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”.
U.S. picks 56 young Nigerians for Mandela Washington Fellowship
The United States Mission in Nigeria said it has chosen 56 young ‘changemakers’ for the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) for 2022.
The statement also indicated that U.S. Mission Nigeria has selected 16 alumni from the MWF cohort from 2021 to take part in this year’s Alumni Enrichment Institute.
Kathleen FitzGibbon, Deputy Chief of Mission, made this known at the pre-departure orientation programme in Abuja organised for the beneficiaries in preparation for their fellowship in the United States this Summer.
“For the 2021/2022 MWF application cycle, over 19,000 Nigerians started the application, and over 8,000 submitted the application by the deadline.
“Following this, a total of 56 Mandela Washingon fellowship awards were made available to Nigerians this year,” she said.
In a joyous mood, one of the fellows,
“I believe this will be a game-changer for me and every other fellow as we will learn optimised ways to enhance the quality and widen the scope of impact of our works,” he said.
Chisom Nwankwo, a social entrepreneur and cleantech expert who runs the Skilled Women Initiative said: “after having a Virtual fellowship in 2021 as a result of the COVID19 pandemic, I am really excited to be heading to Drexel University Pennslyvania this summer as an Alumni Enrichment participant of the MWF.”
“I am looking forward to creating new relationships that will be pivotal to the growth of my nonprofit TSWINI and the improvement of my knowledge on sustainable clean technology solutions,” she said.
Babajide Oluwase, the founder of Ecotutu, a cleantech company delivering a suite of cold chain solutions to African businesses, said it is really an exciting feeling for him to be selected for the fellowship.
“Upon completion of my studies in the United States, I look forward to integrating the learnings into my work to advance Ecotutu’s mission of democratizing access to affordable cooling solutions for African businesses.”
While admonishing the fellows, MWF program coordinator, Diran Adegoke, told fellows that the opportunity to travel to the United States is one to be cherished.
While making a presentation on “elevator speech” to the fellows, he encouraged them to present themselves in the best version possible and always remember that they are in the United States to represent Nigeria.
Launched in 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship exchange programme of the U.S. government-sponsored Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) created to further the United States’ commitment to investing in the future of Africa.
Each year, U.S. Missions across Sub-Saharan Africa select accomplished leaders, who have established records of promoting innovation and positive impact in their countries.
This summer, the Fellows will travel to the United States to participate in six-week Leadership Institutes studying Business, Civic Engagement, or Public Management at U.S. colleges and universities.
At the conclusion of the Leadership Institutes, the Fellows will attend the annual Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit, where Fellows, U.S. government officials, and representatives from businesses and organisations with an interest in Africa engage in high-level sessions and workshops.
After completing the Leadership Institutes and Summit, Fellows are eligible to participate in several MWF alumni opportunities, such as the Alumni Enrichment Institute, that build on the skills and connections developed during their summer exchange program.
Recall that since 2014, more than 5,000 young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa have participated in the MWF with 456 Fellows of the lot coming from Nigeria. Thus far, Nigeria remains the largest contributor of Fellows each year.
Talking about the import of the MWF, Ambassador Leonard said, “The United States is dedicated to investing in the next generation of young Nigerian leaders reinforcing the strong partnership between both nations.
The vision, courage, and drive to innovate of Mandela Washington Fellows will help shape the future of Nigeria for many generations to come.”
EU commences phased boycott of Russian crude oil.
The European Commission has formally drafted a long-awaited ban on Russian crude oil imports, according to the Wall Street Journal, and it circulated the details to EU member states on Tuesday.
The proposed text would require most EU member states to phase out Russian crude imports within six months and all Russian refined products within the year, officials told the paper.
All 27 EU member states must agree to the plan in order for it to be enacted.
In addition to a ban on Russian oil, the sixth round of sanctions will also remove additional Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system and list Russian “disinformation actors,” according to EC foreign affairs commissioner Josep Borrell.
The possibility of an outright ban on Russian oil reflects significant efforts by EU member states and oil refiners to find alternate sources of crude.
It may also accelerate a trend of “self-sanctioning” by Western oil traders, who have already begun limiting their exposure to Russian crude because of the perceived risks.
Assuming that Russia can find alternate markets to absorb production, tanker owners could be up for a windfall with the reshuffling of the oil trade.
Puzzle over mysterious death of six Russian billionaires, executives at oil giant Gazprom who “committed suicide” within three months.
Four billionaires and two executives at state-owned gas and oil giant Gazprom have died since Russian troops began preparing to invade their neighbour in late January.
They include Mikhail Watford, a Ukraine-born gas and property tycoon who told friends he feared Putin’s hit list ‘for years.
Three days beforehand, Joe Biden told Volodymyr Zelensky to ‘prepare for impact’.
Less than a month after Shulman’s death, Gazprom Deputy Director, Alexander Tyulakov was found hanged at the same St Petersburg housing complex.
Three days later Mikhail Watford was found dead – and three weeks after that, medical supplies tycoon, Vasily Melnikov, was killed in the alleged murder-suicide of his wife and children.
The billionaire owner of MedCom, 43, is thought to have murdered his wife, 41, and two children aged ten and four before taking his own life.
Local investigators said there were ‘no signs of unauthorized entry into the apartment.
‘We are considering several versions of what happened, police in a Western city, Nizhny Novgorod added.
On April 18, Gazprombank Vice-President, Vladislav Avayev was found dead with his wife and daughter in their Moscow apartment.
Russian reports said the gas executive shot and killed his family before turning the gun on himself. He was reported to have tortured his wife for hours.
But Avayev’s ex-colleague Igor Volobuev said the suicide is ‘hard to believe’ and alleged it was staged.
Mr Volobuev denied that Avayev – who may have had FSB links and was found with an FSB gun after his death – had left his role as the senior Vice-President at Gazprombank, as had been widely reported.
Mr Avayev was still at the bank and would have had access to the accounts of its most elite clients, including Putin’s circle and possibly the president himself, his co-worker added.
Mr Volobuev told CNN: ‘Did he kill himself? I don’t think so. I think he knew something and that he posed some sort of risk.’
The next day, billionaire gas Executive, Sergey Protosenya was found dead in his Spanish holiday home, with his wife and daughter ‘hacked to death with an axe’.
Spanish authorities suggested that Mr Protosenya, 55, executed the pair before killing himself in an uncharacteristic fit of rage while the family enjoyed an Easter break on the Costa Brava last week.
But Protosenya’s son Fedor, 22, said his father ‘could never harm’ his family in that way.
He told MailOnline: ‘He loved my mother and especially Maria my sister. She was his princess.
‘He could never do anything to harm them. I don’t know what happened that night but I know that my dad did not hurt them.’
Mr Protosenya did not leave a suicide note and no fingerprints were found on the weapons – an axe and a knife – used to kill. There were no bloodstains on his body.
Fedor, a 22-year-old student, said the police had told him not to discuss the case.
Protosenya’s friend, Anatoly Timoshenko also told MailOnline: ‘Sergey did not do it. Sergey did not kill his family. It is impossible. I do not want to discuss what may have happened at the house that night but I know that Sergey is not a killer.’
Another friend, Roman Yuravich, added: ‘Sergey did not kill his family. I have known him for ten years. He was a happy man.
‘He loved his family. He did not kill his wife and child. I am sure.’
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