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SCCI Discusses Strengthening Economic Relations With Karnataka

The Sharjah Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI) has reviewed means of enhancing economic, investment, and commercial relations and expanding the prospects of cooperation with the Indian State of Karnataka.

This came during the meeting which was held recently at the SCCI premises between Abdullah Sultan Al Owais, Chairman of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and Perikal M Sundar, President of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FKCCI).

Senior officials from both sides were also present during the meeting, including Mohammed Rashid Al-Dimas, SCCI board member, Mohammad Ahmed Amin Al-Awadi, SCCI Director-General, and Dr. Kiran Kumar, Director of FKCCI.

The meeting touched on some topics of mutual interest, including strengthening commercial, investment, and industrial relations between Sharjah and Karnataka and expanding the prospects of cooperation between the Sharjah Chamber and the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce & Industry to help the private sector in both countries take better advantage of the available investment opportunities.

“The bilateral relations between the UAE and India are a deeply-rooted one and are based on mutual respect and common interests in several fields, especially the economic field,” said Abdullah Sultan Al Owais.

He pointed out that the UAE is one of India’s largest trade partners in the middle East, while India is the UAE’s first trade partner, stressing the Chamber’s eagerness to explore opportunities for investment in Karnataka’s emerging export sectors.

In turn, Perikal M Sundar lauded the solid and long-standing relations between India and the UAE, and Sharjah and Karnataka in particular, explaining that the meeting seeks to boost bilateral cooperation and to take the commercial and business ties to new heights through investment inflows and partnerships between both sides.

COVID-19 Safety Protocols Are Vital For A Return To Schools

Parents in the UAE will grapple with fear and relief when their children return to schools on January 3rd after the winter break. Fear of exposure to new coronavirus will be on their minds as the pandemic continues to rage worldwide, said a UAE daily.

In an editorial on Sunday, the Gulf News said, “The arrival of a new strain in the United Kingdom only amplifies the fears. There’s relief too since many parents have been stressed by juggling work-from-home and supervising distance learning of their children.”

It added, “Parents worry, that’s normal. But fear can’t be allowed to rule our lives. Classroom teaching is integral to the development of a child. If COVID-19 safety protocols are followed, there’s no reason for concern. Schools in Dubai had reopened in August after several months of distance learning imposed by the spread of coronavirus. The safety protocols chalked out by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) helped Dubai schools to offer blended learning (a mixture of classroom teaching and online classes). And parents had the option of choosing distance learning.

“All this worked out well, and the students went away for the winter break. This should be good news for the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge as they prime the schools in the UAE capital for reopening in the new year.

Advisories have gone out on the options for parents and students. All advisories stress on safety and the need to safeguard the health of students.

“Safety from the virus is linked to behaviour and hygiene. So when classes resume, it’s prudent to follow the safety protocols diligently. Staff and support staff at schools must ensure that pupils do not ignore the safety measures. Children need constant reminders of the dangers of lurking pathogens. And that’s important to continue classroom learning in the time of coronavirus.

“Classroom learning cannot be substituted by online classes. One Physics teacher lamented the absence of classroom teaching, saying that she’s unable to show live experiments to students. Live experiments reinforce the understanding of the principles in Physics. Students miss the visual cues of teachers during distance learning, and teachers are unable to gauge how well the pupils have understood the topics.”

The Dubai-based daily concluded by saying, “In schools, learning is not limited to classrooms. Pupils learn from each other, and social interaction is essential for developing the mind and body. The role of physical education too shouldn’t be underestimated. There’s every reason for students to return to classrooms. But parents should be comfortable with that. The arrival of vaccines should put their minds at rest.”

MBR Creative Sports Award Develops Plans To Contribute To The Return Of Sports Activities

The board of Trustees of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award, which is a Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiative, has thanked the country’s wise leadership for the support they provided to the different segments of the community, as well as to different countries in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made 2020 a challenging year in every sphere of life, including sports.

The Board of Trustees also confirmed the implementation of the directives of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of Dubai Executive Council and patron of the award, and H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the National Olympic Committee and Chairman of the Award, in developing action plans and launching initiatives that contribute to the return of sports activities and provides a platform for athletes to improve their levels and aim for the podium at different international tournaments, especially with the Tokyo Olympics taking place this summer.

This came during the 29th meeting of the Board of Trustees, which was held virtually via video conferencing. Mattar Al Tayer, Vice Chairman of Dubai Sports Council and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Award, headed the meeting, which was also attended by Khalid Ali bin Zayed, Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and the members of the Board, including Dr.

Hassan Moustafa, Dr. Khalifa Al Shaali, Mustapha Larfaoui, Moaza Al Marri, Secretary-General of the Award, Ahmed Alosaymi, Muna Busamra, and Nasser Aman Al Rahma, Director of the Award.

Al Tayer emphasised that this meeting comes after a year of challenges that faced the world in general and sports in particular, putting the world of sports on hiatus around the globe. However, the award, he said, encourages and enables the creative athletes to achieve their accomplishments by instilling a spirit of creativity, and through cooperation with various sports institutions, international federations, and Olympic and Paralympic committees.

Participants at the meeting also reviewed reports of the standing committees of the award, namely the Technical Committee, the Arbitration Committee, the Communication and Marketing Committee, as well as plans to organise different events during the lead up to the Award Ceremony, which will be held in January, 2022.

Gibraltar In New Lockdown As Virus Cases Soar

Gibraltar on Saturday imposed a second lockdown to slow soaring rate of virus cases, just days after a landmark deal to ensure post-Brexit fluidity along its border with Spain.

The measure, beginning at 10:00 pm (2100 GMT) Saturday, will remain in force for 14 days meaning Gibraltar’s 34,000 residents can only leave home for essential shopping, to work, exercise or for medical reasons.

Over the past month, the number of cases in this tiny British enclave at the southern tip of Spain has more than doubled, rising to 2,304, up from 1,035 cases on December 2, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said.

“The numbers of new infections with COVID-19 in our community are remarkably high and concerning,” he told a news conference, saying the virus was spreading “more quickly than we can control it”.

Officials are concerned that the soaring rate of infections may be linked to the new coronavirus variant which emerged in the UK in November although so far, Gibraltar has only confirmed one such case.

“The behaviour of the virus with such massive infectivity suggests that we are seeing the new, more infectious variant at play here. But we cannot confirm that genetically,” Picardo said.

Gibraltar only registered its first death from Covid-19 on November 11, but that figure has now risen to seven.

Despite its proximity to hard-hit Spain, which has counted nearly 2 million cases and over 50,000 deaths, Gibraltar has not imposed any restrictions on its border which is crossed daily by 15,000 workers.

Although the frontier will remain open, movement will be restricted to essential work or medical reasons.

Gibraltar is set to roll out its vaccination programme on January 9 using the Pfizer vaccine.

The lockdown came two days after London and Madrid reached an agreement that will see Gibraltar included in the European Schengen zone to keep movement fluid on its border in a landmark deal just hours shy of the final Brexit deadline.

Hundreds Booked For Covid Violations As Mass French NYE Rave Ends

Hundreds of revellers were booked for breaking coronavirus restrictions as an illegal rave in northwestern France ended on Saturday after more than two days of partying that saw clashes with police.

Police had failed to stop the underground event, which drew around 2,500 people from Thursday night in two disused warehouses in Lieuron, south of the city of Rennes in Brittany.

Such mass gatherings are banned across France to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and a nationwide 8:00 pm curfew — which was not lifted for New Year — has been in force across the country.

Techno music blared out during the night from the warehouses, which had been transformed into illegal nightclubs for partygoers who had flocked to the site from across France and even from abroad.

The local prefecture said Saturday the music had been switched off and sound systems dismantled after two nights, and the first revellers began leaving the site before dawn.

By 10:15 am it was under the control of police, the local prefecture said.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a tweet that police had booked more than 1,200 people and seized a truck, sound equipment and generators from the site of the “illegal rave party.” The large police presence at the site had led to the break-up of the event “without violence”, he added.

The regional prefect, Emmanuel Berthier, said 800 people had been booked specifically for coronavirus-related offences such as failing to respect the curfew restrictions or wear masks, or for participating in an illegal assembly.

Police fined several hundred others for use of narcotics, he told reporters.

– ‘We had to party’ – Police on access roads were checking all those leaving the site, on foot or in vehicles, using torches to check their eyes for signs of drugs use, an AFP photographer said.

Police reinforcements continued to arrive and close off the site in a calm atmosphere Saturday morning, the photographer said.

“It’s been a year since we could do anything,” said 24-year-old partygoer Antoine.

The salesman was part of a group of five from Brittany that attended the rave.

With drawn faces but with beers still in their hands, the group said they “had come to celebrate the 31st here because it was a huge party”.

“We knew what we were risking… we had to party, for a year everything has been stuck,” said one of the group, a 20-year-old waitress.

Alexis, a 22-year-old baker, said “at one point you say to yourself: ‘I am going to force my New Year’.” He added that the rave had even been reported in the New York Times, saying “it was the biggest party of the year”.

– ‘Lives in danger’ – French authorities have been worried about mass rave parties throughout the pandemic, but New Year’s Eve was a particular concern.

On Thursday night the police had tried to “prevent the event but faced fierce hostility from many partygoers” who set one of their cars on fire and threw bottles and stones, the prefecture said Friday.

First aid workers had distributed hand gel and masks at the event to try and limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The regional health authority in Brittany noted the “high risk of the spread of Covid-19” at the event, and called on those who took part to undergo coronavirus tests and self-isolate immediately for seven days.

The prefecture said in a tweet that a testing centre had been set up in a gymnasium in Lieuron.

“They have put their lives in danger, their health, they must now protect those around them,” it said.

The organisers of the party are still being sought, local police said, and an investigation has been launched.

The French government, facing the threat of a new wave of Covid-19 infections, announced on Friday it was extending its overnight curfew by two hours in 15 regions to help combat the virus, starting it at 6:00 pm instead of 8.

The country recorded around 20,000 new cases and 133 deaths on Friday, bringing the total number of fatalities to almost 64,800.

Five Women Killed Children Wounded In Yemen Wedding Hall Blast

Five women were killed and children were among the wounded when a projectile exploded at a New Year’s Day wedding party in Yemen’s Red Sea city of Hodeida, the latest atrocity in the war-torn nation.

The government and Huthi rebels blamed each other for the suspected artillery shell attack Friday night near Hodeida’s airport, a frontline between their forces on the edge of the key Huthi-held port.

It came just two days after at least 26 people were killed in blasts that rocked the airport of the southern city of Aden as government ministers got off a plane there.

In Hodeida, “the explosion struck at the entrance to a complex of several wedding halls”, a witness told AFP, as a party was being held for a newly-married rebel supporter.

Local officials said five women were killed, and children were among the seven others wounded, when the shell hit the wedding venue.

General Sadek Douid, the government representative in a UN-sponsored joint commission overseeing a truce, condemned it as “an odious crime committed by the Huthis against civilians”.

Hodeida’s Huthi-appointed governor, Mohammed Ayache, said on Al-Masirah television, that “the forces of aggression never hesitate to blame others for their crimes”.

The Huthis called for an international investigation into the explosion, their news agency said.

Niger Presidential Favourite Wins First Round Heads For Runoff

Ruling party candidate and former minister Mohamed Bazoum won the first round of Niger’s presidential vote, the electoral commission announced on Saturday, with a runoff set for next month.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said the close ally of outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou garnered 39.33 percent of the votes in last weekend’s election.

Bazoum will face former president Mahamane Ousmane, who won 16.99 percent, in the February 20 runoff in the West African country, which is fighting a bloody jihadist insurgency.

Former prime ministers Seini Oumarou and Albade Abouba came third and fourth respectively with 8.95 percent and 7.07 percent of the ballots.

Turnout reached 69.67 percent or 5.2 million of the 7.4 million registered voters, CENI said, in an election hoped to be the country’s first peaceful handover between elected presidents.

Bazoum, who has been both interior and foreign minister, campaigned on promises of improved security and education.

The 61-year-old was the favourite and had hoped to clinch victory in the first round. But he will now likely have to join forces with one or more of the other 29 candidates who ran in Sunday’s election.

Before the vote, Ousmane clinched a deal with several rivals to back him in a second round, including former foreign minister Ibrahim Yacouba, who came in fifth with 5.38 percent.

Negotiations are likely to be complex in the former French colony, where alliances are made and broken quickly.

Issoufou had received support from Yacouba in 2016, the president rewarding him with a ministerial post. But Yacouba was sacked just two years later over “disloyalty” and went into the opposition.

On Saturday Yacouba cast doubt on the ballot, saying that CENI had given turnout rates of “97.8 percent or even 99.9 percent in areas were this is unimaginable”.

Medics Warn Of Coronavirus catastrophe In Lebanon

Lebanon’s hospitals are being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases, medics warned Saturday, as infection rates surge in the wake of end of year holidays.

The national Covid-19 task force met Saturday and recommended a three-week lockdown, its head Petra Khoury said, a decision supported by the parliamentary health committee.

Lebanon, with a population of around six million, has recorded 183,888 coronavirus cases, including 1,466 deaths, since February.

On Thursday, it hit a daily record of more than 3,500 new cases.

In what he termed a “catastrophic” situation, Sleiman Haroun, head of the Syndicate of Private Hospitals, said “the 50 private hospitals in the country receiving patients with Covid-19 are now almost full”.

They have a total of 850 beds, including 300 in intensive care units, Haroun said.

“Patients are now waiting in line… waiting for a bed to be free,” he told AFP.

After imposing tight restrictions in November to combat the spread of the pandemic, the government relaxed rules.

Ahead of the December holidays, the government pushed back a nighttime curfew to 3:00 am and allowed nightclubs and bars to reopen.

This prompted criticism from health professionals who warned bed occupancy in intensive care units was running critically low.

“The problem is that once a patient is admitted to intensive care, they stay there for three weeks,” said Khoury.

The “gatherings and private parties” of the December holiday season have fed a dramatic rise in cases, Khoury said.

“Over the past three weeks, the occupancy rate of intensive care units has increased by 10 percent,” pushing the occupancy of hospital beds in Beirut to over 90 percent of capacity.

Lebanon has been grappling with its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

The Lebanese pound has lost more than two thirds of its value against the Dollar on the black market, leading prices to skyrocket.

More than half of the population is trapped in poverty, according to the United Nations.

Beirut was also hit by an August 4 explosion at its port that killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of the capital.

“We have been asked by several hospitals not to transfer patients to them,” Lebanese Red Cross president Georges Kettaneh told AFP.

Instead, the Red Cross was taking patients to the Bekaa in the east or Nabatiyeh in the south.

Lebanon is expecting to receive its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines in February from Pfizer-BioNTech.

Coronavirus: Latest Global Developments

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis: – Curfew tightened in France – An extension of an overnight curfew comes into effect in 15 departments of eastern and southeastern France on Saturday to combat a sharp rise in infections.

The government ordered the curfew in these regions start at 6:00 pm rather than 8:00 pm.

Paris has, for now, been spared the additional restriction.

– Restrictions in Thailand – Bangkok’s nightlife will go quiet as a ban on bars, nightclubs and restaurant alcohol sales goes into effect, among a raft of restrictions aimed at curbing the kingdom’s rising coronavirus toll.

The capital also announced that public schools would close for two weeks, while more than a dozen virus checkpoints are set up across the city.

– State of emergency urged in Japan – Tokyo’s governor has asked Japan’s central government to declare a new state of emergency as the country battles a third wave of the coronavirus, with record numbers of new cases.

Japan imposed a first state of emergency in spring.

The measure allows local governors to call on businesses to close and to request people stay at home. It carries no penalties for non-compliance, but the requests were widely observed this spring.

– Tests to enter Norway – Norway has ordered mandatory tests for the coronavirus for anyone entering the country.

The decision came after the discovery of five cases of the new variant of Covid-19 that has appeared in Britain.

– Greece extends lockdown – The Greek government announced a new extension, until January 10, of its strict two-month-old lockdown measures, ending an easing of the restrictions over the holiday period.

Initially planned to end on January 7, “the strict measures will resume on Sunday until January 10 for reasons of prevention,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said.

– Concerns in Lebanon – Lebanon’s hospitals are being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases, medics warned, as infection rates surge in the wake of end of year holidays.

The national Covid-19 task force is to meet later Saturday and is expected to advise a three-week lockdown, said Petra Khoury, its head.

– 1.8 million dead – The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1,827,901 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to an AFP tally from official sources on Saturday? 1315 GMT.

More than 83,916,782 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 53,784,920 are now considered recovered.

The figures are based on daily tolls provided by health authorities in each country and exclude later re-evaluations by statistical organisations, as has happened in Russia, Spain and Britain.

Second Body Found At Site Of Norway Landslide

Rescue workers on Saturday recovered a second body and continued searching for another eight people still missing days after a landslide buried homes in a Norwegian village.

“We still have hope of finding survivors,” rescue operations chief Roy Alkvist told reporters.

A whole hillside collapsed in the village of Ask, 25 kilometres (15 miles) northeast of the capital Oslo, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, injuring 10 people, one of them seriously.

Homes were buried under mud, others cut in two and some houses left teetering over a crater caused by the mudslide, with several subsequently falling over the edge.

The landslide destroyed several houses and shifted others hundreds of metres.

Earlier Saturday, local police chief Ida Melbo Oystese said authorities hoped some people might have survived thanks to pockets of air inside partially intact buildings.

No details have been released about the identity of the second body, which was found by sniffer dogs. There have been no details released on the first body, which was recovered on Friday.

But police have released a list of the Names of 10 missing people: eight adults, a two-year-old and a 13-year-old child.

Police have also said 10 people were injured, including one seriously who was transferred to Oslo for treatment shortly after the disaster.

About a thousand people have had to be evacuated from Ask, which has 5,000 people, because of fears about the safety of their homes. There was more movement of the land there overnight Friday to Saturday.

“We are at a hotel,” two of the evacuees, Olav Gjerdingen and Sissel Meyer Gjerdingen, told AFP. “It is a completely surreal and terrible situation.” The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) said the disaster was a “quick clay slide” of approximately 300 by 800 metres (yards).

Quick clay is a sort of clay found in Norway and Sweden that can collapse and turn to fluid when overstressed.

The authorities have banned all aircraft from the disaster area until 3:00 pm Monday as they conduct aerial searches.

Norwegian rescue workers are being helped by colleagues from Sweden.

Visiting the site last week, Prime Minister Erna Solberg described it as one of the biggest landslides the country had ever experienced.