Saudi Arabia's King Salman in hospital for medical tests

Agencies
July 20, 2020

Riyadh, Jul 20: Saudi Arabia's King Salman has been admitted to a hospital in the capital, Riyadh, for medical tests due to inflammation of the gallbladder, the kingdom's Royal Court said Monday in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The statement said the 84-year-old monarch is being tested at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital. The brief statement did not provide further details.

King Salman has been in power since January 2015. He is considered the last Saudi monarch of his generation of brothers who have held power since the death of their father and founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz.

King Salman has empowered his 34-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as his successor. The crown prince's assertive and bold style of leadership, as well as his consolidation of power and sidelining of potential rivals, has been controversial.

With the support of his father, Prince Mohammed has transformed the kingdom in recent years, opening it up to tourists and eroding decades of ultraconservative restrictions on entertainment and women's rights as he tries to diversify the Saudi economy away from reliance on oil exports.

The prince has also detained dozens of activists and critics, overseen a devastating war in Yemen, and rounded up top members of the royal family in his quest for power.

The Saudi king has not been seen in public in recent months due to social distancing guidelines and concerns over the spread of the coronavirus inside the kingdom, which has one of the largest outbreaks in the Middle East.

He has been shown, however, in state-run media images attending virtual meetings with his Cabinet and held calls with world leaders.

King Salman, who oversees Islam's holiest sites in Makkah and Medinah, was a crown prince under King Abdullah and served as defense minister. For more than 50 years prior to that, he was governor of Riyadh, overseeing its evolution from a barren city to a teeming capital.

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News Network
September 15,2020

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Dubai, Sept 15: A 47-year-old Indian man, who stayed in the UAE without any documents for over 13 years, has been repatriated home after getting a waiver of half a million Dirhams (Rs 1,00,21,000) in visa dues, according to a media report on Tuesday.

Pothugonda Medi, a migrant labourer from Telangana, approached the Indian Consulate in Dubai after he lost his job following the coronavirus outbreak, the Gulf News reported.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, he came to us as he could not find any odd jobs that he used to do earlier for his survival," Jithendra Negi, Consul, Labour and Consular, at the Indian Consulate, was quoted as saying by the paper.

Mr Pothugonda told the Indian mission that he had come to the Gulf on a visit visa in 2007, however his agent abandoned him soon after.

The agent had not returned Mr Medi's passport, the paper reported.

The mission found it difficult to assist Mr Medi as there were no documents to prove his citizenship.

The consulate sought the help of a charity group in Hyderabad to track down his family.

"With the support of social worker Sriniwas we managed to get the copies of his old ration card and election ID card from his native place. Some of the details that he gave were not matching, but still we could establish that he is an Indian," Mr Negi said.

After the consulate provided a free flight ticket to Mr Medi, the officials applied under the UAE government's visa expiration exemption scheme.

According to the scheme, expatriates whose visas have expired before March 1, 2020 can leave the country before November 17 without paying visa dues.

The General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs in Dubai has so far waived millions of dirhams in visa penalties.

The coronavirus has claimed the lives of 399 people with over 80,000 confirmed cases in the UAE so far.

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Agencies
September 29,2020

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Sharjah, Sept 29: Four Emirati motorists nearly drowned in a wadi in Sharjah when their vehicles were swept away in a flood on Monday afternoon, according to reports. They managed to quickly escape their cars as the water started getting in.

The men were in their SUVs when a downpour triggered a flood that sent their cars floating down Wadi Shees in Khor Fakkan, according to a report by the Arabic daily Al Khaleej.

In a video that went viral on social media, the drivers were seen jumping from their vehicles and into the flood waters.

Khalifa Al Dahmani, one of the survivors, said that after getting out of their vehicles, the strong current further dragged them away, nearly drowning them, the report said. The 27-year-old thanked the Sharjah Police for helping them out and lifting their cars out of the wadi.

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News Network
September 23,2020

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Riyadh, Sept 23: Saudi Arabia on Wednesday suspended air travel to and from India, Brazil and Argentina, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the country's Civil Aviation Authority, people with travel history to any of the mentioned countries 14 days prior to their arrival to the Kingdom, have also been barred.

"Suspending travel to and from the following countries (India, Brazil, and Argentina) including any person who has been in any of the mentioned countries in the last (14) days prior to their arrival to the Kingdom," General Authority of Civil Aviation said in a statement.

However, those who have official government invitations are excluded.

Saudi Arabia to re-allow umrah pilgrimage

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has allowed pilgrims residing inside the country to undertake the umrah pilgrimage beginning on October 4, after a seven-month pause due to coronavirus concerns, state news agency SPA reported.

Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina undertaken any time of the year, attracting 19 million people last year.

Saudi Arabia had instituted a freeze on umrah in March.

It will now allow 6,000 citizens and residents inside the kingdom to perform umrah daily, representing 30% of a revised capacity of 20,000 that takes into account precautionary health measures, SPA added. That will expand to 75% of capacity on October 18.

Beginning November 1, Saudi Arabia will allow visitors from specific countries deemed safe to perform umrah at 100% of the revised capacity, until the end of the pandemic, SPA said.

This year, Saudi Arabia conducted a limited haj, the larger pilgrimage that usually attracts around 3 million people, for a few thousand citizens and residents.

Official data show haj and umrah earn the kingdom about 12 billion USD a year.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia reported 330,798 total cases of coronavirus and 4,542 deaths, as cases in the Gulf region topped 800,000.

Global COVID-19 cases

The overall number of global coronavirus cases has topped 31.5 million, while the deaths have increased to more than 969,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

As of Wednesday morning, the total number of cases stood at 31,517,087 and the fatalities rose to 969,578, the University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US is the worst-hit country with the world's highest number of cases and deaths at 6,896,218 and 200,786, respectively, according to the CSSE.

India comes in second place in terms of cases at 5,562,663, while the country`s death toll soared to 90,020.

The other top 15 countries with the maximum amount of cases are:

             Brazil (4,591,364)

             Russia (1,111,157)

             Colombia (777,537)

             Peru (768,895)

             Mexico (705,263)

             Spain (682,267)

             South Africa (663,282)

             Argentina (652,174)

             France (507,150)

             Chile (448,523)

             Iran (429,193)

             UK (406,058)

             Bangladesh (352,178)

             Saudi Arabia (330,798)

             Iraq (327,580)

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