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Video: UAE temple stone works feature camels

New video shows intricate stone carvings for the Abu Dhabi temple nearing completion in India.

The intricate stone works of the first traditional Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi is nearing completion in India. The BAPS Hindu Mandir released a video showing hundreds of sculptors at work in Rajasthan.

“The fascinating stone work is ongoing in India for the Mandir in Abu Dhabi. It is beautiful and diverse, and intricately sculpted by hand. The Mandir (temple) is reviving and revitalising ancient art and stone craftsmanship (that is) thousands of years old. Hundreds of craftsmen are not just carving history, but making a manifestation of devotion and harmony,” said a representative from the BAPS Hindu Mandir.

The hand-carved sculpture reflects the rich culture and history of India and includes Arab symbols like camels. It includes the Indian epics Ramayana, Mahabharata and other narratives from Hindu scriptures and mythology. The temple will be built according to the ancient Hindu ‘shilpa shastras’ – Sanskrit scriptures of architecture.

The stone pieces are expected to be ready for shipment to the UAE by March. DP World and the Transworld group are offering the logistical support.

The construction of the temple in Abu Dhabi’s Abu Mureikha is also going ahead at a great pace. The foundation has been raised to a height of more than 3 metres.

The temple will have seven spires and five domes. The complex will have a visitor’s centre, prayer halls, library, classroom, community centre, majilis, amphitheatre, play areas, gardens, books and gift shops, food court and more facilities.

The temple is expected to be completed in 2023.

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Coronavirus: UAE records 3,432 new COVID-19 cases, death toll rises by 7

The United Arab Emirates recorded an increase of 3,432 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed infections in the country to 249,808, the Ministry of Health and Prevention announced on Saturday.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

The new infections are the highest number of cases ever recorded in the country since the outbreak first began in January 2020.

The COVID-19 death toll increased by seven, which brought the total number of deaths caused by the virus to 740.

Meanwhile, the total number of recoveries rose to 222,106 after 3,118 people recovered from the coronavirus.

While most coronavirus restrictions in the country have been lifted, facemasks and social distancing is still required in public.

Read more:

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Coronavirus: Jordan’s King Abdullah receives COVID-19 vaccine

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Coronavirus: E-learning extended for all Abu Dhabi schools

This is a precautionary measure to limit the spread of Covid-19 and to protect the schooling community.

Students of all academic levels in the UAE Capital will continue distance learning for three more weeks from January 17, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee has announced.

This is a “precautionary measure to limit the spread of Covid-19 and protect the health and safety of the schooling community,” the committee said.

It urged parents, guardians and academic and administrative staff in all schools to get the Covid vaccine. This is to “protect themselves against the virus and help develop comprehensive protection for the wider community, which will accelerate the safe return to schools”.

Students in the Capital were set to return to campus on January 17 after two weeks of distance learning in the new term.

Meanwhile, UAE public school students in Grades 9 to 12 – referred to as Cycle 3 pupils – will continue with distance learning “until further notice”.

The students were set to return to campuses on January 17, but the Ministry of Education (MoE) has decided to postpone the resumption of in-class lessons.

The decision was taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19, amid the spike in new cases since the beginning of January.

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UAE Covid vaccine at home for some residents: How to book

Bookings for the service now open across the Emirates.

Authorities in the UAE had recently announced that some categories of residents can get the free Covid-19 vaccine at home.

Bookings for the service are now open across the emirates for people of determination; those with chronic diseases; and the elderly.

In Sharjah, the service can be booked via the call centre of the Social Services Department at 800700.

Staff at the centres concerned have been trained to administer the vaccines at homes of the beneficiaries. Their families can avail of the service as well.

In Abu Dhabi, the service can be booked through the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) call centre 80050. Special medical teams then visit the homes of the residents to administer the free jab.

In Ajman, the service can be booked via the toll-free number 80070.

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Coronavirus: Pfizer delays Bahrain’s vaccine delivery for January

A January shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to the Gulf state of Bahrain will not arrive on time, the ministry of health said on Saturday, but second doses of the jab already scheduled will not be affected.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

The small island state of Bahrain has the third highest rate of vaccinations per capita in the world so far, according to the Our World in Data website, which is run by an Oxford University research program.

“The delay … will not affect citizens and residents receiving the second dose of the vaccine over the upcoming period, according to current scheduled dates and the availability of the needed quantity for them,” the health ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency BNA.

Bahrain offers its citizens free of charge either the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or one manufactured by Chinese state-backed pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm.

Other Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the emirate of Dubai have also purchased the Pfizer jabs.

US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer this week said there would be a temporary impact on shipments in late January to early February caused by changes to manufacturing processes to boost production.

Read more:

Coronavirus: UAE COVID-19 vaccinations surpass 1 million, ranks second globally

Coronavirus: More than 700,000 register to receive vaccine in Saudi Arabia

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Signal messaging app faces global outage

Millions downloaded the app as WhatsApp unveiled controversial privacy policy update.

Cross-platform messaging app Signal faced a global outage on Friday, just days after it was downloaded by millions of new users.

Users across the world reported they were unable to send messages on both the mobile and desktop applications.

The company posted on Twitter that it was experiencing technical difficulties and was “working hard to restore service as quickly as possible.”

Also read: WhatsApp delays privacy policy update amid uproar

Ever since its rival WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, unveiled its new privacy terms last week, Signal has seen a huge interest from new users.

Signal said that it has been adding new servers and extra capacity at “a record pace” every single day this week nonstop.

“…but today exceeded even our most optimistic projections. Millions upon millions of new users are sending a message that privacy matters. We appreciate your patience,” the messaging app tweeted.

Also watch: WhatsApp vs Signal vs Telegram

It further said it is working to get the service back online.

“We are making progress towards getting the service back online. Privacy is our top priority, but adding capacity is a close second right now,” add the tweet image here.

According to estimates, in India, Signal was downloaded by close to 3 million users.

WhatsApp on Friday (local time) said it has decided to postpone a privacy update due to “misinformation causing concern” among people, the company said.

“We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms. No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8. We’re also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp. We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15,” the blog post read.

This came following a rise in concerns among the public regarding a threat to their right to privacy.

The New York Times reported that since the announcement of the privacy update many users and some media outlets interpreted the notification as a marked shift in WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices, mistakenly believing that the company could now read people’s conversations and other personal data.

The concerns resulted in people switching to other messaging services such as Signal and Telegram. This week, Signal became the No. 1 app in India, one of WhatsApp’s biggest markets, on Apple and Android phones, the NYT said.

Earlier this month, an advocate in Delhi filed a plea stating that WhatsApp’s update privacy policy violated the Right to Privacy and sought to direct the Centre to lay down guidelines in the exercise of its powers under relevant sections of the Information Technology Act and under the Constitution of India to ensure that Respondent Whatsapp does not share any data of its users with any third party or Facebook and its companies for any purpose whatsoever.

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Largest Covid vaccine drive: Sanitation worker gets first jab

Over the coming months, India aims to inoculate around 300 million people.

India begins one of the world’s biggest coronavirus vaccination programmes on Saturday, hoping to end a pandemic that has killed 150,000 people in the country and torpedoed the economy.

The country is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs. But there is no playbook for the enormity of the challenge.

The first dose of a vaccine was administered to a health worker at All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital New Delhi, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi kickstarted the campaign with a nationally televised speech. Priority groups across the vast country, from the Himalayan mountains to the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, began receiving it shortly after.

“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said in his address. He implored citizens to keep their guard up and not to believe any “rumors about the safety of the vaccines.”

It was not clear if Modi, 70, has taken the vaccine himself like other world leaders as an example of the shot’s safety. His government has said politicians will not be considered priority groups in the first phase of the rollout.

Health officials haven’t specified what percentage of the nearly 1.4 billion people will be targeted by the campaign. But experts say it will almost certainly be the largest such drive globally.

AFP looks at the numbers involved in the vast and complex undertaking compounded by weak infrastructure, online hoaxes and security and safety worries:

Over the coming months, India aims to inoculate around a quarter of the population, or 300 million people. They include healthcare workers, people aged over 50 and those at high risk.

On the first day, around 300,000 people will be vaccinated at 3,000 centres. About 150,000 staff in 700 districts have been trained to administer jabs and keep records. Around 100 people will be vaccinated in each of the 3,006 centers across the country on the first day, the Health Ministry said this week.

The government aims to manage the entire process digitally with its own app, CoWIN, which will link every vaccine dose to its recipient.

India has four “mega depots” to take delivery of the vaccines and transport them to state distribution hubs in temperature-controlled vans, keeping the doses colder than 8 degrees Celsius.

A total of 29,000 cold-chain points, 240 walk-in coolers, 70 walk-in freezers, 45,000 ice-lined refrigerators, 41,000 deep freezers and 300 solar fridges are at the ready.

These will be needed once the Indian summer arrives in the coming months.

In one recent practice run in a rural area, a consignment of dummy vaccines was photographed being delivered by bicycle.

To stop any of the vials being stolen and being sold on India’s large drugs black market, authorities are taking no chances, with armed police guarding every truck.

CCTVs are in place at warehouses with entry subject to fingerprint authentication. Automated data loggers will monitor storage temperature and transfer messages every three seconds to a central unit, according to the Times of India.

“Security measures are essential to not only address the issue of logistics and safety but also build confidence in people that the supply chain is intact, unbroken and safe to the point of delivery,” Preeti Kumar, a public health specialist, told AFP.

India gave nod for emergency use of two vaccines, one developed by Oxford University and UK-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and another by Indian company Bharat Biotech, on January 4. Cargo planes flew 16.5 million shots to different Indian cities last week.

India has ordered an initial 11 million doses of Covishield, AstraZeneca’s vaccine made by India’s Serum Institute, at 200 rupees ($2.74) each, and 5.5 million doses of Covaxin at 206 rupees each.

The government’s “emergency approval” of Covaxin, made by India’s Bharat Biotech, has some doctors worried because Phase 3 human trials are yet to be completed.

Authorities say that people will be given two doses of one of the vaccines – and not one of each – 28 days apart. Effectiveness begins 14 days after the second shot, they say.

Serum plans later to sell the jab privately to Indian individuals and firms for 1,000 rupees ($14), raising fears that the rich will get inoculated sooner.

A recent survey of 18,000 people across India found that 69 percent were in no rush to get a Covid-19 shot, in part due to public scepticism fuelled by online disinformation.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan took to social media on Thursday to dispel some of the doubts.

“There is no scientific evidence to suggest that #COVIDVaccine could cause infertility in either men or women. Kindly do not pay heed to such rumours or information from unverified sources,” he said in one tweet.

Other developing countries are banking on India for getting vaccines. Brazil is reportedly sending a plane to India this weekend in the hope of collecting two million doses from Serum.

India plans to offer 20 million doses to its neighbours, with the first batches shipped over the next two weeks, Bloomberg News reported. Latin America, Africa and ex-Soviet republics will be next.

Over 35 million doses of various Covid-19 vaccines have been administered around the world, according to the University of Oxford.

While the majority of the Covid-19 vaccine doses have already been snapped up by wealthy countries, COVAX, a UN-backed project to supply shots to developing parts of the world, has found itself short of vaccine, money and logistical help.

As a result, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist warned it is highly unlikely that herd immunity – which would require at least 70 per cent of the globe to be vaccinated – will be achieved this year. As the disaster has demonstrated, it is not enough to snuff out the virus in a few places.

“Even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world,” Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said this week.

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World’s largest Covid vaccine drive in India begins

Over the coming months, India aims to inoculate around 300 million people.

India begins one of the world’s biggest coronavirus vaccination programmes on Saturday, hoping to end a pandemic that has killed 150,000 people in the country and torpedoed the economy.

AFP looks at the numbers involved in the vast and complex undertaking compounded by weak infrastructure, online hoaxes and security and safety worries:

Over the coming months, India aims to inoculate around a quarter of the population, or 300 million people. They include healthcare workers, people aged over 50 and those at high risk.

On the first day, around 300,000 people will be vaccinated at 3,000 centres. About 150,000 staff in 700 districts have been trained to administer jabs and keep records.

The government aims to manage the entire process digitally with its own app, CoWIN, which will link every vaccine dose to its recipient.

India has four “mega depots” to take delivery of the vaccines and transport them to state distribution hubs in temperature-controlled vans, keeping the doses colder than 8 degrees Celsius.

A total of 29,000 cold-chain points, 240 walk-in coolers, 70 walk-in freezers, 45,000 ice-lined refrigerators, 41,000 deep freezers and 300 solar fridges are at the ready.

These will be needed once the Indian summer arrives in the coming months.

In one recent practice run in a rural area, a consignment of dummy vaccines was photographed being delivered by bicycle.

To stop any of the vials being stolen and being sold on India’s large drugs black market, authorities are taking no chances, with armed police guarding every truck.

CCTVs are in place at warehouses with entry subject to fingerprint authentication. Automated data loggers will monitor storage temperature and transfer messages every three seconds to a central unit, according to the Times of India.

“Security measures are essential to not only address the issue of logistics and safety but also build confidence in people that the supply chain is intact, unbroken and safe to the point of delivery,” Preeti Kumar, a public health specialist, told AFP.

India has ordered an initial 11 million doses of Covishield, AstraZeneca’s vaccine made by India’s Serum Institute, at 200 rupees ($2.74) each, and 5.5 million doses of Covaxin at 206 rupees each.

The government’s “emergency approval” of Covaxin, made by India’s Bharat Biotech, has some doctors worried because Phase 3 human trials are yet to be completed.

Authorities say that people will be given two doses of one of the vaccines – and not one of each – 28 days apart. Effectiveness begins 14 days after the second shot, they say.

Serum plans later to sell the jab privately to Indian individuals and firms for 1,000 rupees ($14), raising fears that the rich will get inoculated sooner.

A recent survey of 18,000 people across India found that 69 percent were in no rush to get a Covid-19 shot, in part due to public scepticism fuelled by online disinformation.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan took to social media on Thursday to dispel some of the doubts.

“There is no scientific evidence to suggest that #COVIDVaccine could cause infertility in either men or women. Kindly do not pay heed to such rumours or information from unverified sources,” he said in one tweet.

Other developing countries are banking on India for getting vaccines. Brazil is reportedly sending a plane to India this weekend in the hope of collecting two million doses from Serum.

India plans to offer 20 million doses to its neighbours, with the first batches shipped over the next two weeks, Bloomberg News reported. Latin America, Africa and ex-Soviet republics will be next.

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Roadside bomb kills two policemen in Afghanistan: Officials

A roadside bomb targeting a police vehicle in the Afghan capital killed two policemen Saturday, officials said, as violence continues unabated in Afghanistan despite peace talks between the Taliban and government.

The vehicle carrying the policemen was struck by the bomb in the centre of the capital on the road to the prestigious Kabul University, police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz said.

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Two policemen were killed and one wounded, Faramarz said.

Violence has surged across the country in recent months, especially in Kabul which is also rocked by a new trend of targeted killings that has sown fear in the city.

The bloodshed comes even as the Taliban and government negotiators engage in peace talks to end the nearly two decade war in the country.

The two warring sides are currently in the Qatari capital Doha discussing the agenda items of the talks.

Read more:

Taliban kills at least nine Afghan security personnel: Officials

US troops in Afghanistan, Iraq cut to 2,500 each: Acting Defense Secretary

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Coronavirus: India starts world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive

India started inoculating health workers Saturday in what is likely the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign, joining the ranks of wealthier nations where the effort is already well underway.

The country is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs. But there is no playbook for the enormity of the challenge.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

Indian authorities hope to give shots to 300 million people, roughly the population of the U.S and several times more than its existing program that targets 26 million infants. The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers to be followed by 270 million others, who are either aged over 50 or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.

The first dose of a vaccine was administered to a health worker at All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital New Delhi, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi kickstarted the campaign with a nationally televised speech. Priority groups across the vast country, from the Himalayan mountains to the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, began receiving it shortly after.

“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said in his address. He implored citizens to keep their guard up and not to believe any “rumors about the safety of the vaccines.”

It was not clear if Modi, 70, has taken the vaccine himself like other world leaders as an example of the shot’s safety. His government has said politicians will not be considered priority groups in the first phase of the rollout.

Health officials haven’t specified what percentage of the nearly 1.4 billion people will be targeted by the campaign. But experts say it will almost certainly be the largest such drive globally.

The sheer scale has its obstacles. For instance, India plans to rely heavily on a digital platform to track the shipment and delivery of vaccines. But public health experts point out that the internet remains patchy in large parts of the country, and some remote villages are entirely unconnected.

Around 100 people will be vaccinated in each of the 3,006 centers across the country on the first day, the Health Ministry said this week.

India gave nod for emergency use of two vaccines, one developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and another by Indian company Bharat Biotech, on January 4. Cargo planes flew 16.5 million shots to different Indian cities last week.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Health experts worry that the regulatory shortcut taken to approve the Bharat Biotech vaccine without waiting for concrete data that would show its efficacy in preventing illness from the coronavirus could amplify vaccine hesitancy. At least one state health minister has opposed its use.

India’s Health Ministry has bristled at the criticism and says the vaccines are safe, but maintains that health workers will have no choice in deciding which vaccine they would get themselves.

India is second to the US with 10.5 million confirmed cases, and ranks third in the number of deaths, behind the US and Brazil, with 152,000.

Read more:

Coronavirus: India prepares for ‘world’s biggest vaccination drive’

Coronavirus: India tests vaccine delivery system with nationwide trial

Coronavirus: Indian vaccine makers end disagreement, guarantee ‘smooth rollout’