Pakistan green lights Russian vaccine for emergency use, local media reports

In this picture taken on Nov. 25, 2020, volunteers wait to be administered the Chinese-made vaccine for the Covid-19 coronavirus, the first ever Phase 3 clinical trial for any vaccine in Pakistan, at a hospital entrance in Islamabad. (AFP/File)
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Updated 24 January 2021

Pakistan green lights Russian vaccine for emergency use, local media reports

  • Sputnik V will be distributed through a sole local pharmaceutical
  • The vaccine’s Russian developers have said the shot has 91.4% efficacy

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government on Sunday approved Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, local media reported, making it the third vaccine approved in the country.

On Sunday, Pakistan reported 48 deaths in the last 24 hours and an increase of almost 1,600 cases, bringing the total case count in the country to 532,412, according to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) which overseas the national coronavirus response.

Last week, Pakistan Drug Regulatory Authority (DRAP) authorized the Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in the country, followed by the Chinese state-owned firm Sinopharm’s Covid-19 vaccine, also for emergency use.

The vaccine’s Russian developers have said the shot has been found to be 91.4% effective in providing protection.

“Sputnik V currently ranks among top-10 candidate vaccines approaching the end of clinical trials and the start of mass production on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) list,” the Sputnik V website reads.

A local pharmaceutical AGP, he said, had been authorized as the sole importer and distributor of the Russian vaccine.

SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years

Updated 6 min 26 sec ago

SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years

  • Arab News spoke to Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan Al-Saud, SAF’s chairman, to discover more about the charity’s efforts since its launch in 2009

JEDDAH: The Saudi-based Charitable Society of Autism Families (SAF) has been assisting families with autistic children and pushing for greater community inclusion for more than 10 years now. But while awareness of autism in the region has improved in that time, there remains a stigma around and lack of understanding of the condition in the Kingdom.

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a person’s ability to communicate or socialize with others. It can lead to a variety of seemingly anti-social behaviors, including a lack of desire to interact with other people, displays of apparent hostility, avoidance of eye contact, repetitive patterns of behavior, and more.

Arab News spoke to Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan Al-Saud, SAF’s chairman, to discover more about the charity’s efforts since its launch in 2009.

“With the right health care and resources, combined with family support, some of the children on the spectrum can gain the necessary skills to lead a ‘normal’ life and, in some cases, demonstrate special talents and capabilities not common in the wider population,” Prince Saud said. “We see many inspiring examples in our society and we regularly showcase these success stories.”

Autism is commonly diagnosed by the age of three and is more prevalent in males than females. The first studies of autism appeared in the 1960s, but less-severe varieties of autism were not identified until the 1980’s. Today, three types of ASD have been identified — each with specific characteristics that help doctors diagnose patients. They are autistic disorder, also known as classic autism; Asperger syndrome; and pervasive developmental disorders, also known as atypical autism.

Prince Saud said it is difficult to produce an accurate estimate of how many people in the Kingdom have ASD, due to the lack of sufficient studies. “However, according to the US CDC, 1 in 54 children — across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups — has been identified with ASD, meaning an approximate 1-2 percent of the global population is on the spectrum,” he said “This percentage might be applicable to the Kingdom.”

One of SAF’s most-common methods of raising awareness is through its series of public seminars, but it has recently also become more active on social media, in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from its campaigning work, the society also helps arrange the provision of services including rehabilitation, educational development, guidance and assistance from other organizations for the families it supports, as well as a range of online offerings, including consultations, lectures and workshops, and rehabilitation services.

“We will continue our efforts to create a welcoming community in which autism is well understood so that those on the spectrum and their families can get the support they need,” Prince Saud said.


Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid

Updated 14 min 40 sec ago

Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid

  • 2020-21 Formula E season opening double-header to run on Feb. 26-27

DIRIYAH, Riyadh: It is all systems go for the 2020-21 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season as the first of the Diriyah E-Prix double-header of races on Friday prepares to get under starter’s orders in Riyadh.

History will once again be made when the single-seater series, given championship status by the FIA for the first time, takes place at night over the weekend.

“Formula E is back to Diriyah as the opening race of season seven, and to mark a world first, as the first ever night race in the history of Formula E,” Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, told a virtual press conference.

“On Feb. 26 and 27, the whole world will yet again watch the Kingdom host a global sporting spectacle, under the guidance and support of our government, one that followed every detail and offered all the leadership and support needed to ensure all logistical and health measures are applied at the highest global standards, despite the ongoing challenge that the world is facing due to (the coronavirus disease) COVID-19, and its huge impact on the sport industry,” he said.

Diriyah, the ancient UNESCO heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh, was the first seat of power for Saudi kings, and today has quickly become home to several records in the world of motorsports.

In 2018, the site hosted the first all-electric race in the Middle East and welcomed international sports tourists for the first time.

In 2019, Diriyah once again captured headlines as the iconic venue hosting the opening weekend of season six, featuring a double-header of back-to-back races for the first time. And now season seven is poised for another first under the bright lights and in the spotlight of global sporting attention.

“Hosting the race at night and utilizing the best available technology to ensure its success is a clear evidence that our leadership gives sport the utmost priority and shows the close connection between sports and the sustainable future which will be headlined by clean renewable energy. It will be a historic race,” added Prince Khalid.

Lighting the track with the latest low-consumption LED technology will reduce energy usage by up to 50 percent compared to non-LED technologies. The remaining energy needed to power the floodlighting will be fully renewable provided by high-performing low-carbon certified hydrogenated vegetable oil made from sustainable materials.

Formula E CEO, Jamie Reigle, said: “We are looking forward to the start of season seven, and what a way to start with the first ever night race.

“We had our priorities set on ensuring a safe race with all COVID-19 guidelines in place, but also focused on how we can make this year’s races even better with the high bar that the previous Diriyah E-Prix races have set.

“Of course, our utmost priority is always about sustainability and ensuring that the future of car racing is environmentally friendly. The sustainable night lights will ensure breathtaking scenes to everyone watching at home and a new, exciting experience to the teams and drivers,” he added.

Reigle described Formula E’s partnership with the Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation as “brilliant,” and he thanked them for their support in helping to make the race become a reality.

Meanwhile, Carlo Boutagy, founder and CEO of CBX, the official race promoter, said that organizing the first night races had been an “amazing experience,” and promised memorable television viewing.

“Diriyah looks beautiful as always, the night lights are in place, the safety measures are all set and working. We can’t wait to go green in Diriyah this Friday to organize a spectacle unlike any other.

“We will surely miss the fans, but their safety comes first, so we made sure they enjoy an unmissable experience while watching the races live on KSA Sports this weekend,” Boutagy added.


Saudi, Chilean ministers discuss agriculture ties

Updated 43 min 16 sec ago

Saudi, Chilean ministers discuss agriculture ties

RIYADH: Saudi Deputy Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Mansour Al-Mushaiti received the deputy minister of foreign affairs for international economic relations in Chile, Rodrigo Yanez, and his accompanying delegation in Riyadh.

They discussed strengthening economic partnerships and Saudi agricultural investment abroad, in addition to inviting the Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co. and Saudi investors to explore investment opportunities in Chile.

During the meeting, Al-Mushaiti affirmed the strength of economic relations between Saudi Arabia and Chile.

The two sides also reviewed aspects of bilateral cooperation, advantages and investment opportunities in Chile and its most prominent agricultural products.

The Saudi side welcomed the Chileans’ desire to increase the percentage of its products in the Saudi market and benefit from the Saudi desalination sector’s successful experiences.

Saudi health ministry widens vaccine program as 356 new cases reported

Updated 50 min 7 sec ago

Saudi health ministry widens vaccine program as 356 new cases reported

  • The Kingdom reported five new coronavirus-related deaths

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will begin extending its coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine program beyond those with health conditions and the elderly, the health ministry said on Thursday.

Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly urged people to register for vaccination early, saying this will help both the public and the ministry.

While the focus is still on those aged 65 and over, the vaccine rollout will now be widened to include other segments of the population, he said.

The Saudi Food and Drug Authority has approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, and is evaluating four other vaccines, spokesman Tayseer Al-Mufarij said.

A total of 639,587 people have been inoculated so far.

Al-Abd Al-Aly said that Taakad centers are still administering coronavirus tests, while anyone with possible symptoms can visit one of the specially equipped Tetamman clinics.

The clinics have received 2,008,083 patients, while 28,040,237 people have benefited from consultation services by calling ministry representatives on 937.

On Thursday, the Kingdom reported five new coronavirus-related deaths, lifting the toll since the pandemic began to 6,480.

A total of 356 new cases were reported, raising the number of those infected to 376,377. There are 2,574 active cases, with 473 in a critical condition.

“We are monitoring fluctuations in regions of the Kingdom. Some have seen an increase in cases while others have fewer cases. This shows we are not at a completely stable state yet. We must exert more efforts to feel at ease,” Al-Abd Al-Aly said.

According to the ministry, 180 of the newly recorded cases were in the Riyadh region, 80 in the Eastern Province, 37 in Makkah and 13 in Qassim. The rest of the regions reported cases in single figures.

A total of 308 recoveries brought the overall number in the Kingdom to 367,323.

Testing on 45,608 people lifted the overall number of conducted PCR tests to 13,509,412.

SDRPY launches locust control project in Yemen

Updated 58 min 8 sec ago

SDRPY launches locust control project in Yemen

  • The aim of the project is to protect vegetation and agricultural crops

ADEN: The Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen (SDRPY) has launched the desert locust control project in Yemen in collaboration with the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Yemeni Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation.

The aim of the project is to protect vegetation and agricultural crops, and contain the damage that would be caused by desert locusts in Yemen.

SDRPY has provided logistical support to the project including five four-wheel drive vehicles, 100 backpack sprayers, 20 tons of pesticides, five spraying protective suits, 10 emergency bags, five pesticide spray devices for vehicles with a total capacity of 600 liters, five generators, and 10 tents.

In addition, SDRPY will work on transmitting expertise and knowledge to Yemeni cadres in the agricultural sector. These groups will look to protect vegetation from diseases in collaboration with the Yemeni government, local authorities, and specialized international agencies.

The project’s agricultural benefits are expected to have positive repercussions on living and economic conditions in Yemen.

SDRPY’s project is aiming to strengthen food security and protect agricultural production to achieve greater self-sufficiency in Yemen.