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Philippines announces travel restrictions on flyers from UAE

Filipinos from UAE will need to serve a 14-day quarantine even if they have a negative Covid result.

Filipinos flying home from the UAE will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival – even if they test negative in the RT-PCR Covid-19 test, the Philippine government has announced.

The new travel rule shall take effect from January 17, 12.01am, Manila time. It will remain in place until January 31, according to a statement issued by the office of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday.

The expats will have to stay in a quarantine facility during the two-week period.

The announcement came as the Philippines updated its travel rules as part of efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 and its new variants.

Under the new rule, foreign travellers (non-Filipinos) from the UAE and all the other countries covered shall not be allowed entry until the end of January, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

All unaccompanied minor Filipino citizens “shall not be allowed boarding by the airlines until January 31, 2021, except minors returning through the repatriation programme of the national government,” he added.

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Video: Dubai to get London-style taxis soon

The new taxi is characterised by a semi-curved shape and black colour that mimic the iconic London Cab.

The Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) is all set to launch the ‘London Taxi’ service that will use hybrid (electricity and fuel) cabs.

The new taxi is characterised by a semi-curved shape and black colour that mimic the iconic London Cab operating in the British capital. The DTC will start trialling the vehicle this February and the service will be available at the Dubai International Airport.

Design

Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), made this announcement during a visit to the DTC. He reviewed the performance indicators of the corporation in 2020 as well as the projects to be undertaken this year.

He was briefed on the interior features of the London Taxi, which has a unique and roomy interior that offers riders a wide space and six seats in a separate cabin.

The design serves the needs of people of determination as well. The taxi is fitted with a satellite-based navigation, voice command, forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning systems, in addition to a Wi-Fi network.

It has a dual engine for better control of the vehicle under different climate conditions. It also has accelerated braking system and a battery that just needs 30 minutes to recharge using the fast charging feature, and three hours using the regular charging one.

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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: 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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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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Gen Pervez Musharraf’s mother passes away in Dubai

Pakistan COAS condoles death of Zareen Musharraf.

Former Pakistan president and chief of army staff General (r) Pervez Musharraf’s mother Zareen Musharraf passed away on Friday. She was 100.

General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan Chief of Army Staff, expressed his heartfelt condolences on the passing of the mother of General (r) Musharraf.

Begum Zareen was born in the early 1920s, grew up in Lucknow and received her schooling there, after which she graduated from Indraprastha College at Delhi University, taking a bachelor’s degree in English literature, Ary News reported.

She had earlier been hospitalised in the UAE after suffering from respiratory issues.

The former president is also undergoing treatment in Dubai.

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Badminton: Dubai girl among world’s top 10 junior players

If the year 2020 had not played havoc with our lives, Tanisha could have jumped even higher in junior world rankings

After a raging pandemic robbed her of the chance to play top-notch badminton last year, the New Year has given Dubai’s very own Tanisha Crasto a shot in the arm.

No, it’s not the vaccine that has injected fresh hope in her journey as a young shuttler.

What greeted Tanisha with a beautiful surprise was the latest world junior badminton rankings. And this 17-year-old student from the Indian High School, Dubai, could not stop smiling when she saw the latest world junior rankings that put her name on the ninth place in the girls doubles category – a massive jump from her 25th place in the previous rankings.

“It’s a really great feeling because it’s not the India ranking, it’s the world junior ranking. Of course, I am very happy and my parents are also very happy,” Tanisha, who has already represented India in two junior world championships, told Khaleej Times over phone from Hyderabad.

“It has really motivated me. I think it gives me the confidence that if I can get this rank at the junior level, I can also do very well at the senior level. So I think this has motivated me to train harder and work harder.”

If the year 2020 had not played havoc with our lives, Tanisha could have jumped even higher in junior world rankings.

“For sure, I think if the 2020 was a normal year with the regular tournaments, my ranking would have been in the top five because just before all the Covid-19 situation, we won many international events. It was like a peak for us, you know, we were like on a winning spree,” said Tanisha who partnered Aditi Bhatt until last year.

“I think we were playing really well at that time, so I am pretty sure if we had played more tournaments, we would have won more and our ranking would have been better.”

Tanisha is now in quarantine at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy, having arrived in Hyderabad on Thursday. She will be able to join her training partners only after following all the protocols.

“I had gone to Dubai just before the lockdown. I stayed back with my parents in Dubai, it helped in a way as I was able to prepare for my 12th board exam. Now I will be in Hyderabad until February end. I have to be back in Dubai in March for my practical exams. Then I will fly back to Hyderabad in June and prepare for my transition to senior level.”

It was only last year that Tanisha was picked by the Badminton Association of India for the Sports Authority of India’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme – a scheme to groom a select group of young Indian athletes for 2024 and 2028 Olympics Games.

Now with a busy international schedule awaiting her, Tanisha has decided to take the jab.

“I have applied for the vaccine, but I have to wait until I turn 18 in May,” she said.

“My family and I decided that it would be better for me take the vaccine because I would be travelling a lot for tournaments. And also, I am planning to move into the senior level this year. So the vaccine will make it so much easier for me to travel for all the big events.”