, We Welcome You,” which aims to serve pilgrims at the Grand Mosque, guiding them in 23 languages with the help of 100 guides, around the clock.
Meanwhile, Nawaf bin Mohammed Al-Maawdah, Bahraini minister of justice, Islamic affairs and endowments, lauded the efforts being exerted by Saudi Arabia for the service of pilgrims, helping them to perform their rituals in comfort and easiness.
Al-Maawdah made the remarks as he attended the farewell ceremony of the last group of pilgrims heading from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia to perform this year’s Hajj.