Saudi Arabia, Arab nations join world in mourning death of Britain’s Prince Philip

Philip, who was by the queen’s side for nearly eight decades, retired from public duties in 2017 at the age of 96. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 09 April 2021

Saudi Arabia, Arab nations join world in mourning death of Britain’s Prince Philip

  • King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman send cables to queen and Prince Charles
  • UAE, Bahrain and Oman also sent messages of condolence to Queen Elizabeth.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent their condolences to the UK’s Queen Elizabeth II and Charles, Prince of Wales, on Friday after the passing of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, aged 99.

“We have received with great sadness the news of the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and we express to Your Majesty, the royal family and the friendly people of the United Kingdom our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy,” the king said in a cable to Britain’s queen. 

Cables were sent separately to the queen and the Prince of Wales.

The UAE, Bahrain and Oman also sent messages of condolence to Queen Elizabeth.

UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan sent a cable of condolences to the Queen, expressing his heartfelt condolences and solace to the monarch.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi also sent similar cables of condolences.

Sheikh Mohammed sent a personal message on Twitter, saying: “On behalf of people of UAE, I extend my sincere condolences to Queen Elizabeth II & the people of United Kingdom over the demise of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. A close friend to the UAE & other nations, he will always be remembered for his devotion to his country and people.”

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa extended his deepest condolences and consolation to Queen Elizabeth, as well as to the British government and people, and lauded the efforts of Prince Philip to serve the UK and its friendly people.

“His Majesty the Sultan, Haitham bin Tarik sent a cable of condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the President of the Commonwealth, on the death of her husband, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” a statement issued by Oman News Agency said.

Here are reactions from major public figures in Britain and around the world:

UK PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON
“We remember the Duke ... above all for his steadfast support for Her Majesty the Queen, not just as her consort, by her side, every day of her reign, but as her husband, has strength and stay of more than 70 years. And it is to Her Majesty, and her family, that our nation’s thoughts must turn today.”
“Like the expert carriage driver that he was he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”

JUSTIN WELBY, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
“I join with the rest of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in mourning the loss of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, and give thanks to God for his extraordinary life of dedicated service.”
“On the occasions when I met him, I was always struck by his obvious joy at life, his enquiring mind and his ability to communicate to people from every background and walk of life. He was a master at putting people at their ease and making them feel special.”

UK OPPOSITION LABOUR PARTY LEADER KEIR STARMER
“The United Kingdom has lost an extraordinary public servant in Prince Philip.”
“Prince Philip dedicated his life to our country — from a distinguished career in the Royal Navy during the Second World War to his decades of service as the Duke of Edinburgh.”
“However, he will be remembered most of all for his extraordinary commitment and devotion to The Queen.”

SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER NICOLA STURGEON
“I am saddened by news that the Duke of Edinburgh has died. I send my personal and deepest condolences — and those of @scotgov and the people of Scotland — to Her Majesty The Queen and her family.”

INDIAN PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI
“He had a distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives. May his soul rest in peace.”

PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER IMRAN KHAN

“My condolences on the demise of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Britain has lost a wise elder who was imbued with a unique spirit of public service. His role in promoting Pakistan-UK relations will always be remembered.”

IRISH PRIME MINISTER MICHEAL MARTIN
“Saddened to hear of the death of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Our thoughts and prayers are with Queen Elizabeth and the people of the United Kingdom at this time.”

SINN FEIN LEADER MARY LOU MCDONALD
“Sincere condolences to Queen Elizabeth and family on the death of her husband Prince Phillip. Sympathies to those of a British identity on our island, for whom his death will be felt as a great loss.”

US PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN AND FIRST LADY JILL BIDEN

The American president and his wife said the impact of the prince’s decades of public service was evident in the causes he advocated. 

FORMER US PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH
“Throughout his long and remarkable life, he devoted himself to worthy causes and to others. He represented the United Kingdom with dignity and brought boundless strength and support to the sovereign. Laura and I are fortunate to have enjoyed the charm and wit of his company, and we know how much he will be missed.”

FORMER US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

“Through his extraordinary example, His Royal Highness Prince Philip proved that true partnership has room for both ambition and selflessness — all in service of something greater. Our thoughts are with Her Majesty the Queen, the Royal Family, and the British people.”

US HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI

“The US Congress extends condolences over the death of Britain’s Prince Philip.”

FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR
“He will naturally be most recognized as a remarkable and steadfast support to the Queen over so many years. However, he should also be remembered and celebrated in his own right as a man of foresight, determination and courage.”

NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER JACINDA ARDERN
“Prince Philip will be fondly remembered for the encouragement he gave to so many young New Zealanders through The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award. In over fifty years of The Award in New Zealand, thousands of young people have completed life-changing challenges through the program.”

KING HARALD OF NORWAY
“Our thoughts are with Queen Elizabeth and the rest of her family. We also send our condolences to the British people.”

KING KARL XVI GUSTAF OF SWEDEN
“Prince Philip has been a great friend of our family for many years, a relation which we have deeply valued. His service to his country will remain an inspiration to us all.”

GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL

“The death of Prince Philip fills me with great sorrow. His friendship to Germany, his straightforwardness and his sense of duty will not be forgotten.”

FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON

“I wish to express my sincere condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Family and the British people upon the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip who lived an exemplary life defined by bravery, a sense of duty and commitment to the youth and the environment.”

CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU

“Prince Philip was a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”

DUTCH PRIME MINISTER MARK RUTTE

“Our thoughts and sympathy are with Britain’s Royal Family and the British people at this time of mourning.”

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU

“Prince Philip was the consummate public servant and will be much missed in Israel and across the world.”

BELGIAN ROYAL PALACE

“We wish to express our deepest condolences to Her Majesty The Queen, the British Royal Family and the people of the United Kingdom. Philippe and Mathilde.”

UN SECRETARY GENERAL ANTONIO GUTERRES

“He was known for his dedication to charitable causes as a patron of some 800 organizations, in particular those focused on the environment, industry, sport and education.”

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres, said: “The Secretary-General is saddened at the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He extends condolences to Her Royal Highness, the Queen, and to the people of the United Kingdom.

“As royal consort, the Duke of Edinburgh capably supported the Queen in her duties as sovereign for over 60 years. He was known for his dedication to charitable causes as a patron of some 800 organizations, in particular those focused on the environment, industry, sport and education.

“The Secretary-General pays tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh for his active work for the betterment of humankind.”

PHILIP'S FORMER PRESS SECRETARY JAMES ROSCOE

“From military to youth clubs to DoE award recipients, his interest in people & their stories was real, his motivation always encouraging service in other by example. No nonsense, genuine wit: peace maybe, but he won't rest.”


Pakistan allows AstraZeneca shot for under 40s to help its expatriates

Updated 15 June 2021

Pakistan allows AstraZeneca shot for under 40s to help its expatriates

  • Pakistan, which relies heavily on remittances from its expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia, has primarily used Chinese vaccines

KARACHI, Pakistan: Pakistan has lifted a rule barring the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for people below 40 years old, in a bid to help inoculate people who need to travel for education or jobs abroad, particularly Saudi Arabia, a health official said.
Pakistan, which relies heavily on remittances from its expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia, has primarily used Chinese vaccines — Sinopharm, CanSinoBio and Sinovac — in its inoculation drive and, till now, only used AstraZeneca for those above 40.
The Saudi authorities have not approved the Chinese shots, so people with only those vaccinations still need to quarantine, which is unaffordable for many, Faisal Sultan, a health adviser to the prime minister, said.
“From today, we have lifted the restriction for use of AstraZeneca for below 40 years,” Sultan told private news channel Geo television on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia has approved four COVID-19 vaccines for arrivals wanting to avoid quarantine, namely AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson.
Pakistan has received 1.2 million doses of AstraZeneca under the COVAX facility.
Sultan said the government was using diplomatic channels to see if Saudi Arabia would approve Chinese vaccines in future.
As of June 11, 1.3 percent of Pakistan’s 220 million people had been fully vaccinated and 3.8 percent had received at least one dose, mostly Sinopharm or Sinovac, official figures show.
Saudi Arabia is the largest source of foreign remittances to Pakistan, which depends on these funds to support its current account given the country’s yawning trade deficit.
In the current financial year, Pakistan received $7 billion in remittances from Saudi Arabia, making up more than a quarter of overall remittances.

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Alarm rises in India over COVID-19 risks as crowds return to malls and rail stations

Updated 15 June 2021

Alarm rises in India over COVID-19 risks as crowds return to malls and rail stations

  • After a strict five-week lockdown, authorities in Delhi have fully re-opened shops and malls, and allowed restaurants to have 50% seating
  • Suburban rail networks can run at 50 percent capacity, and offices have been partially reopened

NEW DELHI: Having barely got over a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections, India was gripped with alarm on Tuesday over risks of a resurgence as crowds thronged railway stations and shopping malls a day after major cities relaxed curbs on movement. The capital New Delhi, in the north, and tech hub Bengaluru, in the south, were among the cities that have begun lifting strict lockdowns as the nationwide tally of new infections dropped to its lowest level in more than two months.
After a strict five-week lockdown, authorities in Delhi have fully re-opened shops and malls, and allowed restaurants to have 50 percent seating. Suburban rail networks can run at 50 percent capacity, and offices have been partially reopened.
“Delhi’s top #mall saw a footfall of 19,000 people last weekend- as soon as it reopened. Have we gone totally mad?” Ambrish Mithal, a doctor with a Max HealthCare hospital in New Delhi said on Twitter. “Wait for #COVID19 to explode again- and blame the government, hospitals, country.”
Disease experts have cautioned that a race toward resuming business as usual would compromise vaccination efforts as only about 5 percent of all 950 million eligible adults have been inoculated.
Doctors say Delhi’s near-complete re-opening is concerning. The city’s authorities have said they would reimpose strict curbs if needed.
Thousands died in the capital in May, as oxygen supplies all but vanished and families pleaded on social media over scarce hospital beds. Many died in parking lots, and morgues ran out of space.
Yet, the city government said inoculation centers for people aged between 18 and 44 would start shutting down on Tuesday, as doses were scarce.
Challenge of inoculations, testing
India has been administering an average of 2.4 million shots a day. Health officials say vaccinations need to be at least four times higher to avoid a third wave of infections.
At the height of the second wave in April and May as many as 170,000 people died.
The Delta variant, first identified in India, has accelerated infections. And worryingly, the virus has spread to India’s vast hinterland where two-thirds of the population lives and vaccinations have been even slower.
As restrictions are lifted in big cities, migrant workers have begun returning from the countryside.
In the southern state of Karnataka’s capital Bengaluru, media reported large crowds of workers at railway stations.
“Unfortunately, citizens equate the government’s response to reopening, as a victory,” Dr. Vishal Rao, a member of the expert committee on Karnataka’s COVID task force, told Reuters.
Nationwide, India reported 60,471 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours, the lowest since March 31, data from the health ministry showed.
India added 2,726 deaths overnight, taking the overall tally to 377,031.
Both the death toll and the case-load of infections, at 29.57 million, were the second highest after the United States, but experts say the official numbers are a gross underestimate. Only people who have tested positive are counted, and in India testing has been woefully inadequate.
The Times of India on Tuesday reported a staggering 100,000 people were issued fake ‘negative’ reports for COVID-19 infections in the northern city of Haridwar when tens of thousands of Hindu devotees gathered on the banks of the Ganges river for the ‘Kumbh Mela’, or pitcher festival, in April.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was widely criticized for failing to call off the Kumbh — he only belatedly urged religious leaders to celebrate symbolically — and for addressing large rallies during state elections also in April.
“One in every 4 tests during Kumbh was found fake. That is from just 1 sample collection agency. 8 more to go.” Rijo M John, a professor at the Rajagiri College of Social Sciences in the southern city of Kochi, said on Twitter.
“Basically, just the tip of the iceberg.”

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Alarm rises in India over COVID-19 risks as crowds return to malls and rail stations

Updated 15 June 2021

Alarm rises in India over COVID-19 risks as crowds return to malls and rail stations

  • India has barely recovered from deadly second coronavirus wave at the height of which in April and May 170,000 people died
  • India has been administering average of 2.4 million shots daily, vaccinations need to be four times higher to avoid third wave

NEW DELHI: Having barely got over a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections, India was gripped with alarm on Tuesday over risks of a resurgence as crowds thronged railway stations and shopping malls a day after major cities relaxed curbs on movement.
The capital New Delhi, in the north, and tech hub Bengaluru, in the south, were among the cities that have begun lifting strict lockdowns as the nationwide tally of new infections dropped to its lowest level in more than two months.
After a strict five-week lockdown, authorities in Delhi have fully re-opened shops and malls, and allowed restaurants to have 50 percent seating. Suburban rail networks can run at 50 percent capacity, and offices have been partially reopened.
“Delhi’s top #mall saw a footfall of 19,000 people last weekend- as soon as it reopened. Have we gone totally mad?” Ambrish Mithal, a doctor with a Max HealthCare hospital in New Delhi said on Twitter. “Wait for #COVID19 to explode again- and blame the government, hospitals, country.”
Disease experts have cautioned that a race toward resuming business as usual would compromise vaccination efforts as only about 5 percent of all 950 million eligible adults have been inoculated.
Doctors say Delhi’s near-complete re-opening is concerning. The city’s authorities have said they would reimpose strict curbs if needed.
Thousands died in the capital in May, as oxygen supplies all but vanished and families pleaded on social media over scarce hospital beds. Many died in parking lots, and morgues ran out of space.
Yet, the city government said inoculation centers for people aged between 18 and 44 would start shutting down on Tuesday, as doses were scarce.
CHALLENGE OF INOCULATIONS, TESTING
India has been administering an average of 2.4 million shots a day. Health officials say vaccinations need to be at least four times higher to avoid a third wave of infections. 
At the height of the second wave in April and May as many as 170,000 people died.
The Delta variant, first identified in India, has accelerated infections. And worryingly, the virus has spread to India’s vast hinterland where two-thirds of the population lives and vaccinations have been even slower.
As restrictions are lifted in big cities, migrant workers have begun returning from the countryside.
In the southern state of Karnataka’s capital Bengaluru, media reported large crowds of workers at railway stations.
“Unfortunately, citizens equate the government’s response to reopening, as a victory,” Dr. Vishal Rao, a member of the expert committee on Karnataka’s COVID task force, told Reuters.
Nationwide, India reported 60,471 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours, the lowest since March 31, data from the health ministry showed.
India added 2,726 deaths overnight, taking the overall tally to 377,031.
Both the death toll and the case-load of infections, at 29.57 million, were the second highest after the United States, but experts say the official numbers are a gross underestimate. Only people who have tested positive are counted, and in India testing has been woefully inadequate.
The Times of India on Tuesday reported a staggering 100,000 people were issued fake ‘negative’ reports for COVID-19 infections in the northern city of Haridwar when tens of thousands of Hindu devotees gathered on the banks of the Ganges river for the ‘Kumbh Mela’, or pitcher festival, in April.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was widely criticized for failing to call off the Kumbh — he only belatedly urged religious leaders to celebrate symbolically — and for addressing large rallies during state elections also in April. 
“One in every 4 tests during Kumbh was found fake. That is from just 1 sample collection agency. 8 more to go.” Rijo M John, a professor at the Rajagiri College of Social Sciences in the southern city of Kochi, said on Twitter.
“Basically, just the tip of the iceberg.”


Hong Kong watching Chinese nuclear plant after leak reported

Updated 15 June 2021

Hong Kong watching Chinese nuclear plant after leak reported

  • Experts say that gas might be leaking from fuel rods inside a reactor in Taishan, 135 kilometers west of Hong Kong
  • In Hong Kong, radiation levels Tuesday were normal, according to the Hong Kong Observatory

HONG KONG: China’s government said Tuesday no abnormal radiation was detected outside a nuclear power plant near Hong Kong following a news report of a leak, while Hong Kong’s leader said her administration was closely watching the facility.
The operators released few details, but nuclear experts say based on their brief statement, gas might be leaking from fuel rods inside a reactor in Taishan, 135 kilometers (85 miles) west of Hong Kong.
A foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing, Zhao Lijian, gave no confirmation of a leak or other details. He responded to reporters’ questions by saying, “there is nothing abnormal detected in the radiation level surrounding the plant.”
In Hong Kong, radiation levels Tuesday were normal, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.
Framatome, a French company that helps manage the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province, said Monday it was dealing with a “performance issue.” It said the facility was operating within safe limits.
That followed a report by CNN that Framatome told US authorities about a possible leak.
“With regards to foreign media reports about a nuclear plant in Taishan, Guangzhou, the Hong Kong government attaches a high degree of importance to this,” said Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Lam said her government would ask authorities in Guangdong for information and tell the public about any developments.
China is one of the biggest users of nuclear power and is building more reactors at a time when few other governments have plans for new facilities because the cost of solar, wind and other alternatives is plunging.
Chinese leaders see nuclear as a way to reduce air pollution and demand for imports of oil and gas, which they deem a security risk. Government plans call for Hong Kong to use more mainland nuclear power to allow the closure of coal-fired power plants.
The Taishan plant, which began commercial operation in December 2018, is owned by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group and Electricite de France, the majority owner of Framatome. A second reactor began operating in September 2019.
They are the first of a new type called European Pressurized Reactors. Two more are being built in Finland and France.
CNN reported Framatome wrote to the US Department of Energy warning of an “imminent radiological threat” and accusing Chinese authorities of raising acceptable limits for radiation outside the plant to avoid having to shut it down.
US officials believed there was no severe safety threat, CNN said.
The Department of Energy did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The International Atomic Energy Agency, a UN body, told The Associated Press it was aware of the issue and awaiting information from China.
Electricite de France said Monday it was informed of the increase in concentration of “certain rare gases” in Taishan reactor No. 1.
That suggests fuel rods are leaking noble gases, a byproduct of nuclear fission, according to Luk Bing-lam, an expert on nuclear engineering at the City University of Hong Kong.
“If the leakage is more severe, then you will start seeing more radioactive material like cesium, rather than gas,” said Luk, who is chairman of the Hong Kong Nuclear Society.
Such leaks “happen every so often” in China and plants “usually can handle it themselves,” Luk said. But he said this incident might be complicated if the Taishan plant uses US technology that is covered by export restrictions.
China’s state-owned nuclear power companies are on Washington’s “entity list” that bars them from obtaining US technology without government approval.
The French partner might ask for permission because Framatome previously licensed technology from Westinghouse, Luk said.
“With the situation now, that becomes difficult,” he said. “For even a small problem, they need US government approval.”
China has 50 operable reactors and is building 18 more, according to the World Nuclear Association, an industry group. It is largely self-sufficient in reactor design and construction but is “making full use of Western technology while adapting and improving it,” the association says on its website.
China has constructed reactors based on French, US, Russian and Canadian technology and has developed its own Hualong One reactor, based on Westinghouse technology, marketing it abroad since 2015.
Hong Kong gets as much as one-third of its power from the Daya Bay nuclear power plant east of the territory in Guangdong.
Luk, who has worked with Chinese nuclear power plant operators, said he asked the company for information about the leak but managers won’t talk about it.
“I suspect the leakage is far more widespread than just a single assembly,” he said. “Because of that, they probably need some special technology to resolve this leakage problem.”
Previously, the Taishan facility leaked a “small amount” of radioactive gas on April 9, the National Nuclear Safety Administration said on its website. It said the event was “Level 0,” or “without safety significance.”
Zhao, the foreign ministry spokesman, defended China’s nuclear safety record and said the nuclear agency works with regulators in other countries and the IAEA.
“China’s nuclear power plants have maintained a good record in operation and no incidents affecting the environment or public health have occurred,” Zhao said.


At least 15 dead in suicide bombing at Somalia army camp

Updated 15 June 2021

At least 15 dead in suicide bombing at Somalia army camp

  • The officer said the bomber was disguised among recruits queueing up outside the General Dhegobadan Military Camp
MOGADISHU: At least 15 army recruits died Tuesday when a suicide bomber attacked a military training camp in Mogadishu, Somalia, an officer said.
“I have counted about 15 new recruits who have been killed in the blast,” said army officer Mohamed Adan, adding the toll could be higher.
Adan said the bomber was disguised among recruits queueing up outside the General Dhegobadan Military Camp when the explosion occurred.