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Kharafi National wins Cairo airport FM services deal

Kharafi National, a leading infrastructure project developer in the wastewater treatment, reclamation and district cooling sector, said it has secured a key contract to provide all MEP and civil services for Cairo International Airport Terminal building 2.

The five-year facility management services contract was awarded by Cairo Airport Company (CAC).

On the contract win, Kharafi National said it was proud to achieve the highest technical and financial scores for this tender.

"We are honoured to work with such a prestigious client. As for now, we are waiting for more success and High achievements in the future," it added.


Egypt makes negative PCR test mandatory for most travellers from August 15

The majority of visitors flying to Egypt will require a negative PCR test result 72 hours before flying from August 15, a statement by the prime minister has said.

The statement said that only Egyptians and tourists travelling to coastal cities such as Hurghada, Sharm El Sheikh and Marsa Alam would be exempt from presenting the PCR test.

Authorities had warned that tourists would not be allowed to travel to other cities inside Egypt from those coastal cities.

The Polymerise Chain Reaction (PCR) test directly detects the presence of an antigen or the genetic material for the coronavirus and is widely used globally.

While officially announced figures for Covid-19 cases have been steadily dropping in Egypt, the Ministry of Health is warning against a second wave of the virus.

Tourism is a major money earner for Egypt and its tourism sector had recorded an all-time high revenue reaching $13.03bn in 2019, up from $11.6bn in 2018, according to the Central Bank in March.


More than eight in ten Abu Dhabi private schools earn top rating in distance learning assessments

More than eight out of 10 private schools in Abu Dhabi scored the highest rating available during assessments of distance learning standards.

Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek), which oversees private schools in the emirate, said 146 out of 173 schools evaluated 984 per cent) earned the top 'developed' rating with 27 private schools rated 'partially developed' (16 per cent) and none rated 'not developed'.

More than two thirds of private schools in Dubai also received the 'developed' rating.

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), Dubai's private schools regulator, revealed 67 per cent of schools were ranked 'developed' under the Distance Learning Evaluation (DLE).

A further 32 per cent of schools received a 'partially developed' score, with only one per cent marked 'not developed'.

"I am proud of the collective efforts of schools, teachers and parents in adapting to a very challenging education environment," said Sara Musallam, chair of Adek.

"Before the closure of schools, we identified organization, collaboration and inclusion as our three core process metrics, and we worked diligently with parents and partners across the education ecosystem to ensure vital Distance Learning programs could be implemented and the results reflect that."

KHDA said schools which were rated outstanding or very good by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau in the 2018-19 academic year were found to have offered the highest level of distance learning.

Distance learning was implemented across the Emirates in March when schools closed their doors to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, KHDA's director general, applauded the efforts of teachers, pupils and parents during a challenging period for the education sector.

"Earlier this year, school leaders, teachers, parents and students in Dubai had to respond very quickly to a completely new way of teaching and learning," he said.

"They've shown great resilience, commitment and love during this period, and we're grateful for their effort.

"The DLE was put in place to give us a common language and measure to talk about the quality of distance education.

"Because schools will provide options of face-to-face and distance learning in the next academic year, the DLE will help parents to get a complete picture of the quality of education their children are receiving, and will help schools to provide even better quality learning, no matter where it takes place."

In Sharjah, 70 out of 112 private schools (63 per cent) were rated developed for distance learning, while 42 schools (37 per cent) were partially developed, according to the Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA).

"The schools' distinguished performance enhances the position of education in Sharjah and its flexibility to overcome challenges,' said Dr Muhadditha Al Hashimi, chairman of SPEA.

"We are very proud of schools' performance and their co-operation and readiness to continue the process of progress; an achievement that is worth preserving by continuing to develop with the assistance of parents as active partners."

More than six in 10 private schools and two in 10 public schools in the Northern Emirates were rated advanced for distance learning by the Ministry of Education.

The ministry assessed all private schools and 29 per cent of government schools in Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah.

The ministry also ranked schools in three categories, with top performers named 'advanced', ahead of partially developed and underdeveloped schools.

Twenty-two per cent of government schools were rated advanced and 78 per cent were rated partially developed.

According to the results, 62 per cent of private schools were advanced, while 36 percent of schools were graded partially developed, and two per cent were assessed as underdeveloped.

Distance learning evaluations focused on a number of areas; on how well pupils learn and whether their well-being is safeguarded, on the level of teacher's instruction and monitoring of pupils' learning, and how well school leaders managed pupils' learning.

A five-hour-long evaluation was carried out with each school through discussions with school leaders, reviews of pupils' work, observation of online lessons, and feedback from parents, pupils and teachers.

The Distance Learning Evaluation is a collaborative initiative between the Ministry of Education, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, Sharjah Private Education Authority and KHDA.


Dubai landlords are finally getting the message on monthly rent payments

Dubai: Some commercial landlords are starting to allow it for the first time, while in the residential space, more landlords are convinced allowing monthly rental payments is the best solution - at least for now. If tenants keep making a strong case for monthly payouts, this could finally break the dominance of landlords collecting tenant cheques for quarterly or even six months in advance.

All that this does is lock in a significant amount of tenants' funds in advance payments. At a time when many are trying to squeeze out more from their income, these cheque advances seem like a relic.

"Monthly payments by direct debit/credit cards will become the norm and the property management structure will need to be able to address these requirements," states a brand new report from Asteco on first-half rental and sales trends in the UAE marketplace. "In addition, there may well be a trend for more flexible Residential options in terms of lease terms, and more limited upfront capital requirements due to shorter term employment opportunities and to address concerns over job security."

But other market sources say it will more than three months to bring about far-reaching advances on tenant-landlord payment transactions. Back in 2009-12, monthly cheques were introduced as part of some landlord incentives, but at the first signs of the rental market starting to firm up, these practices were discarded in favour three- or six-month advances.

But in an environment laid low by the COVID-19 impact, easier payment terms could soon be back on the agenda. According to the Asteco report, rental changes - unless it is to reduce the rates - are not a high priority for tenants.

"Despite discounts and incentives offered by residential - and commercial - landlords, we expect a reduced number of new leases and renewals in the short-term as tenants adopt a wait-and-see approach." the property services firm said.

How much have rents dropped?

Between April to end June, rents in the residential space were down by 4 per cent, and 13 per cent over the last 12 months. Most forecasts reckon these drop patterns will remain for the near term, "or even intensify due to the expected volume of additional supply combined with a potentially sharp drop in demand in the short- to medium-term due to the impact of COVID-19 on employment."

A good-sized drop in supply

Where a decline will happen prominently is on the offplan supply and construction. Latest research suggest approximately "20 per cent of previously tendered or under construction projects have been put on hold, temporarily or indefinitely, and our projections have been revised accordingly," the report states.

In the second quarter, about 4,200 apartments were handed over, itself a sharp drop from the 5,750 units delivered in the first three months.

Manage completion

As much as in Dubai, developers in Sharjah too will have some work to do absorbing a steady flow of completed properties, most of them small clusters within massive master-developments. as such, during April to June, the sharpest fall in rents was felt by high-end apartments in Sharjah, with drops of 8 per cent year-on-year. It wasn't just at the top end of the market - mid-sized units in Ajman too took a rental hit, with rates down 6 per cent. "The downward pressure on rates is expected to continue with the steady delivery of new supply," Asteco notes. "Falling rental rates are likely to add to this pressure and further impede the recovery rates in the northern emirates over the short-term.

"The work-from-home culture has increased demand for larger units. However, salary cuts and job losses have tempered any potential rental increases with many tenants ultimatley being forced to downsize, reduce expenses or leave for their home country altogether."


RTA launches corporate agility transformation programme

Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has announced the launch of a Corporate Agility Transformation Programme to foster a comprehensive implementation of agility concepts and practices and sustain them across RTA business areas.

The step reasserts RTA's leading role in adopting modern business models, keep pace with government and global trends, and fulfil the needs and expectations of customers, said a statement from RTA.

To build on its recent achievements, RTA established Corporate Agility Transformation Office, CATO, attached to the Office of the Director-General and Chairman of the Board of RTA.

CATO will provide a structured methodology and a novel framework to expand and sustain successful agility practices and lead an agile transformation drive across various sectors and agencies.

"Corporate agility and modern management have always been part of RTA's DNA from day one as reflected in its organisational chart, strategic plan and innovative approach to various challenges," remarked Moaza Al Marri, Executive Director, Office of the Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors, RTA.

The implementation of corporate agility practices was instrumental in achieving the targeted performance indicators and ensuring the business continuity during emergencies, said Al Marri.

"Probably, this drive is best illustrated in the continuous building of strategic projects and the delivery of services regularly during the Covid-19 pandemic," she noted.

RTA completed several projects on schedule and maintained the delivery of unabated services to customers during that period via electronic and smart channels at high-quality standards. It is no wonder that a 40 percent upsurge in digital transactions is reported during the crises period compared to the same period last year," she added.- TradeArabia News Service


Dubai uses Big Data for physical distancing in buses

Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has set up a digital platform using Big Data to detect any lack of compliance with the physical distancing between riders of public buses in Dubai and take enforcement measures accordingly.

"This platform is linked electronically with the Control Centres of Public Transport Agency. It assists the concerned personnel to take appropriate decisions whenever a breach of physical distancing instructions between onboard passengers is detected. The platform relays details of incompliant buses including the route number, percentage of incompliance detected, date and time of the journey, driver details in addition to the extent and frequency of incompliance on the part of the involved bus," said Khaled Al Awadhi, Director of Transportation Systems, Public Transport Agency, RTA.

"The introduction of this technology is made as part of RTA's plans to benefit from the applications of big data in improving services and operational processes of public transport means, especially under the prevailing challenges of Covid-19. Thanks to this platform, RTA decided to deploy 18 buses to ease the congestion and assist with the compliance of physical distancing; which contributed effectively to reducing such violations," he noted.

"The objective of this technology is to control the spread of Covid-19 in public buses in view of their publicity amongst riders and their number highlighted by the deployment of 1615 buses covering most parts of Dubai. Therefore, it was vital to use advanced technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence to ensure greater compliance with physical distancing and other preventive measures," added Al Awadhi. - TradeArabia News Service


Ski Dubai to host snow sports event on August 15

Majid Al Futtaim, a leading shopping mall and leisure pioneer across the region, said that Ski Dubai will host a ski and snowboard competition in collaboration with Dubai Sports Council in Mall of the Emirates on August 15.

The inaugural event will be one of the first snow sports competitions in the world to be held with social distancing measures in place.

The 'Return to Safe Sport' competition is open to all competent racers, freestyle skiers and snowboarders and is free to enter. Starting at 10am, the event will be divided into four snow sports disciplines including the Alpine speed disciplines of Slalom Skiing and Giant Slalom and two freestyle disciplines: Slopestyle and Big Air.

The competition will be adjudicated by a panel of freestyle judges and competitors are in with the chance of winning medals as well as a host of prizes including tickets for VOX Cinemas, Ski Dubai, iFly Dubai or lunch at North 28.

Director of Majid Al Futtaim Global Snow, Mohammad El Etri said: "Ski Dubai is proud to collaborate with Dubai Sports Council to launch the world's first snow sports competition since the Covid-19 closures. Dubai is leading the way and showing the rest of the world that, when the right measures are in place, sporting events and competitions can safely resume.

"This competition is also aligned with our goal to make the UAE and Ski Dubai an international destination for sport and we look forward to welcoming both competitors and spectators for what promises to be a fun-filled day."

The decision to resume sports competitions is part of a series of decisions taken by Dubai Sports Council to gradually reopen the sports sector following weeks of closures due to Covid-19. The decision is in line with the Government of Dubai's plan to open all sectors of life in the Emirate, and complies with instructions issued by Dubai's Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management, and related government agencies.

The competition has been organised as part of Ski Dubai's ongoing efforts to and to encourage the safe return to snow sports following the easing of restrictions.

Ski Dubai is exceeding recommended health and safety guidelines and has implemented an all-encompassing sanitisation and physical distancing plan to ensure that guests can enjoy a comfortable experience with added peace of mind. - TradeArabia News Service


Ajman issues law regulating real estate owners' affairs

HH Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ajman, has issued a new law to regulate real estate owners' affairs in the northern emirate.

The law, which includes 41 articles, shall apply to major properties and sub-properties in areas where real estate development is permitted, whether they were licenced before or after the issuance of the law and including real estate in free zones, reported state news agency Wam.

The law aims to regulate the management of joint and regular facilities according to the best services quality standards, as well as sub-property owners' committees, to enable them to conduct their work, achieve transparency and avoid conflicts of interest when contracting services suppliers in joint facilities, it stated.

It also enables the Department of Land and Real Estate Regulation in Ajman to supervise and monitor the work of real estate owners' committees and management companies, to provide the best services to residents of sub-property units.

The law stipulates that a registry for unit owners at the department will be called the "Real Estate Owners' Affairs Registry," and its director-general shall issue a resolution identifying its form and registration procedures.


Dubai South extends stimulus package to 2020-end

In line with the UAE government's commitment to support the business community, Dubai South has announced the extension of its incentive package for Business Park and Business Centre clients until the end of the year.

The move aims to help companies navigate the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and ensure business continuity during the recovery period, a statement said.

The stimulus package offers a 50 per cent reduction in Business Centre set up fee, as well as 50 per cent reduction on license fee for new company formation and renewals at the Business Park and Business Centre. These reductions are available to those who submit their applications after July 26, 2020.

In line with its focus on supporting the continuity of businesses based in its free zone, Dubai South will them flexible payment plans with easy instalment schemes as well as a waiver of penalties for late renewals and cancellations of contracts and licenses. The extended stimulus package is subject to terms and conditions.

HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Aviation City Corporation and President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, DCAA, said: "This extension complements the recent stimulus package announced by the government and its ongoing efforts to help businesses adjust to the new normal. The stimulus package is in line Dubai South's strategic goals to strengthen Dubai's economy by supporting businesses as well as empower new investors to enter the market. It is our responsibility to support our existing clients and companies who are trying to establish their businesses at Dubai South, particularly during these challenging times. We understand that the business community is in need of extended support and flexibility, and we are committed to channeling our efforts into reinvigorating the business sector."

Dubai South's mission is to support businesses and ultimately help strengthen the emirate's economy. By doing so, Dubai South seeks to set an example for other organisations to revitalise market activity, which in turn will reinforce Dubai's position as one of the world's most preferred lifestyle and business destinations.

Dubai South, launched as a Government of Dubai project in 2006, is an emerging, 145 sq. km master-planned city centred on the objective of enhancing the happiness of the individual. The city is identified as a flagship urban project aligned with the aims of Dubai Plan 2021. The development is designed to sustain a population of a million inhabitants and create 500,000 jobs in an integrated, economic environment that supports all types of businesses and industries.- TradeArabia News Service


Dubai's GDRFA launches e-documents system

General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) has introduced the "Dubai e-Documents System," a digital encyclopedia of all travel documents for different countries, supported by samples of original documents.

Major General Obaid Muhair bin Suroor, Deputy Director of the GDRFA, said the project aims to enhance the country's security and achieve the Dubai government's digital transformation.

Bin Suroor pointed out that the e-system was independent of the GDRFA and similar to systems such as EdisonTD, which includes the membership of the UAE, the Netherlands, Canada, the US and Australia.

The system is a smart mechanism for confirming travel documents and detecting fraudulent documents, he stated.

According to him, the new system will improve the country's security and digital infrastructure, and also strengthen the local and international reputation of the UAE.

The GDRFA is continuing its efforts to adopt the best innovative solutions to improve its work and reinforce the country's position, he added.


Dubai Customs launches Siyaj (Fence) Initiative to foster border security, facilitate trade

As part of their relentless efforts to protect the society and secure Dubai's ports, Dubai Customs launched Siyaj (Fence) initiative: the first integrated control 24/7 system in the world. The new system is based on a number of sophisticated AI technologies, rapid intervention teams that work around the clock, drones, and the K9 sniffing dog unit.

The initiative will enhance Dubai and the UAE's security and help protect the society from the hazards of illegitimate shipments while facilitating trade and supporting the global supply chain.

The Siyaj initiative features integrated unites such as the advanced technological unit system and the highly qualified skilled team unit. All is based on a deep learning central data base that is regularly fed with updated information. And there are advanced inspection systems, surveillance cameras and devices. The system also includes a vessel equipped with advanced technologies to track and control ships before they arrive at the port. The rapid intervention teams are available 7 days a week and coordinate with the intelligence department to take action when there is a report of any suspicious goods.

"We feel proud today that our borders are more secure and our trade is streamlined following the wise vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai," said HE Sultan bin Sulayem, DP World Group Chairman & CEO and Chairman of Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation. "This initiative is an embodiment of the team spirit and the honest efforts that everyone at Dubai Customs always strives to maintain. We hope this initiative adds up to our cumulative work in the field to maintain the leading position the UAE enjoys worldwide."

Director General of Dubai Customs, Ahmed Mahboob Musabih said:

"Dubai Customs plays a vital role in thwarting smuggling of drugs and other illegitimate goods. In this regard, we cooperate and coordinate with the relevant authorities worldwide to intercept any suspicious or hazardous shipments before they enter the country. Customs authorities in the UAE made 4,450 customs seizures in 2019, and this initiative will cement the security efforts following the vision of Dubai Customs of becoming the leading customs organization worldwide supporting legitimate trade. We highly commend the efforts behind this leading initiative which will not only enhance the security of our borders but will also facilitate trade and supply chains."

On his part, Abdullah Busnad, Executive Director of Customs Inspection Division at Dubai Customs said:

"Siyaj Initiative is part of our efforts to maintain security over our borders to prevent any smuggling attempts of illegitimate goods and be able to have full control over trade operations within Dubai's borders. All intelligence information will be analysed carefully to intercept suspicious shipments and thwart these smuggling illegitimate operations. This will also help streamline the international trade and supply chain."

Busnad confirmed Siyaj System will be implemented soon in all Dubai's entry points.


Public beaches now open in Sharjah

The National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Team in Sharjah has announced the reopening of all public beaches in the Emirate from Monday, 3rd August, 2020.

The authorities called on the public to strictly adhere to all precautionary measures and maintain social distancing to ensure the health and safety of community members.

The public beaches in Sharjah had been closed as part of the precautionary measures taken by the Emirate to check the spread of coronavirus, COVID-19.


Emirates passengers from these 12 countries now need to undergo Covid-19 tests before flying

Travellers flying to Dubai with Emirates from Sudan and Nigeria need to show negative Covid-19 test results before being allowed to board flights.

The Dubai airline has added the two African countries to a list of 10 existing destinations from which travellers must prove they are coronavirus-free before flying.

Each passenger must produce a negative test certificate that has been issued by an approved laboratory, as specified by UAE authorities, in order to be accepted on to the flight by Emirates staff.

In Nigeria, there are about 50 approved clinics designated by the UAE in several states across the country. In Sudan, travellers can take their test at Alya Hospital, Royal Care Hospital, Fadhell Hospital or Stak Laboratory.

A complete list of approved UAE clinics can be found on the Emirates website.

All certificates must be issued no more than 96 hours before departure to be accepted by Emirates.

Commercial flights to Dubai were grounded in March as part of efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19, but Emirates is rebuilding its network as travel restrictions ease.

Tourists can now travel to Dubai, and Emirates has announced the resumption of flights to more than 50 destinations across six continents.

The Dubai airline has also introduced its A380 superjumbo back into service. The world's largest passenger jet is now flying from Dubai to London and Paris, and will begin operating to Amsterdam from August 1.


Coronavirus: Bahrain allows private sector to resume hiring foreign workers

Private employers in Bahrain can begin hiring foreign workers again in August after a four-month suspension in issuing work permits because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bahrain's Labour Market Regulatory Authority said it would start accepting requests for new work permits starting from August 9, following a decision by the Government Executive Committee, chaired by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad.

The authority altered the private sector hiring process to give priority to Bahrainis and foreign residents in the kingdom, the Bahrain News Agency reported.

All vacancies must be advertised in local newspapers to give residents two weeks to apply first, the labour authority said.

The government this month decided to support the salaries of Bahrainis employed in local private businesses that have been most severely affected by the pandemic.

Bahrainis insured under the National Employment Programme will receive up to 50 per cent of their pay from the Unemployment Insurance Fund for a period of three months starting from July, the BNA reported.

Labour and Social Development Minister Jameel Ali Humaidan said the sectors most adversely affected by the pandemic included travel and aviation, hospitality and restaurants, personal services (salons and gyms, games and entertainment halls), industry, health, administrative services, non-food retail, real estate and contracting, engineering and technical offices and local newspapers and magazines.

Bahrain was among the first GCC countries to implement strict containment measures after the Covid-19 pandemic broke out early this year and had recorded 40,311 cases, 144 deaths and 36,920 recoveries until July 30, according to a coronavirus tally kept by Worldometer.


Jawazat completes automatic extension of re-entry visas of expats abroad

RIYADH - The Directorate General of Passports (Jawazat) announced on Monday that it has completed the automatic extension of the exit and re-entry visas of expatriates, who are outside the Kingdom, for a period of three months without any fee.

In a statement on its Twitter account, the Jawazat said that the beneficiaries of this are those expatriates whose exit and re-entry visas' validity expired following the suspension of international flights. The new arrangement has been made in coordination with the National Information Center, the Jawazat said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, the Absher App of the Ministry of Interior announced that the extension of the period of the exit and re-entry visa service will also be available for family members of expatriates and domestic workers. The conditions for the provision of this service include that the person shall be outside the Kingdom and the validity of his or her residency permit (iqama) covers the extension period. Another condition is that the expiry of exit and re-entry visas should not exceed more than 60 days.

The procedures for the extension of exit and re-entry visas include payment of visa fees through a bank account with SR100 for a single visa and SR200 for multiple visas for each month of extension. The concerned person should long into the Absher portal and choose the service for the sponsee, then visa services and choose the individual and then the option to extend the visa.


Saudi Arabia makes electronic payment mandatory at cafes and restaurants

Saudi Arabia has made it mandatory for all cafes and restaurants in the Kingdom to provide electronic payment methods to customers to reduce cash circulation and enable them to rely on contactless ways.

The move, part of the initiative launched by the National Programme to Combat Commercial Cover-up (Tasattur), came into force from July 29, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The programme was applied as the fifth phase of an initiative to encourage outlets to provide e-payment methods, which so far has covered 50 commercial activities and accounting for 70 per cent of the retail sector.

The remaining activities must adopt these services by August 25. This is being implemented in coordination with the Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA).

The first phase covered gas stations, while workshops and stores for auto parts were covered in the second. The third phase included personal services such as laundry and men's and women's salons, while the fourth targeted groceries and supply stores.

The fifth phase includes restaurants serving food for parties, fast food, seafood, cafes, buffets, cafeterias, trucks selling food, as well as juice and ice cream shops.

The Ministry of Commerce said that it would monitor outlets and ensure the availability of e-payment services in all of them. And if it refuses to provide them, it will apply the "maximum" legal penalties for non-compliant establishments.

The initiative follows recommendations approved by the authorities to combat activities such as under invoicing. The introduction of e-payment is also part of the Kingdom's ambitious drive to become a cashless society.


Dutch airline KLM adds Riyadh to Gulf destinations

Amsterdam-based KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has announced plans to reopen routes to the Middle East from the end of September, which includes a new service operating to and from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

It will take the total number of destinations in the Gulf served by KLM to seven, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi (UAE), Dammam and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Muscat (Oman), Manama (Bahrain) and Kuwait City (Kuwait).

The opening of Riyadh means an increase in the number of destinations, but not in the number of flights to the Middle East, as plans are to combine it with an existing destination.


Oman imposes nationwide restrictions as Covid-19 infections rise

Oman will reimpose a countrywide restrictions from Saturday in an effort to stem the rapid spread of coronavirus.

The national committee handling the Covid-19 pandemic said the new measures will begin on July 25 and continue for two weeks, lasting over the Eid Al Adha holiday.

"In view of the increase in the number of people infected with Covid-19 and to limit its spread, the supreme committee on Covid-19 has decided to close all governorates between July 25 and August 8," the committee said on Tuesday.

Omanis will not be able to leave their homes for 11 hours a day, and streets will be patrolled by police.

"It has also been decided to prevent all types of movements and close public places and shops during this period between 7pm and 6am, with intensified patrols and points of control in the daytime," the committee said.

Both Omanis and residents will be banned from socialising or visiting each other during Eid Al Adha, which will begin on July 31 and last until August 3. The ban also prevents people from travelling from one region to another.

On Tuesday, the Health Ministry reported 1,487 new cases of the virus and 11 deaths. Tuesday's death toll is the highest daily fatalities recorded since the outbreak began in Oman. In all, Oman has confirmed 69,887 cases and 337 deaths.

Oman is also screening widely, conducting 4,701 tests on Tuesday, bringing the tally to 279, 446.

Medical experts said the new measures would not help much to stop the virus spread.

"We can have as many lockdowns as we wish but that would not stop the spread of the virus," said Dr Fatma Al Ajmi, a retired virologist and a medical practitioner.

"What we need is ordinary people to be responsible and stop gathering. There are not enough police officers in the country to patrol the streets to stop people visiting each other in their homes."


Kuwait approves foreign worker quota bill

Kuwait's National Assembly committee has approved a draft law proposing a quota for the number of foreign workers that live in the country, designed to change the country's demographic ratio in favour of Kuwaitis.

The bill states that the Indian expatriate community - one of the largest in the country - should not exceed 15 per cent of the national population, which means about 800,000 of them could be required to leave the country.

Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled Al Sabah said last month that the country would like the number of foreign workers to drop from 70 per cent of the population to 30 per cent. This would mean a cut of about 2.5 million expat workers.

Foreigners account for nearly 3.4 million of Kuwait's 4.8 million people, and that's a "big imbalance, and we have a future challenge to redress this imbalance," Sheikh Sabah told the top editors of local newspapers.

The bill will now be referred to the concerned committee for consideration

In June, state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and its subsidiaries said the employment of foreign workers would be banned for the year 2020-21. There are similar plans for government and civil service jobs.

Last year, MP Safa Al Hashem said it was essential to have Kuwaitis number more than 50 per cent of the country's population.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for later this year, and anti-foreign worker rhetoric is attractive to some voters, especially when it concerns well-paid government jobs. At the end of 2019, only 19 per cent of the Kuwaiti workforce was in the private sector.

Foreigners have also accounted for the majority of Kuwait's coronavirus cases as the disease spread among migrant workers living in overcrowded labour camps.


Passengers from 31 countries can enter after 14-day layover

Kuwait's civil aviation body reiterated late Sunday that non-Kuwaiti passengers from 31 countries are not allowed to enter Kuwait, whether flying directly or via other countries. However, non-Kuwaiti passengers will be allowed to fly to Kuwait if they stayed in third countries for at least 14 days, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said.

After 14 days, they must undergo a PCR test for COVID-19 and provide a certificate proving a negative result of not being infected with the coronavirus, the DGCA added in a press statement. It noted that the validity of this certificate should not exceed 72 hours between the test date and arrival date to Kuwait.

The directorate announced on Saturday a ban on all passengers coming from 31 countries from entering Kuwait until further notice. It pointed out that the move was taken based on instructions by the Kuwaiti health authorities due to the situation and repercussions caused by the spread of the coronavirus in these "high risk" countries.

The countries from which passengers are banned from entering Kuwait include Armenia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Kosovo, Lebanon, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Nepal, Northern Macedonia, Panama, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Serbia, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka and Syria.

Commercial flights resumed to Kuwait airport on Saturday, but a concerted campaign by a large number of lawmakers and Kuwaitis on social media forced the civil aviation authority to ban passengers from these 31 countries. The foreign ministry said the decision will be regularly revised to remove or add other countries.


Kuwait: Expats to return back in 3 stage plan

The Ministry of Interior submitted its recommendation to allow the return of expatriates to the country, priority will be given to those expats who will be allowed to return back on 3 stages within the framework to organize arrival of those with valid residency so that the airport does not crowd with huge numbers of expats who wish to return from various countries.

The sources said that the First Stage will include doctors, nurses, judges, members of the public prosecution office and teachers, the collection of data from various ministries is underway in order to prepare to receive them.

The Second Stage includes those who have families residing in Kuwait, and those with residency permits of Article 22 (Dependent Visa) or heads of families who hold residency permits in accordance with Article 18 and their wives and children are inside Kuwait.

And the Third Stage, will be the last for the rest of the people to return to Kuwait.

According to sources, it is only a recommendation submitted by the Interior Ministry. Further approvals from Ministry of Health and other bodies will be required to implement this.


Morocco's Parliament Adopts Law to Enforce Wearing Face Masks in Public

Rabat - Morocco's Parliament has unanimously adopted a bill to complement Decree-Law 2.20.292 relating to the obligation of wearing face masks in public.

Both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors approved the legal text during a joint meeting on Friday, August 7.

Decree-Law 2.20.292, first adopted on March 23, provides a legal framework for the preventive measures that came along with the state of health emergency, as well as the penalties awaiting offenders.

During Friday's meeting, Minister of the Interior Abdelouafi Laftit gave a presentation on Decree-Law 2.20.292 and its complementary bill.

Article 4 of the decree-law provides for prison sentences ranging from one to three months and a fine of MAD 300 ($32) to MAD 1,300 ($140), or one of the two, Laftit recalled.

The minister explained that the government developed newly-approved legal text after noticing that citizens began to slack off in terms of wearing face masks in public.

In the first months of Morocco's state of health emergency, from March to May, the majority of citizens only left their homes in cases of necessity, regularly avoided gatherings, and wore face masks, Laftit said.

However, after Morocco witnessed eased lockdown measures in June, "there was a relaxation in the respect of preventive measures, especially the wearing of face masks in public," the minister added.

Possibility of immediate fines

The newly-adopted bill aims to simplify the enforcement of punishments against those not wearing face masks in Morocco.

The legal text provides for a fixed fine of MAD 300 to be paid immediately at the time of the infraction in order to avoid trial, "while taking into consideration the principle of proportionality between the offense and the sanction," Laftit explained. The immediate fine simplifies the procedure following infractions and allows offenders to avoid going to court.

If the offenders are unable to or refuse to pay the fine, they have to appear in court within the following 24 hours.


Morocco Extends State of Emergency Until September 10

Rabat - Morocco's Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani has announced that the government approved a decree to extend the nationwide state of emergency until September 10, an effort to continue curbing the spread of COVID-19.

After originally declaring it on March 19, Morocco has extended its state of emergency four separate times over the course of five months. The month-long extension will mark the fifth extension of the state of emergency and will move the country into its sixth month. Before today's decree approval, the set of emergency was set to expire on August 10.

At 6:00 p.m. yesterday, August 5, the Ministry of Health reported a record-breaking 1,283 daily case count, bringing the country's total confirmed cases to 28,500. Morocco's death toll stands at 435 with a COVID-19 mortality rate of 1.53%.

The decision to extend the state of emergency follows the country's "worst week" since the start of the public health crisis in Morocco in early March.

"The number of cases is increasing. The number of deaths is increasing. The number of patients in critical condition is increasing. It was a bad week," said Mouad Mrabet, a coordinator at the National Center for Public Health Emergency Operations, affiliated to the Ministry of Health.

The sharp rise in cases has prompted another wave of lockdown measures in Fez and Tangier. In addition, the government has cracked down on intercity travel by once again enforcing authorization to travel between major cities.

The intercity travel restrictions came into effect just prior to the Eid al Adha holiday.

In response to frustrations surrounding the revisited restrictions, Health Minister Khalid Ait Taleb said, "We know that citizens are angry. But let me tell you that the virus does not give a deadline. We don't have any choice but to fight the spread of COVID-19 with proactive measures."

World leaders have recognized Morocco as a model country regarding its proactive response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in July, the United Nations warned that if the country did not begin to take steps to adapt to the crisis, rather than rely on mitigation techniques, its economy would risk sinking deeper into deterioration.

Morocco's government has made no further announcements regarding the latest provisions of the country's state of emergency.


Algeria eases coronavirus restrictions, including travel curbs and curfew

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria said on Saturday it will further ease its coronavirus lockdown, including shortening an overnight curfew, lifting some travel curbs and allowing large mosques to reopen.

The North African country has recorded 34,155 coronavirus infections, with 1,282 deaths.

In June, it resumed some economic activity, mainly in the construction and public works sectors, and allowed the reopening of some businesses.

The new measures include lifting a travel ban on 29 provinces from Aug. 9 until the end of the month. During that period, a curfew will be shortened and will run from 11 pm to six am from the current eight pm to five am, the government said.

Mosques with a capacity of more than 1,000 worshipers can reopen from August 15, though weekly prayers on Fridays, which are usually attended by larger numbers of people, will remain banned throughout the country.

The use of air conditioners in mosques remains banned, as does a prohibition of access for women, vulnerable people and children under 15 years, the government said.

Algeria ended a curfew and travel restrictions for its remaining 19 provinces in July.

Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Nick Macfie and Mike Harrison

Image: FILE PHOTO: People walk in Algiers, Algeria March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina

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