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Weather: Rain to hit parts of the country this afternoon

The NCM also says humidity will increase by night and into Wednesday morning, especially in the north.

Tuesday will be a fair and partly cloudy day in general in the UAE, but a bright start will give way to rain lashing parts of the country in the afternoon.

This will result from clouds forming in the east and the south of the country, according to the National Center of Meteorology (NCM), which is forecasting a top temperature of 47 degrees in interior parts.

The NCM also says humidity will increase by night and into Wednesday morning, especially in the north.

The weather bureau expects it to reach up to 43 degrees in Abu Dhabi and 41 degrees in Dubai.

Light to moderate winds, freshening at times, will cause blowing dust during daytime.

Conditions will be moderate, becoming rough at times, especially westward, in the Arabian Gulf and slight to moderate in Oman Sea.

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Lebanon’s leaders warned in July about explosives: Report

PM and President were allegedly alerted to the fact that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate could destroy the city.

Lebanese security officials warned the prime minister and president last month that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port posed a security risk and could destroy the capital if it exploded, according to documents seen by Reuters and senior security sources.

Just over two weeks later, the industrial chemicals exploded in a massive blast that obliterated most of the port, killed at least 163 people, injured 6,000 more and destroyed some 6,000 buildings, according to municipal authorities.

Also read: Dangerous chemicals remain in Beirut port, French expert says

A report by the General Directorate of State Security about events leading up to the explosion included a reference to a private letter sent to President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab on July 20.

While the content of the letter was not in the report seen by Reuters, a senior security official said it summed up the findings of a judicial investigation launched in January which concluded the chemicals needed to be secured immediately.

The state security report, which confirmed the correspondence to the president and the prime minister, has not previously been reported.

“There was a danger that this material, if stolen, could be used in a terrorist attack,” the official told Reuters.

“At the end of the investigation, Prosecutor General (Ghassan) Oweidat prepared a final report which was sent to the authorities,” he said, referring to the letter sent to the prime minister and president by the General Directorate of State Security, which oversees port security.

“I warned them that this could destroy Beirut if it exploded,” said the official, who was involved in writing the letter and declined to be named.

Reuters could not independently confirm his description of the letter.

The prime minister’s office and the presidency did not respond to requests for comment about the July 20 letter.

The prosecutor general did not respond to requests for comment.

‘DO WHAT IS NECESSARY’

The correspondence could fuel further criticism and public fury that the blast is just the latest, if not most dramatic, example of the government negligence and corruption that has already pushed Lebanon to economic collapse.

As protests over the blast raged in Lebanon on Monday, Diab’s government resigned, though it will remain as a caretaker administration until a new cabinet is formed.

The rebuilding of Beirut alone is expected to cost up to $15 billion (Dh55 billion), in a country already effectively bankrupt with total banking system losses exceeding $100 billion (Dh367 billion).

Aoun confirmed last week that he had been informed about the material. He told reporters he had directed the secretary general of the supreme defence council, an umbrella group of Lebanon’s security and military agencies chaired by the president, to “do what is necessary”.

“(The state security service) said it is dangerous. I am not responsible! I don’t know where it was put and I didn’t know how dangerous it was. I have no authority to deal with the port directly. There is a hierarchy and all those who knew should have known their duties to do the necessary,” Aoun said.

Many questions remain over why the shipment of ammonium nitrate docked in Beirut in late 2013. Even more baffling is why such a huge stash of dangerous material, used in bombs and fertilisers, was allowed to remain there for so long.

The letter sent to Lebanon’s president and prime minister followed a string of memos and letters sent to the country’s courts over the previous six years by port, custom and security officials, repeatedly urging judges to order the removal of the ammonium nitrate from its position so close to the city centre.

The General Directorate of State Security’s report seen by Reuters said many requests had been submitted, without giving an exact number. It said the port’s manifest department sent several written requests to the customs directorate up until 2016 asking them to call on a judge to order the material be re-exported immediately.

“But until now, no decision has been issued over this matter. After consulting one of our chemical specialists, the expert confirmed that this material is dangerous and is used to produce explosives,” the General Directorate of State Security report said.

HAZARDOUS MATERIAL

The road to last week’s tragedy began seven years ago, when the Rhosus, a Russian-chartered, Moldovan-flagged vessel carrying ammonium nitrate from Georgia to Mozambique, docked in Beirut to try to take on extra cargo to raise the fees for passage through the Suez Canal, according to the ship’s captain.

Port authorities impounded the Rhosus on December 2013 by judicial order 2013/1031 due to outstanding debts owed to two companies that filed claims in Beirut courts, the state security report showed.

In May 2014, the ship was deemed unseaworthy and its cargo was unloaded in October 2014 and warehoused in what was known as Hangar 12. The ship sank near the port’s breakwater on Feb. 18, 2018, the security report showed.

Moldova lists the owner of the ship as Panama-based Briarwood Corp. Briarwood could not immediately be reached for comment.

In February 2015, Nadim Zwain, a judge from the Summary Affairs Court, which deals with urgent issues, appointed an expert to inspect the cargo, according to the security report.

The report said the expert concluded that the material was hazardous and, through the port authorities, requested it be transferred to the army. Reuters could not independently confirm the expert’s account.

Lebanese army command rejected the request and recommended the chemicals be transferred or sold to the privately-owned Lebanese Explosives Company, the state security report said.

The report did not say why the army had refused to accept the cargo. A security official told Reuters it was because they didn’t need it. The army declined to comment.

The explosive company’s management told Reuters it had not been interested in purchasing confiscated material and that the firm had its own suppliers and government import licences.

From then on, customs and security officials wrote to judges roughly every six months asking for the removal of the material, according to the requests seen by Reuters.

Judges and customs officials contacted by Reuters declined to comment.

A number of customs and port officials have since been detained as part of the investigation into the blast.

‘BAD STORAGE AND BAD JUDGMENT’

In January 2020, a judge launched an official investigation after it was discovered that Hangar 12 was unguarded, had a hole in its southern wall and one of its doors dislodged, meaning the hazardous material was at risk of being stolen.

In his final report following the investigation, Prosecutor General Oweidat “gave orders immediately” to ensure hangar doors and holes were repaired and security provided, a second high-ranking security official who also requested anonymity said.

On June 4, based on those orders, state security instructed port authorities to provide guards at Hangar 12, appoint a director for the warehouse and secure all the doors and repair the hole in the southern wall, according to the state security report and security officials.

The port authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“The maintenance started and (port authorities) sent a team of Syrian workers (but) there was no one supervising them when they entered to fix the holes,” the security official said.

During the work, sparks from the welding took hold and fire started to spread, the official said.

“Given that there were fireworks stored in the same hangar, after an hour a big fire was set off by the fireworks and that spread to the material that exploded when the temperature exceeded 210 degrees,” the high-ranking security official said.

The official blamed the port authorities for not supervising the repair crew and for storing fireworks alongside a vast deposit of high explosives.

Reuters could not determine what happened to the workers repairing the hangar.

“Only because the hangar faces the sea, the impact of the explosion was reduced. Otherwise all of Beirut would have been destroyed,” he said. “The issue is all about negligence, irresponsibility, bad storage and bad judgment.”

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Coronavirus: UAE hailed as a global pioneer in quest for Covid-19 vaccine

Government spokesman Al Hammadi says the UAE is driving research and studies in a bid to protect millions around the world.

Dr Omar Al Hammadi, the official spokesman for the UAE Government, on Monday announced at a media briefing the latest figures and developments in respect of Covid-19 in the UAE.

He started by saying that the number of new daily tests has reached 58,953. These tests have revealed 179 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total cases registered in the country to 62,704. All new cases are undergoing medical treatment, Al Hammadi said.

Also read: Video: 500 volunteers in 3 days join UAE Covid-19 vaccine trial at new Sharjah centre

He also announced 198 new recoveries, bringing the total number of recoveries to 56,766, while no deaths were recorded and 5,581 patients are currently receiving treatment.

Al Hammadi explained during the briefing that vaccines are an effective way to address any pandemic. He stressed that the UAE is a global pioneer in starting research and studies aimed at developing a safe and effective vaccine against Covid-19 in order to preserve the lives of millions of people around the world. 

Al Hammadi added that the vaccine process is done by injecting a dead or weak microbial material into the body in order to stimulate the immune system to produce the tools required to defend the body. Through this stimulation, the body remembers how to fight a disease in the future.

The spokesman noted that some vaccines give the body lifelong immunity, such as the measles vaccine, and some provide immunity for one year, such as the influenza vaccine. This is due to the evolution of the virus and its attack methods, which means some vaccines need to be evolved and renewed accordingly.

He indicated that the ultimate goal of vaccines is to eradicate the disease. Vaccinations have led to the complete elimination of the smallpox disease and humanity is very close to eliminating polio globally, too.

Al Hammadi said  there are vaccines against chronic diseases such as hepatitis C, cirrhosis and some cancers, while some provide protection against HIV.

Al Hammadi listed three benefits that vaccines provide to humans when it comes to infectious diseases. The main one is the protection from infection, preventing the emergence of disease symptoms when infected and the protection of transfer between the infected to the uninfected.

The spokesman answered a series of questions during the briefing, where he revealed that the increase in cases of 30 per cent during the last period is due to social visits and not following the preventive measures.

He stressed that the authorities monitor daily all the variables related to the numbers of cases across various nationalities in the country, stressing that the increase in the number of infections among citizens has been announced after this worrying indicator has been monitored, in order to preserve the health and safety of everyone.

Al Hammadi explained that some people mistakenly link the opening of markets, restaurants and commercial centres as a reason for the increase instead of the home gatherings. However, gatherings that are held in public places are monitored by the authorities and take into account all the instructions and preventive measures such as social spacing, heat detection and sterilisation, unlike household gatherings which are not monitored and preventive measures such as wearing masks are often overlooked.

With regards to the reliability of the laser blood test to diagnose Covid-19, Al Hammadi said that this type of test helps to quickly identify any changes in the blood, which may indicate infection, but does not prove it definitively. He stressed that the polymerase chain reaction test, also known as the PCR test, is the most accurate test to establish a diagnosis and recovery.

Al Hammadi explained that the immune system in the human body, once becoming infected with the virus, develops a defensive reaction that causes a change in the blood and this process takes a period of three to 10 days. The first type of defensive reaction to be produced is known as IgM, which is fast but temporary and is present in the blood. A recent infection also can mean that the person is still carrying the virus.

The spokesman added that the immune system evolves its reaction over a period of one to two weeks after infection, and produces a second type of defence, which is IgM, which constitutes sustainable or long-term immunity. Its presence in the human body can indicate a previous infection even if the individual had no symptoms. It would indicate that the individual has immunity to the virus, either because of a previous infection or because of taking a vaccination.

Al Hammadi stressed that this process means it is possible for a person to carry the virus for several days before the body develops immunity, which may take a period of one to three weeks after the infection occurs.

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UAE hailed as a global pioneer in quest for Covid-19 vaccine

Government spokesman Al Hammadi says the UAE is driving research and studies in a bid to protect millions around the world.

Dr Omar Al Hammadi, the official spokesman for the UAE Government, on Monday announced at a media briefing the latest figures and developments in respect of Covid-19 in the UAE.

He started by saying that the number of new daily tests has reached 58,953. These tests have revealed 179 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total cases registered in the country to 62,704. All new cases are undergoing medical treatment, Al Hammadi said.

Also read: Video: 500 volunteers in 3 days join UAE Covid-19 vaccine trial at new Sharjah centre

He also announced 198 new recoveries, bringing the total number of recoveries to 56,766, while no deaths were recorded and 5,581 patients are currently receiving treatment.

Al Hammadi explained during the briefing that vaccines are an effective way to address any pandemic. He stressed that the UAE is a global pioneer in starting research and studies aimed at developing a safe and effective vaccine against Covid-19 in order to preserve the lives of millions of people around the world. 

Al Hammadi added that the vaccine process is done by injecting a dead or weak microbial material into the body in order to stimulate the immune system to produce the tools required to defend the body. Through this stimulation, the body remembers how to fight a disease in the future.

The spokesman noted that some vaccines give the body lifelong immunity, such as the measles vaccine, and some provide immunity for one year, such as the influenza vaccine. This is due to the evolution of the virus and its attack methods, which means some vaccines need to be evolved and renewed accordingly.

He indicated that the ultimate goal of vaccines is to eradicate the disease. Vaccinations have led to the complete elimination of the smallpox disease and humanity is very close to eliminating polio globally, too.

Al Hammadi said  there are vaccines against chronic diseases such as hepatitis C, cirrhosis and some cancers, while some provide protection against HIV.

Al Hammadi listed three benefits that vaccines provide to humans when it comes to infectious diseases. The main one is the protection from infection, preventing the emergence of disease symptoms when infected and the protection of transfer between the infected to the uninfected.

The spokesman answered a series of questions during the briefing, where he revealed that the increase in cases of 30 per cent during the last period is due to social visits and not following the preventive measures.

He stressed that the authorities monitor daily all the variables related to the numbers of cases across various nationalities in the country, stressing that the increase in the number of infections among citizens has been announced after this worrying indicator has been monitored, in order to preserve the health and safety of everyone.

Al Hammadi explained that some people mistakenly link the opening of markets, restaurants and commercial centres as a reason for the increase instead of the home gatherings. However, gatherings that are held in public places are monitored by the authorities and take into account all the instructions and preventive measures such as social spacing, heat detection and sterilisation, unlike household gatherings which are not monitored and preventive measures such as wearing masks are often overlooked.

With regards to the reliability of the laser blood test to diagnose Covid-19, Al Hammadi said that this type of test helps to quickly identify any changes in the blood, which may indicate infection, but does not prove it definitively. He stressed that the polymerase chain reaction test, also known as the PCR test, is the most accurate test to establish a diagnosis and recovery.

Al Hammadi explained that the immune system in the human body, once becoming infected with the virus, develops a defensive reaction that causes a change in the blood and this process takes a period of three to 10 days. The first type of defensive reaction to be produced is known as IgM, which is fast but temporary and is present in the blood. A recent infection also can mean that the person is still carrying the virus.

The spokesman added that the immune system evolves its reaction over a period of one to two weeks after infection, and produces a second type of defence, which is IgM, which constitutes sustainable or long-term immunity. Its presence in the human body can indicate a previous infection even if the individual had no symptoms. It would indicate that the individual has immunity to the virus, either because of a previous infection or because of taking a vaccination.

Al Hammadi stressed that this process means it is possible for a person to carry the virus for several days before the body develops immunity, which may take a period of one to three weeks after the infection occurs.

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Video: Person shot outside White House, Trump evacuated

Minutes later, Trump reappeared at the press conference and announced that someone had been shot outside the White House grounds.

US Secret Service guards shot and wounded someone, apparently armed, outside the White House on Monday, President Donald Trump said just after being briefly evacuated in the middle of a press conference.

As the president was speaking to reporters in the White House’s briefing room, a Secret Service bodyguard abruptly interrupted, saying in a quiet voice, “Sir, could you please come with me?”

Trump and staff members left. Doors to the briefing room, still filled with journalists, were locked.

Outside, black-clad Secret Service agents with automatic rifles could be seen rushing across the lawn and took up positions behind trees. According to Fox News, whose camera team was outside, two shots were heard.

Minutes later, Trump reappeared at the press conference and announced that someone had been shot by the Secret Service outside the White House grounds.

“Law enforcement shot someone, it seems to be the suspect. And the suspect is on the way to the hospital,” he said.

The Secret Service, as is typical, gave only a terse confirmation that “there has been an officer involved shooting at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Ave.” That is one block from the White House.

– Rattled? –

Trump, a Republican who faces a tough and bitterly divisive election on November 3, said he knew nothing about the identity or motives of the person shot. “It might not have had anything to do with me,” he said.

There was no immediate precise information on what sort of threat the person allegedly posed.

But when asked if the person had been armed, Trump answered: “From what I understand, the answer is yes.”

Trump said the incident took place “on the outside” of the White House perimeter, which is currently being reinforced by a new iron fence twice the height of the previous version.

“I don’t believe anything was breached, they were relatively far away,” he added.

Returning to the podium after the disruption, Trump appeared calm. He resumed his virulent criticism of opposition Democrats and praise for his handling of the coronavirus crisis, which polls show two-thirds of Americans believe he has botched.

Questioned whether the security incident had rattled him, Trump answered: “I don’t know, do I seem rattled?”

“It’s unfortunate that this is the world, but the world’s always been a dangerous place,” he said.

– ‘Screaming’ –

Philipos Melaku, one of a small group of veteran protesters who camp out near the White House, said he had heard a shot.

“I heard a gunshot and before that I heard screaming,” he told AFP.

“It was a male voice,” he said.

“After that immediately, pointing their AR-15s, at least eight or nine men came in running.”

Trump went on to praise the US Secret Service, which is in charge of guarding the president, as “fantastic people, the best of the best.”

“I feel very safe with Secret Service,” he said. “A lot of terrific looking people ready to go if something was necessary.”

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Video: Man shot outside White House, Trump evacuated

Black-clad Secret Service agents with automatic rifles could be seen rushing across the lawn and took up positions behind trees.

US Secret Service agents shot and wounded a man who was apparently armed outside the White House on Monday, President Donald Trump said just after being briefly evacuated in the middle of a press conference.

As the president was speaking to reporters in the White House’s briefing room, a Secret Service bodyguard abruptly interrupted, saying in a quiet voice, “Sir, could you please come with me?”

Trump and staff members left. Doors to the briefing room, still filled with journalists, were locked.

Outside, black-clad Secret Service agents with automatic rifles could be seen rushing across the lawn and took up positions behind trees. According to Fox News, whose camera team was outside, two shots were heard.

Minutes later, Trump reappeared at the press conference and announced that someone had been shot by the Secret Service outside the White House grounds.

“Law enforcement shot someone, it seems to be the suspect. And the suspect is on the way to the hospital,” he said.

The Secret Service later tweeted that “a male subject” had been taken to hospital, along with an agent after “an officer involved shooting” at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue — one block from the White House.

– Rattled? –

Trump, a Republican who faces a tough and bitterly divisive election on November 3, said he knew nothing about the identity or motives of the person shot. “It might not have had anything to do with me,” he said.

There was no immediate precise information on what sort of threat the person allegedly posed.

But when asked if the person had been armed, Trump answered: “From what I understand, the answer is yes.”

Trump said the incident took place “on the outside” of the White House perimeter, which is currently being reinforced by a new iron fence twice the height of the previous version.

“I don’t believe anything was breached, they were relatively far away,” he added.

The Secret Service said that “at no time during this incident was the White House complex breached or were any protectees in danger.”

Returning to the podium after the disruption, Trump appeared calm. He resumed his virulent criticism of opposition Democrats and praise for his handling of the coronavirus crisis, which polls show two-thirds of Americans believe he has botched.

Questioned whether the security incident had rattled him, Trump answered: “I don’t know, do I seem rattled?”

“It’s unfortunate that this is the world, but the world’s always been a dangerous place,” he said.

– ‘Screaming’ –

Philipos Melaku, one of a small group of veteran protesters who camp out near the White House, said he had heard a shot.

“I heard a gunshot and before that I heard screaming,” he told AFP.

“It was a male voice,” he said.

“After that immediately, pointing their AR-15s, at least eight or nine men came in running.”

Trump went on to praise the US Secret Service, which is in charge of guarding the president, as “fantastic people, the best of the best.”

“I feel very safe with Secret Service,” he said. “A lot of terrific looking people ready to go if something was necessary.”

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Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on ventilator after brain surgery

Prior to his surgery, Mukherjee, 84, had also tested positive for coronavirus.

Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday underwent brain surgery to remove a clot at the Army Research & Referral Hospital and is on ventilator support after the procedure, sources said.

Prior to his surgery, Mukherjee, 84, had also tested positive for coronavirus.

“On a visit to the hospital for a separate procedure, I have tested positive for COVID19 today. I request the people who came in contact with me in the last week, to please self isolate and get tested for COVID-19,” he had tweeted earlier on Monday.

Soon after Mukherjee shared the news, wishes for his speedy recovery started pouring in, including from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Union Minister and Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan.

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee said, “Concerned to hear about Former President Pranab Mukherjee Da testing positive for Covid-19. My prayers are with him and his family during this time and I wish him a speedy recovery.”

Congress spokesperson and national media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala also wished the veteran leader a speedy recovery. The party’s official Twitter handle also extended its wishes for his good health.

After a long political career in which he held several top posts including that of Finance and Defence Minister, Mukherjee became President in 2012 and served till 2017.

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India plane crash: Bachelors turn homes to control rooms

Thaha Abdullah and his group of 15 friends took charge of the situation and got the list of passengers and their relatives from the airline.

Dubai resident Nazar K’s voice choked with emotion as he recalled the events last Friday when the Air India Express flight carrying his wife back to India crash-landed in Kozhikode.

He cannot forget the comforting call he received an hour or so after the crash. “I was crying inconsolably and calling my relatives in India like a mad man after I heard about the plane crash. I wanted to check if my wife was okay. No one answered the calls at the airport and my relatives waiting outside the Kozhikode had no clue.”

Just when he lost all hope, I received a call from a Dubai number inquiring about my wife. “The caller asked my name and said ‘your wife is fine; she has sustained injuries and is being taken to the hospital’. When I asked who he was, he asked me to open a Malayalam TV news channel and I couldn’t believe my eyes. A video clip rushing my wife to the hospital was repeatedly being broadcast and that gave me a chance to recognise my wife and see that she was alive.”

This is how a group of Kerala expats, mostly in their 30s, helped their compatriots – converting their bachelors’ accommodations into call centres and updating families about their loved ones. The group became a bridge to communicate, console and locate the victims and their families.

Thaha Abdullah and his group of 15 friends took charge of the situation and got the list of passengers and their relatives from the airline. In 30 minutes, the group made calls to the emergency numbers provided for all 190 passengers.

Thaha and his friends swung into action and activated their community sources, asking them to reach the Kozhikode airport to help with relief work and also to the hospitals to keep a track of the injured and deceased passengers.

“I told my friends in Malayalam media to show the injured passengers faces clearly so their relatives in UAE can see and feel comforted that their family members were okay. We decided to have a group of five friends stationed in three separate locations – Dubai, Ajman and Al Ain – and start making calls to the passengers and their relatives.

“We also called their relatives – on the emergency number provided for every passenger – and asked them if they needed any support in India or here in the UAE. We posted our friends in different hospitals and asked them to check the list of passengers being admitted there.”

Calling it Mission Karipur, Thaha said that apart from making calls and providing details to families, arranging conference calls between families about the well being of their loved ones, the group also called on their friends and acquaintances to come forward and donate blood.

Thaha, who hails from Malappuram, said he and his friends have always been on the forefront of helping his community. ” We actively participated in the UAE’s 10 Million Meals Campaign and actively helped people in Al Ras and Deira areas during the Covid lockdown.”

[email protected] 

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Video: 500 volunteers in 3 days join UAE Covid-19 vaccine trial at new Sharjah centre

Volunteers have been invited to participate in a UAE clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine at a centre outside Abu Dhabi for the first time.

The testing facility at the Al Qarayn Health Centre in Sharjah, the first Covid-19 vaccine trial centre outside Abu Dhabi, received 500 volunteers for the world’s first Phase III clinical trials of an inactivated vaccine to combat Covid-19, in the first three days after its opening.

No side effects have been reported so far among the volunteers, who hail from various nationalities, according to Dr Nour Al Muhairi, Head of Medical Services, Hospital Department of the Ministry of Health and Prevention.

Speaking to the Emirates News Agency (Wam), Al Muhairi said the targeted group of volunteers have to be free of any chronic diseases and immunodeficiency. Pregnant women can’t receive the experimental shots either.

Volunteers have been invited to sign up and participate in a UAE clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine at a centre outside Abu Dhabi for the first time.

Open daily from 8am to 8pm, Al Qarayen Health Centre has the capacity to register and screen over 500 volunteers a day and is open to residents from Sharjah and neighbouring emirates as the trials continue to gather nationwide momentum since the launch of #4Humanity campaign on July 16, 2020.

It is being managed by G42 Healthcare in partnership with MoHaP and will play a central role in facilitating procedures for registering volunteers and conducting necessary tests.

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200 Pakistanis fly home, thanks to Galadari Brothers

The special flights were arranged by Arshad Malik, CEO of PIA. The airline also offered discounted fares for the operation.

Two hundred Pakistanis, who had been stranded in the UAE for months, flew home on Monday on two special flights sponsored by Galadari Brothers.

Carrying 100 people, the Multan-bound Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK6238 took off at 9am from Sharjah International Airport, while the second one – PIA flight PK6212 – headed for Islamabad at 4pm, with the same number of passengers on board.

Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Pakistan’s Special Assistant to Prime Minister for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources Development, conveyed his gratitude to Suhail Galadari, Co-Chairman of Galadri Brothers, for providing free tickets to the Pakistanis, most of whom lost their jobs to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Suhail Galadari had made a Rs10-million pledge to sponsor the air tickets as he met Bukhari at the Khaleej Times office on July 25.

During the meeting, Suhail Galadari had also pledged to invest in the hospitality and tourism sector of Pakistan, in line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s tourism vision.

“Thank you brother Suhail Galadari for fulfilling your promise and standing with the Pakistani nation through Covid times,” tweeted Sayed Bukhari.

Ahmed Amjad Ali, the Consul-General of Pakistan in Dubai, thanked Suhail Galadari for supporting the repatriation of Pakistani nationals. The consulate’s officials distributed the air tickets to the passengers prior to their flights on Monday.

The special flights were arranged by Arshad Malik, CEO of PIA. The airline also offered discounted fares for the operation.

Khalid Malik, a reprentative of Suhail Galadari, was also at the airport to see off the passengers.

Relief for passengers

Ecstatic passengers thanked Galadari Brothers and the Pakistani mission for arranging the special flights to send them home. Most of them had either lost their jobs or their visas had expired. 

Among those who received free tickets was 37-year-old Sher Ali, who had been jobless for months and had lost all his savings during the pandemic.

“I came two years ago and worked as a labourer. When Covid-19 struck, I lost my job so I wanted to go back home. I am thankful to Galadari Brothers for giving us free ticket to head back to our families,” said Ali, who hails from Pakistani city of Swat.

Arshad Mahmood was another blue-collar worker who was finally able to heave a sigh of relief as he got his ticket home. He came in the UAE in 2017 but the company he worked for closed down a year later. Since then, he was not able to earn much for his struggling family.

“We were sleeping under the palm trees for the last few days. Though I was able to get a job offer, I had made up my mind to go home. We are really thankful to our sponsor, Galadari Brothers. We will pray for their long and healthy life,” said Mahmood.

Mohammad Ishfaq, who hails from the Pakistani city of Muzaffargarh, also lost his job to Covid-19. “I have been working here for two years. After losing my job, I approached the consulate to arrange a ticket for me. I am really thankful to the Galadari Brothers for providing us the free tickets.”

Some Pakistanis on board the flights had arrived in the UAE just a few months ago, hoping to build better lives for their families.

Akhtar Hussain, a 37-year-old from Multan, was in the country for only seven months, working for a small private company. “I lost my job after the outbreak of Covid-19. I am going back because I don’t have the money to survive. I approached the consulate and they helped me go back. I thank Galadari Brothers for providing us free tickets.”

Kashif Javed, who is in his mid-20s, came to Dubai a few months ago in search of better opportunities, however, he wasn’t able to find a job. “I came here in December on a visit visa in search of a job but couldn’t get one because of the coronavirus. I was really going through a tough time financially. But I am thankful to Galadari Brothers for providing us with free tickets to fly back home.”

Some passengers hope to return

Some of the passengers who were flown to their hometowns in Pakistan on Monday still hope that, one day, they will be able to come back to the UAE and find their fortune.

“I intend to come back and look for a good job once the situation improves. My brothers also work here so I hope to be back,” said Mohammed Nauman Aziz, 28, who had worked for an AC and fridge maintenance company for eight months. He was laid off as the firm grappled with the challenges arising from the pandemic.

Another expat, Mohammed Usman, who was an accountant at a leading UAE bank before losing his job, is also determined to return and rejoin his company after a few months.

Long-term residents, families express gratitude as they leave for good

Pakistani families who lived in the UAE for decades were among those who boarded the special flights sponsored by Galadari Brothers. And as they leave their second home for good, they have nothing but gratitude in their hearts.

Haji Muneer, who had called UAE home for over 40 years, flew back to Multan with five family members, including two sons, two daughters and his wife.

“We spent a good part of our lives in the UAE. I have no complaints. We pray for the UAE and all the people who had been our friends during our 40-year stay. May God bless them,” said Muneer, who worked as a truck driver.

Thanking Galadari Brothers, he said: “I have reached 60 years of age. Now is the time to retire. I want to thank the Galadari Brothers for providing us with the free air tickets.”

Suleiman John and his family, who were UAE residents for 10 years, said the free air tickets they received came at a time they needed them most.

Suleiman was displaced from his employment in 2018, while his wife Zeba, who worked as a staff nurse, was made redundant during the pandemic.

“We were short of food and struggling to pay rent, but Galadari Brothers and the Pakistan consulate provided us the tickets to go back. This is a really big effort. I’ll always be thankful on behalf of my family,” added John.

“Whatever time we spent in Dubai was a memorable one, but Covid-19 affected our kids’ education,” said Zeba, John’s wife.

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Three school reopening models but one goal: Safety

David Cook, headmaster of Repton School Dubai, said they will be able to offer classes to all students, all day.

All set for reopening, schools in the UAE have finalised the learning models they will be implementing for the upcoming academic year. Some will have all students on campus every day, while a number will carry out more online classes. The rest have said they will have an equal number of students opting for both remote and in-classroom learning.

Whether its ‘open to every pupil every day’ or the blended approach, safety has been the top priority for all these campuses. Schools have carefully tailored precautionary measures to the learning models they have chosen. Khaleej Times reached out to school leaders to understand what they are offering at the beginning of the academic year.

David Cook, headmaster of Repton School Dubai, said they will be able to offer classes to all students, all day.

“A modest number of pupils have requested on medical grounds to receive support via distance learning and we are able to meet these requests,” he said. Younger students will also have staggered drop-off and pick-up timings, which will slightly modify their school day schedules.

The English College will also be implementing the ‘open every day for every pupil’ approach. Mark Ford, principal of the school, said: “We have received approval and are planning for 100 per cent of our students to be in school full time on August 30, in a safe and secure learning environment.

“So far, the initial response from our parents has been very positive; the parents are delighted their children will be back into class and face-to-face learning and grateful for the work the school has done in making this happen.”

Horizon English School aims to have every student on campus daily, too. Its headmaster Ian Wallace said: “All grades will be in school and we have staggered timings for specific year groups.”

All institutions are expected to adhere to health and safety protocols, which allow no more than 10 per class in the foundation school. In the older year groups, a 1.5m social distancing rule must be applied.

Distance learning choice

In a number of surveys that polled parents, some schools took note of apprehensions for in-person learning. In Gulf Model School (GMS) in Dubai, majority of students are opting for e-learning.

Annie Mathew, principal of GMS, said: “Our survey results show that a majority of parents would like to continue with distance learning, especially in lower grades. So, our school is offering both on-site and online learning options.”

International School of Creative Science-Nad Al Sheba is also ready to provide distance learning classes. Ataullah Parker, the school’s principal, said: “We are offering blended learning and 100 per cent distance learning to parents. We recognise that some parents would like to opt for the provision of 100 per cent distance learning and we are working closely with them to cater to their requirements.”

Blended learning

Most schools, however, are opting for a hybrid model. Punit MK Vasu, CEO of The Indian High Group of Schools, said: “When the school reopens after the summer break, we will move into a hybrid model where all students will benefit from a unique mix of onsite face-to-face (FTF) and online Distance Learning (DL) sessions. We will support coherent weekly transitions between in-school and distance learning.”

Many campuses will also have half of its students attend an ‘AM’ shift (8am to 11.30am) and the other a ‘PM’ shift (11.30am to 3pm). Institutions may offer one side of the school building for classes, giving schools an opportunity to deeply sanitise facilities.

Zoe Woolley, headmistress of Foremarke School, said they are well aware of parents’ hesitation. “We would encourage all children to return to campus. However, there is provision in place for those who have requested to stay off site for various reasons. These families will also have additional support from the pastoral team.”

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Lebanon government resigns after deadly Beirut blast

The cabinet had already been under pressure to step down over last week’s explosion that killed 163 people.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced on Monday the resignation of his government after a powerful Beirut port explosion sparked public uproar against the country’s leaders.

Diab, in a televised speech, said the detonation of highly-explosive material warehoused at the port in the capital for the last seven years was “the result of endemic corruption”.

“Today we follow the will of the people in their demand to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster that has been in hiding for seven years, and their desire for real change,” he said. “In the face of this reality … I am announcing today the resignation of this government.”

The cabinet had already been under pressure to step down over last week’s explosion that killed 163 people, wounded some 6,000 and left around 300,000 without habitable housing. Several ministers had already resigned over the weekend.

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Air India Express crash: Bachelors turn dwellings to control rooms to help plane crash victims, relatives

Thaha Abdullah and his group of 15 friends took charge of the situation and got the list of passengers and their relatives from the airline.

Dubai resident Nazar K’s voice choked with emotion as he recalled the events last Friday when the Air India Express flight carrying his wife back to India crash-landed in Kozhikode.

He cannot forget the comforting call he received an hour or so after the crash. “I was crying inconsolably and calling my relatives in India like a mad man after I heard about the plane crash. I wanted to check if my wife was okay. No one answered the calls at the airport and my relatives waiting outside the Kozhikode had no clue.”

Just when he lost all hope, I received a call from a Dubai number inquiring about my wife. “The caller asked my name and said ‘your wife is fine; she has sustained injuries and is being taken to the hospital’. When I asked who he was, he asked me to open a Malayalam TV news channel and I couldn’t believe my eyes. A video clip rushing my wife to the hospital was repeatedly being broadcast and that gave me a chance to recognise my wife and see that she was alive.”

This is how a group of Kerala expats, mostly in their 30s, helped their compatriots – converting their bachelors’ accommodations into call centres and updating families about their loved ones. The group became a bridge to communicate, console and locate the victims and their families.

Thaha Abdullah and his group of 15 friends took charge of the situation and got the list of passengers and their relatives from the airline. In 30 minutes, the group made calls to the emergency numbers provided for all 190 passengers.

Thaha and his friends swung into action and activated their community sources, asking them to reach the Kozhikode airport to help with relief work and also to the hospitals to keep a track of the injured and deceased passengers.

“I told my friends in Malayalam media to show the injured passengers faces clearly so their relatives in UAE can see and feel comforted that their family members were okay. We decided to have a group of five friends stationed in three separate locations – Dubai, Ajman and Al Ain – and start making calls to the passengers and their relatives.

“We also called their relatives – on the emergency number provided for every passenger – and asked them if they needed any support in India or here in the UAE. We posted our friends in different hospitals and asked them to check the list of passengers being admitted there.”

Calling it Mission Karipur, Thaha said that apart from making calls and providing details to families, arranging conference calls between families about the well being of their loved ones, the group also called on their friends and acquaintances to come forward and donate blood.

Thaha, who hails from Malappuram, said he and his friends have always been on the forefront of helping his community. ” We actively participated in the UAE’s 10 Million Meals Campaign and actively helped people in Al Ras and Deira areas during the Covid lockdown.”

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Lebanon government quits amid fury over Beirut blast

The cabinet had already been under pressure to step down over last week’s explosion that killed 163 people.

Lebanon’s prime minister announced his government’s resignation on Monday, saying a huge explosion that tore through Beirut and caused public outrage was the result of endemic corruption.

While the move by Prime Minister Hassan Diab attempted to respond to popular anger about the August 4 blast, many Lebanese calling for a complete overhaul of the political establishment will not be placated.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged the swift formation of a new government, saying people’s hopes for reform and governance needed to be heard.

The detonation at a port warehouse of what authorities said was more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate killed at least 163 people, injured more than 6,000 and destroyed swathes of the Mediterranean capital, compounding months of political and economic meltdown.

“Today we follow the will of the people in their demand to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster that has been in hiding for seven years, and their desire for real change,” Diab said in a speech announcing the resignation.

The resignation plunged Lebanese politics deeper into turmoil and may further hamper already-stalled talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a financial rescue plan.

The talks, launched in May, were put on hold due to inaction on reforms and a row between the government, banks and politicians over the scale of vast financial losses.

Diab said corruption did not stop at Beirut port but was “spread throughout the country’s political and administrative landscape” under the protection of a “class controlling the fate” of the country.

President Michel Aoun asked Diab’s government – formed in January with support from the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its allies – to stay as a caretaker until a new cabinet is formed.

Ahead of Diab’s announcement, demonstrations broke out for a third day in central Beirut, with some protesters hurling rocks at security forces guarding an entrance leading to parliament, who responded with tear gas.

PRESSURE

For many ordinary Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, corruption, waste and dysfunctional governance, and they have taken to the streets demanding root-and-branch change.

“The entire regime needs to change. It will make no difference if there is a new government,” Joe Haddad, a Beirut engineer, told Reuters. “We need quick elections.”

The system of government requires Aoun to consult with parliamentary blocs on who should be the next prime minister, and he is obliged to designate the candidate with the greatest level of support among parliamentarians.

Forming a government amid factional rifts has been daunting in the past. Now with growing public discontent with the ruling elite over the blast and a crushing financial crisis, it could be difficult to find a candidate willing to be prime minister.

After former premier Saad Hariri stepped down in Oct. 2019 amid anti-government protests over perceived corruption, it took over two months to form Diab’s government.

Diab said on Saturday he would request early parliamentary elections.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Aoun has said explosive material was stored unsafely for years at the port. In later comments, he said the investigation would consider whether the cause was external interference as well as negligence or an accident.

The cabinet decided to refer the investigation of the blast to the judicial council, the highest legal authority whose rulings cannot be appealed, a ministerial source and state news agency NNA said. The council usually handles top security cases.

Lebanese, meanwhile, are struggling to come to terms with the scale of losses after the blast wrecked entire areas.

“The economy was already a disaster and now I have no way of making money again,” said Eli Abi Hanna, whose house and car repair shop were destroyed. “It was easier to make money during the civil war. The politicians and the economic disaster have ruined everything.”

The Lebanese army said on Monday that another five bodies were pulled from the rubble, raising the death toll to 163. Search and rescue operations continued.

Anti-government protests in the past two days have been the biggest since October, when angry demonstrations spread over an economic crisis rooted in pervasive graft, mismanagement and high-level unaccountability.

An international donor conference on Sunday raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros (Dh1.1 billion) for immediate humanitarian relief, but foreign countries are demanding transparency over how the aid is used.

Some Lebanese doubt change is possible in a country where sectarian politicians have dominated since the 1975-90 conflict.

“It won’t work, it’s just the same people. It’s a mafia,” said Antoinette Baaklini, an employee of an electricity company that was demolished in the blast.

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Indians with ‘any valid visa’ can now travel to UAE

Previously, only residency visa holders were allowed to travel to the country.

Indian nationals with any type of valid UAE visa can now travel to the country, India’s Ambassador to the UAE has said.

Taking to Twitter on Monday, Ambassador Pavan Kapoor referred to an Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation notification, “as per which both Indian and UAE airlines” can carry Indian nationals holding any type of visa from India to the UAE.

Previously, only residency visa holders were allowed to travel to the country on flights being operated as part of India’s repatriation mission called Vande Bharat.

Last week, the ambassador had said: “Since the UAE has recently started issuing new visas, we have recommended to authorities in India to consider allowing Indians with valid visas to travel to the UAE. We are hopeful for an early decision.”

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Indian nationals holding any valid visa can now travel to UAE

The news brings a welcome respite to scores of Indian expatriates, especially parents of varsity-going students in the UAE.

Now, Indian nationals holding any valid visa can travel to the UAE, Indian envoy to the UAE announced late Monday evening.

The Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor took to Twitter to announce, “Very pleased to see the Ministry of Civil Aviation (India) notification this evening as per which both Indian and UAE airlines can now carry any Indian national holding any type of valid UAE visa from India to UAE.”

The news brings a welcome respite to scores of Indian expatriates, especially parents of varsity-going students in the UAE, who have been stranded in India since March.

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Air India Express crash: Man can’t attend funeral of wife, daughter due to quarantine

Luckily, his 10-year-old son Yadhudev survived the crash and is admitted at the Aster MIMS Hospital in Calicut

Muraleedharan, an AC technician based in Ras Al Khaimah who lost his wife Remya and five-year-old daughter Shivathmika in the plane crash at Kozhikode international airport two days back, won’t be able to attend their funeral rites – to be held on August 16 – since he is undergoing a 14-day quarantine after flying down to Calicut.

Luckily, his 10-year-old son Yadhudev survived the crash and is admitted at the Aster MIMS Hospital in Calicut where he underwent a surgery and is recuperating. But Muraleedharan cannot visit him at the hospital due to the mandatory quarantine.

Speaking to Khaleej Times over the phone from Kozhikide, a relative of Remya said: “Muraleedharan flew to Calicut the very next day of the crash as he was unable to get information about his wife and kids. It was only upon reaching here that he was told that his wife and daughter were no more. He has been inconsolable ever since and numbed with disbelief. He has stopped talking to anyone and doesn’t take calls. Although he is very worried about his son, Muraleedharan cannot see him in the hospital.”

The relative said that due to grave financial conditions because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Muraleedharan decided to send his family, who had been living with him in RAK for some years now, back to their hometown Kakkatil, a Kozhikode district, where they could continue with their school education comfortably, while getting family support as Remya’s parents also reside there.

He added: “The sad part is that although Muraleedharan flew in the very next day of the plane crash to be with his family, he will not be able to be part of the funeral rites of his wife and daughter since he has been quarantined.”

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Combating coronavirus: UAE calls on more volunteers to take part in Covid-19 vaccine trial

In the face of infectious diseases, the vaccine can provide great services, including protection from infection or preventing its symptoms.

UAE authorities have renewed their call for volunteers to take part in the phase 3 trial of the Covid-19 vaccine.

During the virtual press briefing on Monday, Dr Omar Al Hammadi, the UAE Government spokesperson, said the ongoing vaccine trial in the country is a humanitarian work and the government is hopeful it will be successful and help eradicate the pandemic.

“The ultimate goal of finding a vaccine is to completely eradicate the disease,” he said. “Humans have succeeded in completely eradicating smallpox using the vaccine. Vaccines have also succeeded in eliminating polio to some extent and the world is close to getting rid of it.”

Al Hammadi noted that some vaccines, such as that for measles, create long-term immunity to the human body whereas others, like that of influenza, create short-term immunity. “When the virus tries to change its composition and attack, it requires developing a new vaccine or renewing it,” he added.

In the face of infectious diseases, the vaccine can provide great services, including protection from infection or preventing its symptoms, and reducing complications. “Some of the vaccines reduce the chances of microbes transmission from the infected person to the recipient of the vaccine,” said Al Hammadi.

Explaining the laser-based technology test, the official said Covid-19 antibody testing is a blood test that reveals if a person had a past infection of the virus. “It doesn’t determine if he is currently infected with Covid-19. The PCR is currently the most effective and approved test to diagnosis a Covid-19 infection,” he said.

Al Hammadi said the recent increase in Covid-19 cases in the UAE was associated with social and family gatherings. “Unlike people’s behaviour at public places, which is subject to mandatory measures like social distancing and wearing masks, private and family gatherings are not,” he said.

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UAE visit visa holders relieved as grace period is announced

Scores of applicants, travel agencies relieved as extension will give them time to rectify status.

Holders of expired visit and tourist visas were relieved after an additional ‘one-month extension’ of the grace period was announced by the UAE on Monday, August 10

The Federal Authority of Identity and Citizenship in the UAE announced a month-long extension of grace period on visit visas that expired after March 1. The one-month additional grace period is to start on August 11, which was the initially announced deadline for these visit visa holders.

The new announcement allows visit visa holders to either leave the country of change their status without paying overstay fines for month, starting August 11.

According to Amer Centres Khaleej Times reached out to, the visitors would have to pay Dh200 for the first day of overstay to Dh100 for every following day.

The announcement came as a huge relief for visitors stuck in a limbo in the UAE since scores of visit visa holders had waited till the last minute to rectify their status. Travel agents have urged applicants to not wait till the last-moment to make the applications.

Huge rush at travel agencies, typing centres

Travel agencies and typing centres were experiencing a huge rush, caused by a surge of last-minute applicants trying to rectify their status. “We received a huge surge of last-minute applications. Usually, visit visa approvals come through in a matter of minutes or a maximum of one day. Due to the huge volume of applications, it has been taking a lot more time,” said Afi Ahmed, Managing Director of Smart Travels.

More applicants have decided to stay back and renew their visa status instead of booking flights to return home, he added. “Many had waited until the last minute to change their visa status. We have had at least 3,000 applications in the last two days, mostly from Indian, Filipino, and Pakistani nationals,” said Ahmed.

Rashid Abbas, Managing Director of Arooha Tours and Travels, also said they received hundreds of last-minute applications. “A two-step procedure is being followed to rectify the visa status. First, they have to apply for a new visa and the next step is to change status.”

People must complete it as soon as possible now, and not wait for the last minute.”

Enough time to apply

Sudheesh TP, general manager of Deira Travels, said that people now have enough time to change their status.

“We are witnessing three categories of people. The first group are wary of the deadlines and wanted to renew their visas immediately while the second group waited till the last minute to change their visa status. The third category couldn’t afford to pay for the renewal or buy tickets to their home countries. Such distressed cases were in the hope that they will be offered a last-minute grace period and it has now come true,” he said.

“Many applications we received were from Indian nationals to change their status or return home. Those on visit visas were given preference by the Indian government to return on the Vande Bharat Mission flights since May,” added Sudheesh.

Meanwhile, Neeraj Agarwal, consul press, information and culture at the Consulate-General of India in Dubai, said: “Flights were busy in the last week. At least 4,000 to 5,000 passengers returned on Vande Bharat Mission and other repatriation flights in the past five days.”

Over 300,000 Indians have returned to India from the UAE since the launch of the mission in May, added Agarwal.

Documents needed to apply for a new visa:

>Passport copy: front, back page
>Photo
>Last visa copy

Cost

In Dubai, the charges being levied for a three-month visa renewal is Dh 1,834. The application charge is Dh 1276, and after approval, it is Dh 558 for changing status.

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IPL 2020 to be staged in UAE after BCCI gets govt clearance

It is not the first time that the competition will be held outside India. The 2009 edition took place in South Africa as it coincided with India’s elections.

This year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) will take place between Sept. 19 and Nov. 10 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after the Indian cricket board (BCCI) received government clearance, the Twenty20 league’s chairman Brijesh Patel confirmed on Monday.

The league was originally scheduled to begin in late March but had to be put off because of the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving the BCCI staring at a potential $534 million loss in revenue.

But Patel confirmed to Reuters via a text message that the T20 league had now received formal approval from the Indian government to proceed.

It is not the first time that the popular competition will be held outside India, with the 2009 edition taking place in South Africa as it coincided with India’s elections.

The UAE hosted the early matches of the tournament five years later for the same reason.