Only people who can show evidence that they have taken Covid-19 vaccination will be allowed to perform this year’s Umrah pilgrimage which starts in the holy month of Ramadan.
It was also not clear whether the policy, which comes amid an upsurge9 in coronavirus infections in Saudi Arabia, would be extended to the annual Hajj pilgrimage later this year.
Saudi Arabia has reported more than 393,000 coronavirus infections and over 6,700 deaths from the virus.
The kingdom’s health ministry said it has administered more than five million coronavirus vaccines, in a country with a population of over 34 million.
Last month, King Salman replaced the Hajj minister, months after the kingdom hosted the smallest Hajj in modern history due to the pandemic.
Mohammad Benten was relieved of his post and replaced by Essam bin Saeed, according to a royal decree published by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
Only 10,000 Muslim residents of Saudi Arabia itself were allowed to take part in the Hajj last year, a far cry from the 2.5 million Muslims from around the world who participated in 2019.
With COVID-19 vaccination drives taking place across the globe, the idea of vaccine passports or certificates has become a hotly debated solution to safely reopen international borders for travel and boost tourism sectors that have immensely suffered under coronavirus lockdowns.
Last month China launched a health certificate programme for Chinese citizens travelling internationally.
The digital certificate, which shows a user’s vaccination status and virus test results, is available for Chinese citizens via a programme on Chinese social media platform WeChat.
The United Kingdom’s government is also considering asking people to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to access crowded spaces such as pubs or sports events.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously said a certificate is likely to be needed for international travel.
However, British parliamentarians from across the political divide recently in a letter opposed any such move in the future, calling it “divisive and discriminatory”.
2,044 stranded Nigerians repatriated from Libya in 8 Months – NEMA
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said it has repatriated 2,044 Nigerians stranded in the crisis-ridden North African country, Libya into the country.
This was disclosed by the Director General of NEMA, Mustapha Habib Ahmed, against the backdrop of fresh 174 stranded Nigerians brought back into the country from Libya at the Cargo wing of Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, on Tuesday.
It could be recalled that the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in collaboration with the European Union (EU) has been repatriating thousands of stranded Nigerians from various countries since 2017 through a Special Assisted Voluntary Repatriation Programme (SAVP).
The NEMA DG, who was represented by the Lagos territorial office coordinator, Ibrahim Farinloye, said in 2022, the agency received 12 flights, with 2,044 Nigerians that are stranded in Libya, but assisted back into the country.
Giving details of the repatriated Nigerians, he said, “Out of those brought back are, 848 male adults, 719 female adults, 180 children and 123 infants.
Agencies present to receive the returnees are, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS); the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN); the Refugee Commission, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
EU freezes Russian oligarchs’ assets worth over 10 billion Euro (Rs82K crore )
In retaliation to the Russian military offensive against Ukraine, the European Union has blocked the assets of Russian oligarchs worth nearly €10 billion (over Rs 82K crore) as part of sanctions, TASS reported.
Further, another set of frozen assets was reported in the month of April.
Earlier in April, the European Union had frozen about €30 billion (Rs 2,48,418 crore) in assets of Russian and Belarusian oligarchs and businesses.
Assets worth €29.5 billion have been frozen, and transactions worth €196 billion have been banned, according to the EU statement.
Josep Borrell has also recommended taking frozen Russian foreign exchange assets to reconstruct Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the European Union has approved a 500 million euro military aid tranche for Ukraine.
Egypt rakes in $15m daily from Suez canal vessel traffic
Egypt is making bountiful harvests of revenue from its man-made Suez canal with daily earnings of $15millon from the maritime traffic.
Suez Canal stretches from Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea to the city of Suez on the northeastern shores of the Gulf of Suez, separating Egypt from the Sinai Peninsula.
Safwat explained that up to one billion tons of maritime cargo passed through the canal every year and that up to 20,000 ships had passed through the canal in the first quarter of 2022, carrying goods to various countries around the globe.
He said that the canal, the longest man-made in the world, had recorded increased revenue, generating about $5.61 billion in 2020, due to the determination and doggedness of Egyptians.
Safwat announced that the company made about $6.3 billion from its activities last year, saying that the construction of the canal 152 years ago, demonstrated the willpower and can-do spirit of the citizens of the Arab nation.
Tracing the history of the canal, the spokesman said it took the labour of about one million Egyptians and 120,000 deaths to put the canal in place in 1859.
Safwat noted that the number of ships using the canal daily had also increased from 45 per day in 2015 to 60 per day at present, describing the route as one of the safest in the world.
In March 2021, a huge container ship, known as Ever Given, belonging to Evergreen Shipping Lines, got wedged and blocked the Suez Canal, disrupting global maritime trade for weeks.
However, the ship, which the Egyptian Government impounded, was later released after agreeing to a deal on compensation with the government.
The 193-km Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea at the canal’s northern end to the Red Sea in the south and it provides the shortest link between Asia and Europe.
The authorities of the SCA took the visiting journalists on a boat cruise on the old and new canals built by the government.
The journalists noticed the intense maritime activity taking place round the hour on the canal, helping to boost the prosperity of the North African country.
Egypt, which is currently one of Africa’s biggest economies, has embarked on various developmental projects, to sustain its position as a pacesetter in both the Arab world and sub-Saharan Africa.
The rich North African country has a population of about 106 million people, making it the third-largest country in Africa.
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