Thu. Jul 9th, 2020

Decision on Haj, Umra tied to corona review


ISLAMABAD: Suspension of Umrah trips remains in effect, the Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah has confirmed as the kingdom is heading towards easing restrictions previously imposed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

“This (suspension) is subjected to periodical review according to the curve of the pandemic and recommendations issued from the ad-hoc committee,” the ministry added, according to international media reports.

In late February, Saudi Arabia halted Umrah journeys to the two holy cities of Makkah and Madina due to the coronavirus scare and as part of a string of measures aimed to prevent the spread of the potentially deadly ailment. At the time, Saudi authorities said the suspension is temporary.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia announced a phased plan easing virus-related restrictions to allow gradual return to normal life.

Starting from Sunday, all congregational prayers, including Friday prayers, will be allowed in all mosques across the country except in Makkah. As part of the easing measures, domestic air travel will also resume on Sunday when all employees will return to their workplaces.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia started easing a five-day nationwide lockdown imposed during the festival of Eid amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyone wishing to leave home though is required to obtain a permit through a government app.

Measures will be further eased in phases over the next few weeks until the lockdown is fully lifted. It is still unclear whether the major annual Haj pilgrimage will go ahead at the end of July.

Saudi Arabia has had more cases of coronavirus than any other place in the Arab world, with 80,185 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 441 deaths.

Meanwhile, world leaders called for resilience and cooperation after the pandemic recedes, during a UN videoconference in which the United States, China and Russia did not participate.

About 50 leaders took part in the event on development financing, with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte saying in a recorded message that the goal must be to “leave no one behind.”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said “we need to be innovative, think outside the box,” echoing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Canada and Jamaica organised the conference. Sustainable development goals for 2030 “are more crucial than ever,” said European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. “We have to work and fight together.”

Several leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, said the crisis could be an opportunity to grow a “more resilient” economy to aid the fight against global warming.

Deploring a “deep questioning of multilateralism,” Macron stressed “cooperation is essential” as well as “support for the most fragile countries,” especially in Africa.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he hoped the world would “build back better,” adding “we must work together across borders” to avoid a new pandemic and to help global recovery.

Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada said the world after COVID-19 should be dominated by “solidarity, not profit.”

Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll passed 100,000 as the pandemic tightened its grip on South America, which is outpacing Europe and the United States in daily infections.

Global cases have surged to over 5.8 million, with more than 360,000 deaths, and in a grim signal to other countries hoping to exit lockdown, South Korea re-imposed social distancing rules after a spike in new cases.

Deaths in Brazil topped 25,000 on Wednesday, and its caseload is second only to the United States, where authorities have moved to ease lockdowns and help the battered economy, despite experts recommending they remain on guard for a resurgence of the disease.

“Don´t start leapfrogging over the recommendations of some of the guidelines because that´s really tempting fate and asking for trouble,” Anthony Fauci, one of the top US health advisers, said.

Over 1.7 million Americans are known to have been infected with the disease. Lockdowns in some form will remain necessary until a vaccine or treatment is available, experts have warned, but many governments are under immense pressure to provide relief as businesses and citizens grow weary and resentful of mass confinement.

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil´s far-right president and a Trump ally, has slammed stay-at-home orders and played down the threat of the virus, saying the economic fallout of lockdowns causes more damage than the disease itself.

But infections in Brazil have surged past 418,000, and similar bad news continues to emerge from other South American countries. Peru logged a record 6,154 new cases in a 24-hour period, with its virus response coordinator Pilar Mazzetti warning that “difficult days, difficult weeks are coming.”

Worried relatives outside the Sabogal Hospital in the capital Lima were unable to enter to see loved ones suffering from COVID-19, with some begging the guards for information.

While scientists around the world are racing to develop a vaccine, parallel trials are under way to test treatments for COVID-19 symptoms.

France said Wednesday it was banning the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment after the World Health Organization suspended its testing over fears of dangerous side effects. The drug has proved controversial and divisive, with some leaders and governments still backing it — including President Trump, who said he had taken a course as a preventative measure because he had “heard a lot of good stories” about it.

China reported two new confirmed coronavirus cases in the mainland on May 27, up from one a day earlier, the country’s health authority said on Thursday. Both of the cases were imported from abroad, the National Health Commission said in its daily bulletin.

Britain temporarily closed its embassy in North Korea and all diplomatic staff have left the country, the UK ambassador said on Thursday, the latest foreign delegation to leave amid strict coronavirus restrictions.

“The British Embassy in Pyongyang closed temporarily on 27 May 2020 and all diplomatic staff have left the DPRK for the time being,” ambassador Colin Crooks said in a post on Twitter, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The decision was made because “restrictions on entry to the country have made it impossible to rotate our staff and sustain the operation of the Embassy,” the UK Foreign Office said in a statement.

In Pakistan, COVID-19 infections have surpassed 62,000 after Sindh and Punjab collectively reported more than 2,000 cases over the past 24 hours. The total confirmed cases in Pakistan are 62,700, including 25,309 in Sindh, 22,037 in Punjab, 8,842 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 3,616 in Balochistan, 2,015 in Islamabad Capital Territory, 658 in Gilgit-Baltistan and 223 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The death toll in Pakistan stands at 1,283. The death toll in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 432, Sindh 396, Punjab 381, Balochistan 41, Gilgit-Baltistan nine, Islamabad Capital Territory 19 and AJK is five.




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