Indians, UAE residents slam UK's new covid travel policy

News Network
September 21, 2021

Even after the UK announced easing of travel rules related to Covid-19, travellers who received their vaccines in the UAE, India and a few other countries will be considered ‘unvaccinated’ in the UK.

According to the rules, passengers who aren’t recognised as being fully vaccinated will have to take a pre-departure test, further PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8 of arrival, and self-isolate at their given address for 10 days upon entry.

The rules announced last week will be effective October 4. Britain said it will recognise vaccinations given in 17 more countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. It had previously recognised only shots given in the UK, the US and the European Union.

However, James Cleverly, Minister for Middle East & North Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, said the UK government is finalising arrangements to include the UAE in the plans. “We are finalising arrangements with UAE to include their nationals and residents in our plans to open up to the fully vaccinated from other countries from 4 October,” he said in a tweet.

UK expats residing in the UAE responded angrily to the tweet.

“I hope you’re right. I’m a UK citizen and resident vaccinated while in Dubai, had to do severe rounds of unnecessary quarantine not to mention the cost. It breaks my heart that I feel unwelcome in my own country. It makes no sense!,” said Twitter handle @nataliebirkett.

@EnsOrenda replied to Cleverly: “UAE has a very high vaccine rate, low case rates & v.low death rates. We are obliged to wear face mask in all public places still. The UAE represents a much lower risk than many approved countries. So, it makes sense to recognise Pfizer and AZ vaccines administered from UAE too.”

Aviation analyst Alex Macheras also criticised the policy, saying it is unnecessarily complicated.

“Quite something for UK to take such a stance against so many countries vaccine rollouts…especially those countries administering the exact same vaccines as UK (Pfizer/AZ/Moderna/etc). As we’ve come to expect, UK’s latest travel policy is as unnecessarily complicated as ever."

Author WIlliam Dalrymple used harsh words to slam the policy. “Idiotic UK arrogance & stupidity- especially when Boris was arguing that the Indian AstraZeneca vaccine was the same as the UK one earlier in the Summer,” he said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, former Indian ministers Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor slammed the UK’s travel rules under which Indians vaccinated with Covishield would still be treated as unvaccinated.

Ramesh called it “smacks of racism” while Tharoor said that because of the restrictions he had even pulled out of a debate at The Cambridge Union debating society and from the launch events for the UK edition of his book, The Battle Of Belonging.

From October 4, the current traffic light system of red, amber and green countries based on levels of Covid-19 risk will be scrapped in the UK and replaced with one red list only.

The scrapping of an amber list, which is what India is currently on, means reduced cost burden for travellers — especially for the Indian diaspora vaccinated in the UK — related to compulsory PCR tests.

However, an expanded list of countries whose vaccines are recognised in England does not include India, which means that Indians vaccinated with Covishield — the Serum Institute of India produced Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine — would still be subjected to the restrictions mandatory for those unvaccinated.

This new two-tiered system in the UK is expected to stay in place till the end of the year, with a further review planned for early in the New Year.

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News Network
October 17,2021

Mumbai, Oct 17: Launching a stinging attack on the BJP and the Centre over the alleged misuse of investigative agencies, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Sunday alleged that "contract killings" are now replaced by "government killings" to finish off political rivals in Maharashtra.

With some ministers in the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Income Tax, and at least one of them facing a CBI inquiry, Raut said that Central investigating agencies are working as "contract killers for the party in power in Delhi". "Is there a rule of law or (a rule of) raids in Maharashtra? This is the question which comes to one's mind considering the record-break raids being conducted through Central investigating agencies," Raut wrote in the weekly column 'Rokhthok' in the Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana' of which he is the executive editor.

Earlier, Delhi rulers used to lie but now (ordering) frequent raids have become a new business without any capital investment, he stated. "Use people's money, government machinery to remove political opponents. In the past, contract killings were the order of the day in Mumbai (when Underworld was active). Hitmen were hired on contract to kill rivals (by gangs). This is now replaced by 'government killing'. Central investigating agencies are working as contract killers for the party in power in Delhi," Raut said. Finishing off the unwanted political rivals through these agencies seems to have become a new policy, Raut stated.

Referring to the arrest of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and state minister Nawab Malik's son-in-law Sameer Khan by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Raut said Khan had been arrested under the pretext of his involvement in a drug racket and was put in jail for eight months. "Now the court has granted him bail. The court said herbal tobacco was found in the possession of Khan and not drugs. Malik should file cases against NCB officials," Raut said in the write-up.

The Sena leader further said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was raiding homes of former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh instead of finding out the whereabouts of Param Bir Singh, the former commissioner of Mumbai police who had accused Deshmukh of corruption with the help of some police officers when he was serving as the home minister of the state.

Raut also slammed the raids conducted recently by the Income Tax department on the family members of NCP leader and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. The details of the PM Cares Fund are not made public. It is said this fund is not a government fund but a private fund. Funds worth crores of rupees are collected in the name of the prime Minister," Raut stated.

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News Network
October 17,2021

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Makkah, Oct 17: The Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia operated at full capacity Sunday, with worshippers praying shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Workers removed floor markings that guide people to social distance in and around the Grand Mosque, which is built around the Ka’aba, the black cubic structure towards which Muslims around the world pray.

"This is in line with the decision to ease precautionary measures and to allow pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque at full capacity," reported the official Saudi Press Agency.

Pictures and footage on Sunday morning showed people praying side by side, making straight rows of worshippers that are formations revered in performing Muslim prayers, for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold last year.

While social distancing measures were lifted, the authorities said visitors must be fully vaccinated against coronavirus and must continue to wear masks on mosque grounds.

Also, the Ka’aba remained cordoned off and out of reach.

Saudi Arabia announced in August it will begin accepting vaccinated foreigners wanting to make the umrah pilgrimage.

The umrah can be undertaken at any time and usually draws millions from around the globe, as does the annual hajj, which abled-bodied Muslims who have the means must perform at least once in their lifetime.

In July, only around 60,000 inoculated residents were allowed to take part in a vastly scaled-down form of the annual hajj.

The Covid-19 pandemic hugely disrupted both Muslim pilgrimages, which are usually key revenue earners for the kingdom that rake in a combined $12 billion annually.

Hosting the pilgrimages is a matter of prestige for Saudi rulers, for whom the custodianship of Islam's holiest sites is their most powerful source of political legitimacy.

The once-reclusive kingdom began issuing tourist visas permitting foreign visitors to undertake more than just the pilgrimages for the first time in 2019 as part of an ambitious push to revamp its global image and diversify income.

Between September 2019 and March 2020, it issued 400,000 of them -- only for the pandemic to crush that momentum as borders were closed.

But the kingdom is slowly opening up and has started welcoming vaccinated foreign tourists since August 1.

Saudi Arabia also announced that fully-inoculated sports fans will from Sunday be allowed to attend events at all stadiums and other sports facilities, reported SPA.

It has also been said that masks in most open spaces are no longer mandatory.

Saudi Arabia has registered over 547,000 coronavirus cases and 8,760 deaths.

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News Network
October 24,2021

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Dubai, Oct 24: Pakistan has sailed through while chasing the target of 152 in the much-awaited clash against India as openers Babar Azam and Rizwan put up a decisive century-plus partnership. 

The opening-duo have displayed an absolute masterclass in the high pressure run chase. The target never looked out of reach during the chase as the Pakistani opening pair looked always in control of the required run-rate.

Asked to bat by Pakistan skipper, India has posted a competitive total of 151-7 in 20 overs as Virat Kohli shined with a half-century and also helped by Rishabh Pant's gritty 39.

In reply, Pakistan was off to a steady start as the two openers added 43-0 in 6 overs, at the end of powerplay.

When it came to first innings, India's in-form openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul fell early as Shaheen Afridi's fierce spell of bowling caught the star-studded Indian batting line-up off guard.

Suryakumar Yadav soon followed the openers back to pavilion before Rishabh Pant joined Virat Kohli (57) to consolidate the innings. However, Pant's gritty innings didn't last long as Shadab Khan struck, removing the left-hander for 39 (30).

For Pakistan, Shaheen Afridi was the pick of the bowling line up, scalping 3 crucial wickets for just 31 runs in his quota of 4 overs. Hasan Ali was quite expensive during the innings. The rest of the bowlers kept it tight and chipped away at India's wickets, not allowing the men-in-blue to post a big score.

India and Pakistan renewed their high-profile but one-sided cricket rivalry today in a T20 World Cup blockbuster watched by hundreds of millions of fans across the globe.

It was the first time the two nations had clashed since the 50-over World Cup in 2019.

Playing XI of both teams:

India: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (captain), Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Varun Chakravarthy, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.

Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf.

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