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Sharjah Ruler inspects Layyah power plant, meets SEWA chairman

SHARJAH, 31st December 2020 (WAM) – H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, underscored the importance of the energy sector being one of the priorities of life, highlighting the Emirate of Sharjah’s keenness to meet all the needs of society members in terms of electricity, water and gas.

This came during a meeting His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah had with the Chairman of the Sharjah Electricity, Water and Gas Authority (SEWA), Saeed Sultan Al Suwaidi, and the Authority’s management at SEWA’s headquarters Thursday.

At the onset of his meeting, His Highness blessed the start of work at “Mahani Gas Field”, which will constitute a new addition and one of the pillars of the energy sector, and will produce 50 million cubic feet of gas per day, explaining Sharjah’s need of 200 million cubic feet of energy daily during the winter and 500 million in the summer. He added that work is currently underway to increase drilling operations to reach the stage of self-sufficiency in gas generation in the coming years.

His Highness highlighted Sharjah’s efforts to support the people of the emirate, advance their knowledge and thought, provide them with a decent life, and spread reassurance and harmony among members of society through a number of scientific and cultural projects that the emirate has adopted during the past 50 years.

His Highness touched on a number of vital projects that cover various energy sectors, including the electricity sector, which has seen development of many power plants in terms of provision of turbines and their expansion in a way that contributes to the smooth generation of more power over the next ten years.

As for the water sector, His Highness described it as one of the most important priorities as it is difficult to find alternatives for it if preparations are not made in this regard. He explained that Sharjah has worked on a water storage project through lakes such as Khorfakkan Lake and Owainat Lake, which will be 3 times larger than Al Rafisah Lake, Kalba Lake, and Al Dhaid Lake, which will be at the entrance to Al Dhaid City, and in the Washah area and Madayna in Mleiha and Al Feli. These lakes, His Highness said, will contribute to water conservation, in addition to a scientific project that will serve the emirate’s vision and aspirations in securing water by storing water in large tanks below the surface of the earth.

His Highness pointed out that the Emirate of Sharjah has adopted many initiatives that contribute to meeting the requirements of a decent life, including the social security project, through which the emirate seeks to provide appropriate income for its citizens among which services is the establishment of companies with some kind of partnership between the government and institutions, where the citizen is part. The government’s contribution to these companies is 51% enabling it to manage them.

His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah explained that the employment project is of great importance to him, explaining that 1000 university graduates have been employed, and work is on to employ 1000 job seekers out of 10,000 fresh graduates during the next year, while the rest of cases had been studied in cooperation with the Department of Statistics and Community Development, and divided into 3 levels according to need.

His Highness gave pieces of advice to SEWA employees that would serve the work through uniting efforts to achieve the desired goals and aspirations, wishing them success and excellence in performing their duties and moving forward in the service of Sharjah.

His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah had earlier inspected the project of expanding and developing Layyah power plant with a capacity of 1026 megawatts by combined cycle system, which is being implemented by the Sharjah Electricity, Water and Gas Authority over three stages, at a total value of AED2,050 billion. His Highness directed SEWA to intensify its efforts and complete the first phase with a capacity of 345 megawatts and to put it into operation in October 2021.

His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah listened to an explanation from Saeed Sultan Al Suwaidi, Chairman of SEWA, about the project phases, civil and construction works, project facilities, workflow, and the most prominent accomplished works.

His Highness reviewed the progress of work in terms of design and implementation, and taking into account security, safety and environmental aspects, directing to take all measures that ensure meeting the growing demand for electricity in line with the development of economic and civilisational growth in the Emirate of Sharjah.

Layyah plant expansion project includes the construction of a new power plant using natural gas as a fuel, consisting of two gas turbines, two thermal energy recovery boilers, and one steam turbine. In addition to generating electric power, the three-phase project, will use the steam produced on site to desalinate water. The first phase with a capacity of 345 megawatts will be operational in October 2021, the second with a capacity of 345 megawatts is scheduled to be completed during January 2022, while the third phase with a capacity of 336 megawatts is expected to be completed in July 2022.

In this regard, Chairman of SEWA, said: “The development of infrastructure in all regions of the Emirate of Sharjah, especially electricity, water and natural gas projects, is among the top priorities that receive great support and continuous follow-up from His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, enabling the Authority to implement its initiatives, projects and priorities in line with His Highness’s generous directives, as SEWA studies and analyses needs in all regions, plan and implement projects, production and distribution stations, and develop networks that meet all needs according to the best specifications.

Al Suwaidi, and the SEWA staff, highly thanked His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah for the visit and His Highness’s unlimited support to the Authority.

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Coronavirus: Brazil detects two cases of new COVID-19 variant found in UK

A Brazilian lab said on Thursday it has detected two cases of the new coronavirus variant that has spread rapidly in Britain, and urged reinforcement of quarantine measures for travelers coming from Europe.

Diagnostic medicine company Dasa said in a statement that it had detected the SARS-CoV-2 strain B.1.1.7 through genetic sequencing done in partnership with Sao Paulo University’s Tropical Medicine Institute.

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“Sequencing confirmed that the new strain of the virus has arrived in Brazil,” said researcher Ester Sabino at the Tropical Medicine Institute.

The new variant has rapidly become the dominant strain in cases of COVID-19 in parts of southern England, and has been linked to an increase in hospitalization rates. Australia, Italy and the Netherlands say they detected cases of the new strain.

Scientists say that, while it is not more lethal than the original strain, it is significantly more transmissible.

“Given its high transmission power, this result reinforces the importance of quarantine, and of maintaining isolation for 10 days, especially for those who are coming or just arrived from Europe,” Sabino said.

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Mohammed bin Rashid receives letter to President from Emir of Kuwait

DUBAI, 31st December, 2020 (WAM) — His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, today received Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Nasser Al Mohammad Al Sabah, Kuwaiti Minister of Foreign Affairs, who delivered a message to President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, from His Highness Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, Emir of Kuwait.

The letter mentioned the fraternal ties between the two countries and their peoples, as well as the work of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and ways of consolidating the relations between the GCC countries.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Kuwaiti Minister of Foreign Affairs discussed current regional developments, ways of maintaining peace and stability through solidarity, and reinforcing the coordination between GCC countries.

The meeting, which was held in Dubai, was also attended by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.

During the meeting, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed highlighted the importance of the solidarity and cooperation between GCC countries, most notably during the current period when the region is facing considerable challenges, affirming that the UAE’s leadership, government and people support all efforts to achieve the higher national objectives of GCC countries.

He then underlined the historic ties between the UAE and Kuwait while commending the virtues of the late Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, and his pioneering role in uniting GCC and Arab countries since he was a minister of foreign affairs.

“Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah is the best successor to lead Kuwait, and we are confident that he will achieve what is best for his country and GCC countries. We wish him good health and happiness,” H.H. Sheikh Mohammed said.

H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group; Mohammad bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs; Dr. Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs; Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, and Khalifa Saeed Suleiman, Director-General of the Department of Protocol and Hospitality in Dubai, attended the meeting.

Salah Mohamed Al Buaijan, Ambassador of Kuwait to the UAE; Nasser Haji Al-Muzain, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Gulf Cooperation Council at the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Chancellor Ahmed Abdulrahman Al Sharim, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Minister’s Office Affairs, and Bashar Ali Al Duwaisan, First Secretary for the Minister’s Office Affairs, also attended the meeting from the Kuwaiti side.

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‘I will survive’: 2020 slinks off into history as fireworks light deserted streets

Fireworks soared into the sky above the Sydney Opera House, but the harbour below was a deserted ghost town, a fittingly creepy send-off for a year that will not be missed.

No light show illuminated Beijing from the top of the TV tower. St Peter’s in Rome was nearly empty for vespers. London’s Trafalgar Square, Moscow’s Red Square, Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and New York’s Times Square were all barricaded off.

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Good riddance, 2020. Hello, 2021.

While some cities would launch fireworks over empty streets, others, such as London and Singapore, called their displays off. Paris, Rome and Istanbul were under curfew.

New York’s countdown ball was set to drop on Broadway. But in place of hundreds of thousands of people jammed shoulder-to-shoulder in Times Square, the audience would be a few dozen pre-selected key workers – including nurses, doctors, a grocery store worker and a pizza delivery man – their families kept six feet (2 metres) apart in socially distanced pens.

Organisers booked Gloria Gaynor to sing her disco classic “I Will Survive”. (Lyrics: “You think I’d crumble? You think I’d lay down and die? Oh no, not I!”)

“It’s going to be actually, arguably, the most special, the most poignant, the most moving New Year’s Eve,” Mayor Bill de Blasio, who will push the button to start the crystal’s ball descent, told reporters. “In 2021, we’re going to show people what it looks like to recover, to come back.”

With more than 1.7 million people dead and 82 million infected around the globe since last New Year’s Eve – yet hope emerging that new vaccines can help tame the pandemic – the year ended unlike any other in memory.

Angela Merkel, in her 16th New Year’s Eve address as German chancellor, said as much: “I think I am not exaggerating when I say: never in the last 15 years have we found the old year so heavy. And never have we, despite all the worries and some scepticism, looked forward to the new one with so much hope.”

China’s President Xi Jinping said the year’s extraordinary hardship had allowed people to demonstrate their resilience: “Only in hard times can courage and perseverance be manifested. Only after polishing can a piece of jade be finer.”

‘Hell of a year’

In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic originated a year ago, thousands were expected to gather at landmarks across the city centre to count down to 2021. Some said they were being cautious, but not particularly worried.

“Safety is the priority,” said Wuhan resident Wang Xuemei, 23, a teacher.

In Australia, where Sydney’s fireworks annually serve as the world’s first big visual display of the new year, gatherings were banned and internal borders shut. Most people were barred from Sydney’s downtown.

“What a hell of a year it’s been,” said Gladys Berejiklian, premier of New South Wales state, which includes Sydney. “Hopefully 2021 will be easier on all of us.”

The virus did not stop North Korea from staging its celebration in Pyongyang. State media showed revellers in face masks filling the main square for a concert and fireworks.

But in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, where Spaniards typically count down to midnight by stuffing grapes into their mouths at each clock strike, police put up barriers to keep people out. Jose Angel Balsa, a 61-year-old retiree, said he would spend the evening “with family, just the four of us at home, holding lots of video calls and hoping for this to end as soon as possible.”

In Britain, under ever tighter restrictions to fight a new, more contagious variant of the virus, official billboards instruct the public to “see in the New Year safely at home”.

Italy’s bars and restaurants were closed, and a curfew imposed for 10 p.m.

The rules prevented the traditional assembly of thousands of Roman Catholic worshippers for New Year’s Eve vespers at St Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis cancelled plans to lead the service because of a flare-up of his sciatica, the Vatican said, and a cardinal read the pope’s sermon to a small congregation at a secondary altar.

At “A la Ville de Rodez”, an upmarket delicatessen in Paris, manager Brice Tapon sent customers home with packages of foie gras, truffles and pate for groups of two or three. Rules forbid more than six adults to gather around the dinner table.

One of the customers, Anne Chaplin, said she would “stuff myself with foie gras, champagne and all this food.”

“And I’ll stay home.”

Read more:

Coronavirus: New Year’s revelries muted by COVID-19 as curtain draws on 2020

Coronavirus: Sydney bans New Year crowds as Australian virus cluster grows

Merkel to Germans in New Year message: Keep up anti-coronavirus discipline in 2021

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US to send home only Navy aircraft carrier operating in Middle East amid Iran tension

The Pentagon has decided to send home the only Navy aircraft carrier operating in the Middle East, a move that would reduce US firepower in the region amid heightened tensions with Iran, officials said Thursday.

The decision, confirmed by three defense officials but not yet publicly announced, emerged one day after Air Force B-52 bombers flew nonstop from the United States to the Arabian Gulf in a show of force that military officials said was intended to caution Iran against carrying out attacks against US forces or interests. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the decision and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Sending the aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, home to the US West Coast would seem at odds with the idea that a show of force is needed to deter Iran. This might reflect a split within the defense establishment on whether Iran poses a heightened threat to strike in the waning days of the Trump administration.

Earlier this week, an American military officer close to the situation told reporters that the US had detected signs that Iran had made preparations for possible attacks on US or allied targets in Iraq or elsewhere in the Mideast. This was the reason for dispatching two B-52 bombers from the US to briefly overfly the Gulf on Wednesday, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal assessments.

President Donald Trump recently cited “chatter” that Iran might strike. Days after a Dec. 20 rocket attack on the US Embassy compound in Baghdad by Iranian-supported Shia militia groups, Trump tweeted that Iran was on notice.

“Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over,” Trump wrote on Dec. 23. He added, ”We hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq.”

US concerns have been tied to the approach of the Jan. 3 anniversary of the American airstrike that killed Iran’s top commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Iran initially retaliated with a ballistic missile strike on a military base in neighboring Iraq that caused dozens of brain concussion injuries but no deaths among US troops.

But US officials are concerned that Iran might be planning further retaliation.

Because of the potential for escalation that could lead to a wider war, the US has sought to deter Iran from additional attacks. Strategic calculations on both sides are further complicated by the political transition in Washington to a Biden administration that may seek new paths to dealing with Iran. President-elect Joe Biden has said, for example, that he hopes to return the US to a 2015 agreement with world powers in which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

The US has maintained a near-continuous aircraft carrier presence in the Gulf region since the USS Abraham Lincoln was sent in May 2019 amid concerns that Iran was considering attacking US interests in the region. The US also sent additional land-based attack planes and reestablished a troop presence in Saudi Arabia.

The Nimitz deployed from the US in April and was due to return before the end of the year. In early December, its planned return was postponed, in part out of concerns about potential Iranian threats, and more recently it was ordered to provide support off the coast of Somalia for the movement of American forces out of the country.

Read more:

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US general warns Iran of cost of malign actions in Gulf, reminds of Soleimani killing

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UAE, Saudi Arabia enhance cooperation

DUBAI, 31st December, 2020 (WAM) — Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, UAE Minister of Education, and Dr. Hamad bin Muhammad Al Al Sheikh, Saudi Minister of Education, chaired the fourth quarter meeting of the Human Development Committee of the Saudi Coordination Council, which was held remotely and attended by under-secretaries and representatives of relevant sectors from both sides.

The meeting took place under the framework of strengthening the strategic ties between the two countries, monitoring their joint projects in the areas of education, health, space, sports, youth and culture, and presenting solutions related to initiatives launched during previous sessions At the start of the meeting, Al Hammadi welcomed Dr. Al Sheikh while commending the keenness of both sides to consolidate their joint action, which is the outcome of the close historic ties between the UAE and Saudi Arabia and reflects their commitment and the keenness of their leaderships to reinforce their bilateral action.

He also conveyed a message of love and appreciation to the Saudi side from the UAE’s leadership, represented by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who wished the current meeting and subsequent meetings success, hoping that they will reinforce the joint bilateral action between the two countries, achieve sustainable development, and meet the aspirations of their peoples.

He then pointed out that education is a key pillar that is prioritised by the leaderships of both countries, to create an advanced education system that will keep pace with modern technologies and developments, making the UAE and Saudi Arabia pioneering countries in this field.

He also highlighted their potential in six sectors discussed at the meeting and urged its participants to reinforce their cooperation and benefit from available opportunities, to achieve the visions of their leaderships.

Dr. Al Al Sheikh conveyed the greetings of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, and HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of Saudi Arabia, to the Emirati side, as well as their hope that the meeting will help achieve the joint strategic objectives of the two countries.

He then stressed that the ties between the UAE and Saud Arabia are historic and strong, having been consolidated by numerous factors, including faith, geography, culture and a common fate.

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Hamas arrests Palestinian for taking down banner of Iran’s Soleimani in Gaza

The Palestinian militant group Hamas arrested on Thursday a man for tearing down a banner of slain Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani which was put up ahead of the first anniversary of his death by the group, according to a relative of the detainee.

Hamas arrested Majdi al-Maghribi for tearing down a photo of a “criminal,” al-Maghribi’s brother wrote on Facebook on Thursday.

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Al-Maghribi had urged Gazans in a Facebook post on Wednesday to remove banners of Soleimani in the city. Hours later, he posted a video of himself tearing down a banner of the slain Iranian general which quickly went viral.

Hamas put up a large banner of Soleimani on the main coastal road in Gaza on Tuesday after a military drill, Reuters reported.

Several other banners of Soleimani were spotted across Gaza ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Iranian general’s death, according to Palestinian social media users. Arabs were quick to criticize the banners and Israeli officials condemned them as glorifying a “murderer.”

“A question to the people in Gaza: Do you expect Arabs to sympathize with you and your cause when they see you erecting statues of the killers of Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis and the Lebanese?” Israeli military spokesman Avichay Adraee wrote on Twitter in Arabic, commenting on an image of one of the Soleimani banners in Gaza.

The same banner now appears to have been ripped apart by Gazans, according to a video shared by Palestinian social media users. A man filming the torn banner in Gaza can be heard describing Soleimani as the “killer of Syrians and Iraqis.”

The banner included text from a speech by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh at Soleimani’s funeral in Tehran. “The martyr commander Qassem Soleimani who spent his life supporting the resistance… he is a martyr of al-Quds (Jerusalem),” the text reads.

Several other Soleimani banners have also been taken down and vandalised, images and videos shared by Palestinian social media users show.

Relations between Shia Iran and Sunni Hamas briefly deteriorated in the early years of the Syrian conflict after Hamas refused to support Iran’s ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against Sunni rebels.

Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force – the overseas arms of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – was killed in a US airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport on January 3.

A senior Hamas official said Sunday the group received $22 million in cash from Soleimani during a visit to Tehran in 2006, drawing criticism from Iranians who accuse the regime of prioritizing its network of proxy groups over its citizens.

Iranian demonstrators have voiced their opposition to Tehran’s foreign policies and accused the regime of squandering the country’s resources on foreign militias in three separate waves of anti-government protests – in 2009, 2017 and 2019 – using the popular chant “not Gaza, not Lebanon, I give my life for Iran” in reference to Tehran’s support for Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

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UK’s G4S security company had role in killing of Iran’s Soleimani: Tehran Prosecutor

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UAE Covid vaccine now at all health centres

Residents aged 18 and older can take the jab; priority for senior citizens.

The Chinese Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine is now available at all medical centres in the UAE, the country’s health ministry has announced.

Those aged 18 years and older can take the jab. The vaccine is especially important for the elderly and those with chronic diseases, the Ministry of Health and Prevention said.

ALSO READ: Full list of centres to get Covid vaccine in UAE

“Due to the vulnerability of senior citizens with chronic diseases, and in order to preserve their health and safety, the ministry will provide them with priority health services,” the ministry said.

The jab is offered in two doses: The first is given after some medical tests and assessments; and the second is given 21 to 28 days later.

The UAE’s National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) had reported that the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine shows 100 per cent protection against moderate and severe Covid-19 infections.

It said the vaccine has an efficacy rate of 86 per cent.

In addition to this, Dubai is offering the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccination for free to residents.

ALSO READ:

>> Dubai Royal among top officials to get Pfizer jab

>> 81-year-old granny takes the jab, says life is too short

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Chinese Covid vaccine now available at all UAE health centres

Residents aged 18 and older can take the jab; priority for senior citizens.

The Chinese Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine is now available at all medical centres in the UAE, the country’s health ministry has announced.

Those aged 18 years and older can take the jab. The vaccine is especially important for the elderly and those with chronic diseases, the Ministry of Health and Prevention said.

ALSO READ: Full list of centres to get Covid vaccine in UAE

“Due to the vulnerability of senior citizens with chronic diseases, and in order to preserve their health and safety, the ministry will provide them with priority health services,” the ministry said.

The jab is offered in two doses: The first is given after some medical tests and assessments; and the second is given 21 to 28 days later.

The UAE’s National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) had reported that the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine shows 100 per cent protection against moderate and severe Covid-19 infections.

It said the vaccine has an efficacy rate of 86 per cent.

In addition to this, Dubai is offering the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccination for free to residents.

ALSO READ:

>> Dubai Royal among top officials to get Pfizer jab

>> 81-year-old granny takes the jab, says life is too short

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CEO resigns from Dubai theme park operator DXB Entertainments

Mohamed Almulla’s departure comes as Meraas offers to acquire DXB Entertainments debt and take it private