Iraq detects new UK-based strain, reimposes partial lockdown

A medical team member wearing a protective suit and a face mask, works on blood samples to be tested for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a medical center in a hospital in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq February 15, 2021. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 15 February 2021

Iraq detects new UK-based strain, reimposes partial lockdown

  • “Unfortunately, government labs showed genetic mutations in the Covid-19 strain," Iraq's health minister said

BAGHDAD: Iraq will re-impose partial lockdown measures until early March after detecting a new strain of the coronavirus, including among children, its health minister announced on Monday.
“Unfortunately, government labs showed genetic mutations in the Covid-19 strain, detecting the new fast-spreading strain in Iraq,” Hassan Al-Tamimi told reporters.
He referred to the strain as the one “which spread in the UK,” and said it had been detected in some Iraqi children, but did not give a total number of people who had been diagnosed with the new variant.
It emerged in southern England in December and is thought to be more contagious than earlier forms.
Iraq has been among the countries hardest-hit by coronavirus in the Middle East, with more than 640,000 reported cases and over 13,000 deaths.
After peaking in September at around 5,000 new cases per day, Iraq saw a remarkable drop with around 800 new cases a day in December but the numbers have been on the rise since then.
On Monday, Iraq announced more than 2,700 cases confirmed cases, a record since the start of the year.
The daily deaths have remained relatively low, with only six confirmed deaths on Monday — compared to a peak in September of around 70 deaths per day.
The rise in cases prompted authorities to re-impose a series of measures to tackle the virus until March 8.
Masks will be obligatory in public places, with a fine of 25,000 Iraqi dinar ($17) for any violators.
From Thursday an overnight curfew will be in place from 8:00 p.m. until 5:00 am while Iraqis will be subjected to full lockdowns on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The measures will still be in place during Pope Francis’ historic visit from March 5-8, which will include trips to Baghdad, the city of Mosul in the north and a meeting with the country’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.
Iraqi officials told AFP on Monday they were still proceeding with the visit as planned.


Iran’s meddling in affairs of other countries threatens regional security: GCC chief

Iran’s intervention in the internal affairs of other countries is a threat to the region, the chief of the GCC said on Saturday. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 min 34 sec ago

Iran’s meddling in affairs of other countries threatens regional security: GCC chief

  • The GCC chief said that economic integration is on the list of priorities for the council
  • Al-Hajraf: Current situation in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen represents direct threat to the security of region

LONDON: Iran’s intervention in the internal affairs of other countries is a threat to the region and a matter of concern, the chief of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said on Saturday.
Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missiles, and its support for militias, must also be included in ongoing talks in Vienna and they should not be limited to reviving the nuclear deal, GCC Secretary-general Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf said at a virtual Gulf Research Meeting.
Representatives of Iran and the five world powers still party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action have been meeting in the Austrian capital since April, with US envoys participating indirectly. An agreement has yet to be reached.
Al-Hajraf added that the current situation in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen represents a clear and direct threat to the security and stability of the Middle East.
The GCC chief said that economic integration is on the list of priorities for the council, as is strengthening the leading position of GCC countries in the region and the world.
He said Saudi Arabia holding the G20 presidency in 2020, the UAE hosting Expo 2020 from October, and Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup are examples of this effort.
Al-Hajraf added that the national visions and development plans in GCC countries are creating the appropriate momentum to focus on the future and exploit opportunities.


Jordan to vaccinate children aged 12 years and older against COVID-19

Updated 24 July 2021

Jordan to vaccinate children aged 12 years and older against COVID-19

  • Jordanian children can be given Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine with the approval of a guardian with no prior appointment necessary

BEIRUT: Jordan will start vaccinating children aged 12 years and older against COVID-19 from Sunday, the state news agency said on Saturday.
Children can be given the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine with the approval of a guardian with no prior appointment necessary, the agency quoted the health ministry as saying.
The decision comes as Jordan lifted most restrictions at the start of July, reopening gyms, pools and night clubs at hotels after cases dropped from a peak in March when several thousands of new cases were recorded daily.
Total active cases reached 7,489 on Friday with 331 new cases and four deaths.
Since the start of the pandemic, Jordan has recorded a total of 763,437 cases and 9,933 deaths.
Several other countries in the region are vaccinating children, including Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.


El-Sisi: Decent Life Initiative ‘unprecedented achievement for Egypt’

Updated 24 July 2021

El-Sisi: Decent Life Initiative ‘unprecedented achievement for Egypt’

  • El-Sisi said that there will be a competition for the best center, governorate and village within the initiative
  • The Decent Life Initiative is working to develop about 4,600 Egyptian villages by building 175 administrative centers in 20 governorates

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said on Saturday that the newly announced Decent Life Initiative for rural development would be an “unprecedented achievement” for Egypt.
During an inspection of road developments within the Together We Build the Future initiative, El-Sisi said that “citizens must see the amount of work that will be done” to develop the Egyptian countryside under the new project.
He added: “I dream that what is being accomplished pleases our Lord and then pleases us. The lives of people in the villages must be changed, and there must be cooperation from the people in the villages so that they help in the final output.”
El-Sisi said that there will be a competition for the best center, governorate and village within the initiative, adding that the rewards will be “big and meaningful.”
The Decent Life Initiative is working to develop about 4,600 Egyptian villages by building 175 administrative centers in 20 governorates.
The most impoverished villages were targeted for funding according to data and surveys by the Central Agency for Mobilization and Statistics, in coordination with government ministries and other authorities.
So far, the initiative has succeeded in reducing poverty rates and providing critical services to targeted villages.


Egyptian leader turning to ‘pedal power’ to interact with public

Updated 24 July 2021

Egyptian leader turning to ‘pedal power’ to interact with public

  • El-Sisi's public cycling tours have become a tradition, beginning in 2014 during his bid for presidency
  • Three videos of the leader riding and talking to citizens have gone viral online in the past few days

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has caught the public’s attention after being filmed cycling around various locations during the Eid holiday.
Three videos of the leader riding and talking to citizens have gone viral online in the past few days.
His public cycling tours have become a tradition, beginning in 2014 during his bid for presidency.
During his latest tour, he met an Egyptian family to learn about their quality of life and listen to their demands.
While cycling on Friday in New Alamein, El-Sisi also talked to one of the military security officers accompanying him, a man named Ayman from Menoufia Governorate. El-Sisi asked him about his job, which he maintained while studying.
“Do you need anything, Ayman? I’m like your father, no need to be shy,” the president told him.
Ayman, who also runs a library from a rented property, replied that he wanted a job after completing his military service, and would like to rent a large store on a main street in order to increase his revenue.
El-Sisi then offered to personally buy him a commercial property of his choice.
During the 2016 Eid Al-Fitr holiday, the president toured the Maamoura area in Alexandria wearing a sports outfit, and in the same year, took part in a sports day that included a cycling marathon.
The leader also attended a cycling marathon in Cairo’s Fifth Settlement, in which he accompanied students of the local police academy.
And during the second edition of the World Youth Forum in 2018, El-Sisi was spotted cycling around Sharm El-Sheikh at dawn.


Tunisia reports a daily record of 317 COVID-19 deaths

Updated 24 July 2021

Tunisia reports a daily record of 317 COVID-19 deaths

TUNIS: Tunisia recorded 317 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, a daily record since the start of the pandemic, the health ministry said on Saturday.
The ministry also reported 5,624 new cases, increasing concerns about the country's ability to fight the pandemic, with intensive care units in hospitals completely full and a lack of oxygen supplies. The vaccination campaign is moving slowly.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the daily COVID-19 death tally in Tunisia is now the highest in Africa and in the Arab world.
The total number of cases since the start of the pandemic has reached about 560,000, with more than 18,300 deaths, out of a total population of 11.6 million.
This month several European and Arab countries have sent medical aid and more than three million doses of vaccine to help Tunisia tackle the rapid spread of the coronavirus.