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WAM: First coronavirus death in Montenegro

coronavirus

BELGRADE, 23rd March, 2020 (WAM) — Montenegro has recorded its first death from the novel coronavirus, the German press agency, dpa, has quoted the state broadcaster RTCG as saying.

A 65-year old man died shortly after his arrival at a hospital in the capital Podgorica on Sunday night, RTCG reported on Monday.

The man had earlier travelled to Serbia, according to the broadcaster.

Currently, 22 people have tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the Balkan country.

Another 5,500 people suspected to have the virus were under observation, health authorities said.

 

WAM/Rola Alghoul/Nour Salman

 

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WAM: New Zealand prepares to enter lockdown as coronavirus cases surge

WELLINGTON, 23rd March, 2020 (WAM) — New Zealand said on Monday it will move to its highest alert level imposing self-isolation, with all-non-essential services, schools and offices to be shut over the next 48 hours as the number of coronavirus cases more than double, Reuters has reported.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the decisions will place the most significant restriction on New Zealanders’ movements in modern history, but it was needed to save lives and slow the virus.

“We are all now preparing to go into self isolation as a nation,” Ardern said in a news conference, adding that tens of thousands of New Zealanders could die without these measures.

People lined up outside supermarkets shortly after the announcement to stack up essentials, despite assurances from the government that there were sufficient supplies and stores will remain open.

Crowds were also expected at domestic airports as New Zealanders return home before complete lockdown takes effect for the next four weeks.

Police Chief Mike Bush said more officers will be seen across the country to make sure instructions are followed and order is maintained.

The number of coronavirus cases in New Zealand shot up to 102, more than double since Friday, as the country reported 36 new infections. New Zealand has had no deaths.

Ardern said the cabinet agreed that effective immediately, the country of five million people would move into alert ‘level 3’ nationwide, and after 48 hours it will be at the highest ‘level 4’. New Zealand has already closed its borders to foreigners.

Ardern said all bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries, playgrounds and any other place where the public congregate must close their face-to-face function.

She said supermarkets, doctors, pharmacies, service stations, access to essential banking services will all be available throughout New Zealand at every alert level.

The move comes after neighbouring Australia, which has thousands of COVID-19 cases, started lockdown measures on Monday, but has stopped short of self-isolation.

Schools will be closed from Tuesday, except for children of essential workers such as our doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and police. Schools will close entirely from midnight Wednesday.

Workplaces were asked to implement alternative ways of working.

 

WAM/Rola Alghoul/Nour Salman
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22-04-2020 Top countries death from coronavirus Covid-19

source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

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WAM: Three new recoveries from COVID-19 in Kuwait

Three new recoveries from COVID-19 in Kuwait

KUWAIT, 22nd March, 2020 (WAM) — Kuwaiti Health Minister Sheikh Dr. Basil Al-Sabah on Sunday announced that three coronavirus cases have recovered.

Two of the cases were a Kuwaiti nationals – a male and a female – and the third patient that recovered was Spanish national residing in the country, bringing the total number of recoveries to 30, the Minister explained.

Speaking to the Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, Sheikh Basil Al-Sabah said that laboratory and radiological tests showed that these three cases were cured from the virus.

The Minister stated that the three patients will be transferred to rehabilitation wards in the assigned hospital, in preparation for discharge within the next two days.

 

[Image Source: Kuwait Times]

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21-04-2020 Top countries death from coronavirus Covid-19

source:

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

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WAM: Thailand reports 188 new coronavirus cases

coronavirus

BANGKOK, 22nd March, 2020 (WAM) — Thailand reported 188 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, its largest daily increase, taking the total to 599 cases, Reuters quoted a senior health official as saying.

The majority of the new infections are connected to a previous cluster of cases from a boxing stadium, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a Public Health Ministry spokesman, told a news conference adding one patient had recovered.

“Most of the new cases were found in Bangkok and were among young people who continue to have social activities, which can lead to more infections,” he said urging the public to stay home.

There has been one death in Thailand.

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WAM: Colombia confirms first coronavirus death

coronavirus

BOGOTA, 22nd March, 2020 (WAM) — Colombia’s health ministry late on Saturday confirmed the country’s first death attributed to the coronavirus, as the disease continues to spread worldwide, Reuters has reported.

The victim was a 58-year-old man who worked as a taxi driver in the coastal city of Cartagena, the ministry said in a statement.

“On 4th March, he transported Italian tourists in his vehicle and two days later presented the first symptoms,” the ministry said, adding the man had untreated hypertension and diabetes.

Colombia has so far recorded 210 cases of COVID-19.

The Andean country will enter a nationwide quarantine from Tuesday night, as the government seeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Colombia will block incoming international flights from Monday and has ordered people aged 70 and over to stay indoors until the end of May. The government has closed terrestrial borders, schools and bars and will halt domestic flights from Wednesday.

The capital Bogota began holding a four-day obligatory quarantine drill on Friday. It will continue straight into the national quarantine.

More than 300,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus worldwide and over 13,000 have died.

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WAM: Egypt suspends Friday prayers at Al-Azhar

 Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb

CAIRO, 21st March, 2020 (WAM) — Al-Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb decided on Saturday to suspend Friday prayers and congregational prayers for the Muslims at Al-Azhar Mosque downtown Cairo for two weeks, as a preventive measure against the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic.

Six days ago, the Grand Imam issued a fatwa, saying that the cancellation of Friday prayer and all congregational prayers are permissible amid the current health crisis.

Also, Egypt’s Ministry of Awqaf [Endowment] closed Al Sayeda Zainab Mosque, one of the most important and historical mosques in Old Cairo, after a large number of worshippers mobbed outside the mosque following the Friday prayer, the ministry announced in a statement.

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WAM: Saudi Arabia implements urgent measures to mitigate impact of coronavirus on economy

saudi arabian flag

RIYADH, 20th March, 2020 (WAM) — The Saudi government is moving decisively to address the unprecedented effects and consequences of the COVID-19 , Saudi Minister of Finance, Acting Minister of Economy and Planning, Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Jadaan, has said.

“The Kingdom is taking immediate measures to ensure the safety of its citizens and residents, and to address its fiscal, financial and economic impact,” he added, noting “the government has taken precautionary and strong measures to protect citizens and residents in the Kingdom, and to ensure the availability of immediate financial resources.”

In statements carried by the Saudi Press Agency, the minister said that the health and safety of the Kingdom’s citizens and residents “comes first in the priorities of government’s actions and that the government will avail all the required appropriations for the health sector, to provide and deliver the necessary health services for prevention, treatment and control of infection.”

In addition, the minister announced that “the government has prepared urgent initiatives to support the private sector, especially small and medium enterprises and economic activities most affected by the virus. The financial stimulus package of these initiatives reaches more than SAR70 bn, which consists of exemptions and postponement of some government dues to provide liquidity to the private sector thereby enabling them to manage continuity of their economic activities. In addition, SAMA has announced a package of SAR50 bn, to support the banking sector, financial institutions and SMEs.”

These initiatives run as follows: -Exemption from expat levy for those whose Iqama has expired from now until 30 June 2020, by extending their Iqama for a period of three months without charge.

-Enabling employers to refund the fees of issued work visas that were not used during the ban on entry and exit, even if they were stamped in the passport, or extend them for a period of three months without charge.

-Enabling employers to extend exit and re-entry visas that were not used during the ban on entry and exit from the Kingdom for a period of three months without charge.

-Enabling business owners, for a period of three months, to postpone the payment of value-added tax, excise tax, income tax, and the submission of Zakat declarations and the payment of obligations due therefrom. The decision allows also to grant zakat certificates without restrictions for the period of fiscal year 2019, and to accept instalment requests to the General Authority of Zakat and Income Tax without applying the condition of advance payment. In addition, postponing the execution of services suspension procedures and financial seizure by the General Authority of Zakat and Income, and setting the necessary criteria to extend the postponement period for the most affected activities as needed.

-Postponing the collection of customs duties on imports for a period of thirty days against the submission of a bank guarantee, for the next three months and setting the necessary criteria for extending the postponement period for the most affected activities as needed.

-Postponing the payment of some government services fees and municipal fees due on private sector, for a period of three months, and setting the necessary criteria to extend the postponement period for the most affected activities as needed.

-Authorising the Minister of Finance to approve lending and other forms of financing as well as exemption from payment of fees and returns on loans granted until the end of 2020, under the Corporate Sustainability Program initiative.

-Forming a committee headed by the Minister of Finance and the membership of each of Minister of Economy and Planning, the Minister of Commerce, the Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources, the Vice Chairman of the National Development Fund Board of Directors and the Governor of the National Development Fund, and shall have the following duties: -Identifying and reviewing incentives, facilities, and other initiatives led by the National Development Fund or any of its funds and banks, with the aim of mitigating the exceptional and unprecedented economic situation, in light of the implications of the coronavirus, the impact of the precautionary measures taken by the Kingdom’s government and the low oil prices.

-Setting the criteria of designing and applying initiatives and their details.

-Identifying the amounts that will be used to support these initiatives from the resources available at the funds and banks under the National Development Fund for this purpose and as needed.

The committee may conduct transfers between these funds and banks and the Saudi Export-Import Bank as needed. The committee may direct both, the Kafala programme and the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, to develop the necessary initiatives to support the objectives during this exceptional period, and to support them from the available resources at the funds and banks under the National Development Fund as needed.

In addition, the government will use the tools available to finance the private sector, especially small and medium enterprises, in addition to strengthening support programs to mitigate the impact on the private sector and economic activities, and to ensure the promotion of financial stability. The government also confirms its determination in paying its obligations in accordance with their due dates will honor its payments, in addition to applying measures that maintain the financial sector soundness.

Al-Jadaan emphasised that due to the financial strength of the economy and efficiencies and improvements already achieved, the government has considerable ability to diversify sources of financing between public debt and government reserves to adequately tackle the emerging challenges. This allows positive intervention in the economy in the right way and at the right time, while limiting the impact on the government’s goals in maintaining fiscal sustainability and economic development in the medium and long term.

He also stated that some budget appropriations will be reviewed and reallocated to the sectors most in need in the current situation, including allocating additional funds to the health sector as needed. An emergency budget was also introduced to cover any costs that may arise during the developments of this global crisis.

Al-Jadaan stressed that the government’s focus is to make every effort to address the pandemic’s threats on health and community. “The government will also continue to improve the efficiency of fiscal and economic performance to better confront the impacts of the virus spread, in addition to preserving the fiscal and economic gains achieved during the recent period.”

WAM/Hatem Mohamed
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WAM: UAE Ambassador to US meets with Secretary of State, extends commitment to coordinate and provide mutual assistance on COVID-19 response

WASHINGTON, 19th March, 2020 (WAM) — UAE Ambassador to the United States, US, Yousef Al Otaiba, met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to deliver a message from H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, that conveyed continued support and solidarity with the US, as both countries work to protect the public and prevent the global spread of COVID-19.

The UAE Foreign Minister’s message to Secretary Pompeo reaffirmed the country’s commitment to provide medical assistance to any private American citizen or member of the US armed forces residing in the Emirates.

In addition, the UAE has offered to facilitate any repatriation of US citizens, if necessary, through the US customs pre-clearance facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport. This includes making the airport available to any US airlines that may want to schedule special flights to or from the US.

In the meeting with Secretary Pompeo, Ambassador Al Otaiba noted that the UAE is taking extensive measures to control the spread of the virus, including conducting one of the world’s most comprehensive testing initiatives. Already more than 127,000 tests in the UAE have been conducted .

Ambassador Al Otaiba also said that since this global health crisis began, the UAE has worked with the US and multilateral partners like the World Health Organisation to provide humanitarian assistance and medical supplies for countries with significant needs. This includes recent humanitarian and medical aid flights to Iran, which provided critical supplies, such as laboratory diagnostic kits and protective equipment for healthcare workers and other first responders.

WAM/Tariq alfaham
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WAM: UAE facilitates evacuation of South Korean nationals from Iran

UAE facilitates evacuation of South Korean nationals from Iran

ABU DHABI, 19th March, 2020 (WAM) — The United Arab Emirates today facilitated the evacuation of 80 individuals from Iran, among them 74 South Korean nationals residing there, in addition to 6 Iranian family members, in response to a request by the South Korean Government in light of the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in Iran.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, held a phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on 5th March to discuss the two countries’ special strategic partnership. During the call, His Highness underscored the UAE’s readiness to offer all forms of support and assistance in combating COVID-19.

H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, held a phone call with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on 9th March to discuss bilateral relations and efforts to curb the virus’ spread.

Coordinating the evacuation was conducted by transporting the passengers from Tehran last night on a chartered flight to Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai, where they were subsequently transported onboard an Asiana Airlines flight to Incheon International Airport in South Korea. The evacuation occurred in coordination with the competent authorities and the General Civil Aviation Authority.

WAM/MOHD AAMIR

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WAM: OPEC daily basket price stands at $27.31 a barrel Wednesday

OPEC

VIENNA, 19th March, 2020 (WAM) — The price of OPEC basket of thirteen crudes stood at US$27.31 a barrel on Wednesday, 18th March 2020, compared with US$30.36 the previous day, according to OPEC Secretariat calculations.

The OPEC Reference Basket of Crudes is made up of the following: Saharan Blend (Algeria), Girassol (Angola), Djeno (Congo), Zafiro (Equatorial Guinea), Rabi Light (Gabon), Iran Heavy (Iran), Basra Light (Iraq), Kuwait Export (Kuwait), Es Sider (Libya), Bonny Light (Nigeria), Arab Light (Saudi Arabia), Murban (UAE) and Merey (Venezuela).

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WAM: Israeli forces arrest 8 Palestinians in West Bank

RAMALLAH, 19th March, 2020 (WAM) — Israeli occupation forces early Thursday arrested 8 Palestinians in various West Bank cities, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society.

A statement released by the Society said that Israeli soldiers stormed the cities of Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah, Salfit, Qalqilya, Tulkarem and Nablus and arrested the 8 citizens.

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WAM: Urgent emergency support requested for airlines: IATA

 The International Air Transport Association, IATA

GENEVA, 19th March, 2020 (WAM) — The International Air Transport Association, IATA, is appealing to governments in Africa and the Middle East, as part of a worldwide campaign, to provide emergency support to airlines as they fight for survival due to the evaporation of air travel demand as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is the top priority of governments. But they must be aware that the public health emergency has now become a catastrophe for economies and for aviation,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director-General and CEO.

He went on to note that the scale of the current industry crisis is “much worse and far more widespread” than the September 11 attacks, SARS, or the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

“Airlines are fighting for survival,” stressed de Juniac. “Many routes have been suspended in Africa and Middle East and airlines have seen demand fall by as much as 60 percent on remaining ones. Millions of jobs are at stake. Airlines need urgent government action if they are to emerge from this in a fit state to help the world recover, once COVID-19 is beaten.”

Extensive cost cutting measures are being implemented by the region’s carriers to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19.

However, due to flight bans as well as international and regional travel restrictions, airlines’ revenues are plummeting, outstripping the scope of even the most drastic cost containment measures, an IATA statement noted.

It added, “With average cash reserves of approximately two months in the region, airlines are facing a liquidity and existential crisis. Support measures are urgently needed.”

On a global basis, IATA estimates that emergency aid of up to US$200 billion is required.

IATA has proposed a number of options for governments to consider, including the provision of direct financial support to passenger and cargo carriers to compensate for reduced revenues and liquidity attributable to travel restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19.

Commenting on the situation, Muhammad Al Bakri, IATA Regional Vice President Africa, Middle East, said that several governments – UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria and Mauritius to name a few – have already committed national aid for COVID-19.

“Our ask,” he added, “is that airlines, which are essential to all modern economies, are given urgent consideration.”

Al Bakri explained that this will help keep airlines alive and ensure airline staff – and people working in allied sectors – have jobs to come back to at the end of the crisis. “It will enable global supply chains to continue functioning and provide the connectivity that tourism and trade will depend on if they are to contribute to rapid post-pandemic economic growth.”

Africa’s air transport industry’s economic contribution is estimated at US$55.8 billion supporting 6.2 million jobs and contributing 2.6 percent to GDP. In the Middle East air transport’s economic contribution is estimated at US$130 billion supporting 2.4 million jobs and contributing 4.4 percent to GDP.

[Image Credit: The International Air Transport Association, IATA]

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WAM:IOC remains ‘fully committed’ to Tokyo 2020

IOC remains 'fully committed' to Tokyo 2020

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, 19th March, 2020 (WAM) — The International Olympic Committee, IOC, says it remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and is seeking to find a solution in a responsible way.

The IOC said on Tuesday that there was no need “for any drastic decisions at this stage” in relation to Tokyo 2020, adding that preparation for the games is changing day by day as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

IOC President Thomas Bach said, “The health and well-being of all those involved in the preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is our number-one concern. All measures are being taken to safeguard the safety and interests of athletes, coaches and support teams. We are an Olympic community; we support one another in good times and in difficult times. This Olympic solidarity defines us as a community.”

The IOC communique noted that a task force was set up in mid-February, consisting of the IOC, the World Health Organisation, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

The purpose of the task force is to ensure coordinated actions by all stakeholders, the communique noted, adding that it has the mission to keep a constant appraisal of the situation to form the basis for the ongoing operational planning and necessary adaptations. The task force also monitors the implementation of the various actions decided.

The IOC will continue to follow the guidance of the task force, and the Committee’s decision will not be determined by financial interests, the communique noted.

WAM/Nour Salman/Esraa Ismail

 

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WAM: FIFA set to rearrange Club World Cup due to coronavirus

football

ZURICH, 19th March, 2020 (WAM) — The Bureau of the FIFA Council chaired by FIFA President Gianni Infantino convened a conference call on Wednesday to address the exceptional circumstances created by the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

Following the conference call, the Bureau has included the new dates of the CONMEBOL Copa America and the UEFA EURO – 11th June to 11th July 2021 – in the International Match Calendar.

In a statement issued by the Bureau, the decisions also included deciding at a later stage when to schedule the new FIFA Club World Cup which was due to take place in June and July 2021. Also, to create a FIFA-Confederations working group, monitoring the evolving situation, working closely together and agreeing on a coordinated approach addressing the consequences of this pandemic.

FIFA pledged a direct contribution of US$10 million to the World Health Organisation COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, to ensure these funds are used to support the fight against the virus in all regions of the world.

Commenting on the conference call, Infantino said, “This exceptional situation requires exceptional measures and decisions. This crisis impacts the entire world and that is why solutions need to take into account the interests of all stakeholders around the world. We have shown again today a spirit of cooperation, solidarity and unity. These must be our key drivers moving forward and I would like to thank all the Confederations Presidents for their positive contributions and efforts.

“FIFA will keep in close contact with all stakeholders to assess and take the necessary steps to deal with the variety of issues we are facing. I count on the support of the whole football community moving forward,” he concluded.

[Image Credit: FIFA]

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WAM: Korea seeks UAE’s collaboration to explore global nuclear power markets: South Korean envoy

Korea seeks UAE’s collaboration to explore global nuclear power markets: South Korean envoy

By Binsal Abdulkader

ABU DHABI, 19th March, 2020 (WAM) — The successful cooperation of South Korea and the UAE in building Barakah Nuclear Power Plant in Abu Dhabi has opened a new venue for further collaboration to explore opportunities in global nuclear power markets, according to a top Korean diplomat.

“We hope that we could move into the next stage. South Korea and the UAE could collaborate to enter the nuclear power markets of third countries,” Kwon Yongwoo, the South Korean Ambassador to the UAE, told Emirates News Agency, WAM, in an exclusive interview.

The UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, FANR, announced on 3rd March that it had overseen loading of the nuclear fuel assemblies into Unit 1 of Barakah Nuclear Power Plant being built by a South Korean consortium. With this development, the UAE has officially become the first nuclear energy operating country in the Arab World.

The envoy clarified that both parties have not conducted any official talks about the joint collaboration on overseas projects as of now.

“But given our advanced technological capabilities in nuclear power generation, Korea is a new power to be reckoned with in this sector. Therefore, we will have more opportunities in future,” Kwon explained.

He expressed hope that “we can utilise such opportunities together with the UAE.”

The ambassador expects such openings for joint collaboration to come up in the Middle East region because of the successful experience of Korea and the UAE in Barakah Nuclear Power Plant.

“Barakah is important for Korea because it is our first ever overseas nuclear power project. It has been Korea’s first experience of building a nuclear power plant in a new environment [desert],” he pointed out.

“This has proved Korea’s capability as a provider of advanced and reliable nuclear technology. That’s why we think we will have good opportunities in future. We are capable to undertake such hard projects in this region,” he explained.

As both nations celebrate 40th anniversary of bilateral relations this year, the envoy believes that the cooperation in nuclear power has been the most important development over the years.

“Korea and the UAE have been deepening cooperation in all important areas such as defence, energy, nuclear energy, agriculture, environment, education, culture, and many others. This kind of partnership led to the establishment of the Special Strategic Partnership during the visit of South Korean President Moon Jae-in to the UAE in 2018,” Kwon noted.

“However, the cooperation in Barakah plant has given a boost to all areas in the bilateral relations,” he affirmed.

On the economic relations, the envoy said bilateral trade stood at US$13 billion in 2019, which was not a satisfactory level. “We have great potential to do more,” he pointed out.

The UAE is fourth largest supplier of oil to South Korea, with imports of oil and related products from the UAE occupying two thirds of the bilateral trade volumes. Korea mainly exports automobiles, auto parts, steel pipes, and storage batteries and so on to the UAE, Kwon explained.

Around 170 Korean companies are operating in the UAE, mainly in energy, construction, banking, travel and tourism sectors.

Korea and the UAE are keen to develop cooperation in fourth industrial revolution, the ambassador said.

The UAE’s special economic zones [free zones] and Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, MBZUAI, the first Artificial Intelligence University in the world, also open new areas of cooperation, he noted.

On the people-to-people relations, the envoy said around 13,000 Korean nationals are living in the UAE with their number almost equally distributed between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Most of them are working in aviation, public health and nuclear power sectors, Kwon revealed.

About the new coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, the ambassador said although South Korea was one of the worst hit countries, the government controlled the situation with comprehensive efforts to combat the virus.

The UAE as a global air transport hub has acted very responsibly to check COVID-19, he noted.

The envoy expressed hope that “Korea, the UAE and other friends together can combat the virus very soon.”

 

WAM/Binsal AbdulKader
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WAM: Philippines records 15 new coronavirus infections

MANILA, 19th March, 2020 (WAM) — The Philippines’ Health Ministry on Thursday reported 15 new coronavirus infections, bringing the country’s total to 217, as more than half of the 107 million population is in the early part of a month-long quarantine, Reuters has reported.

The Health Ministry also announced that one patient has recovered, increasing the tally to eight, adding that deaths from the outbreak remain at 17.

[Image Credit: Reuters]

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WAM: COVID-19 could claim 25 million jobs worldwide: ILO

COVID-19 could claim 25 million jobs worldwide: ILO

GENEVA, 19th March, 2020 (WAM) — The economic and labour crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic could increase global unemployment by around 25 million, according to a new assessment by the International Labour Organisation, ILO.

Based on different scenarios for the impact of COVID-19 on global GDP growth, the ILO estimates indicate a rise in global unemployment of between 5.3 million (“low” scenario) and 24.7 million (“high” scenario) from a base level of 188 million in 2019.

Underemployment is also expected to increase on a large scale, as the economic consequences of the virus outbreak translate into reductions in working hours and wages. Self-employment in developing countries, which often serves to cushion the impact of changes, may not do so this time because of restrictions on the movement of people (e.g. service providers) and goods.

Falls in employment also means large income losses for workers. The study estimates these as being between US$860 billion and US$3.4 trillion by the end of 2020. This will translate into falls in the consumption of goods and services, in turn affecting the prospects for businesses and economies.

Working poverty is expected to increase significantly too, as “the strain on incomes resulting from the decline in economic activity will devastate workers close to or below the poverty line”. The ILO estimates that between 8.8 and 35 million additional people will be in working poverty worldwide, compared to the original estimate for 2020 (which projected a decline of 14 million worldwide).

“This is no longer only a global health crisis, it is also a major labour market and economic crisis that is having a huge impact on people,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “In 2008, the world presented a united front to address the consequences of the global financial crisis, and the worst was averted. We need that kind of leadership and resolve now,” he added.

The ILO note warns that certain groups will be disproportionately affected by the jobs crisis, which could increase inequality. These include people in less protected and low-paid jobs, particularly youth, older workers, women and migrants too.

[Image Credit: International Labour Organisation, ILO]

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WAM: China’s Wuhan reports zero increase in novel Coronavirus infections

WUHAN, 19th March, 2020 (WAM) — No new infections of the novel Coronavirus were reported on Wednesday in Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic, marking a notable first in the city’s months-long battle with the microscopic foe, reported Chinese News Agency, Xinhua.

The Health Commission of Hubei Province, where Wuhan is the capital, said the virus’ death toll climbed by eight in the province, but the total confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus disease, COVID-19, in Wuhan and Hubei remained at 50,005 and 67,800 on Wednesday.

No increase was observed in the province’s number of suspected cases, which fell to zero on Tuesday, in another indication that large-scale transmissions have been suppressed at the epidemic ground zero.

Previously, the central Chinese province had reported single-digit increases of new infections, all of which were from Wuhan, for a week in a row since last Wednesday. A month ago, the figure was several thousand a day.

The province also saw 795 patients discharged from hospital after recovery on Wednesday, reducing its caseload of hospitalised patients to 6,636, including 1,809 in severe condition and 465 in critical condition.

With no new cases in Wuhan, the Chinese mainland on Wednesday reduced the increase in domestic transmissions to zero. The country now faces a greater threat of infections imported from overseas, which jumped by 34 on Wednesday.

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