International News

File photo shows South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (left) welcoming North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong (right) before their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul. —AFP

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister warned at the weekend that a Korean liaison office would soon be seen “completely collapsed”. On Tuesday, Pyongyang reduced it to rubble. Kim Yo Jong is one of her brother’s most trusted advisers and among the most powerful women in the isolated regime, but her public profile is mounting rapidly and she has been mooted as a potential successor. The first statement issued in her name came only in March this year, but in recent days and weeks, she has been at the forefront of Pyongyang’s denunciations of defectors in the South sending leaflets across the border.

Officially she is only an alternate member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee, but in a weekend statement carried by the official KCNA news agency, she referred to “my power authorized by the Supreme Leader, our Party and the state”. Born in 1988, according to the Unification ministry, Yo Jong is one of three children born to Kim’s predecessor Kim Jong Il and his third known partner, former dancer Ko Yong Hui. She was educated in Switzerland alongside her brother and rose rapidly up the ranks once he inherited power after their father’s death in 2011.

Her existence was barely known to the wider world until his funeral, when she was seen standing right behind Kim Jong Un on state television, looking tearful and ashen-faced. But more recently she has seemed to be constantly at her brother’s side. Yo Jong has “been very faithful in promoting him as the supreme leader, burnishing his domestic and international image, and helping him practically as his de facto chief of staff,” said Katharine Moon, a politics professor at Wellesley College in the United States.

On their 60-hour train journey to Hanoi for his summit with Trump – which collapsed without a nuclear deal – Yo Jong was seen bringing him an ashtray when he stepped off for a cigarette break. There was “no doubt” that Kim has an exceptionally close relationship with his sister, said Yang Moo-jin, of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “Jong Un and Yo Jong spent much of their lonely childhood overseas together – I think this is when they developed something that is similar to comradeship, on top of sibling love,” he told AFP. 

The North has never had a woman leader but speculation swirled over Yo Jong as a potential successor in the event of the death of her brother, after he was absent from public view for weeks earlier this year.  Leadership has always been a family affair in the North, and she is now one of the most prominent members of the “Paektu bloodline” – a Northern term for Kim Il Sung and his descendants, who have led the nuclear-armed country since its foundation.

And analysts say that her portrayal in state media as the voice of Pyongyang’s anger over the activists – and now a role in a highly visible action – could be intended to bolster her credibility with the North Korean military and other hawks. Until recently, Yo Jong has been more associated with the North’s diplomatic efforts. An inscrutable smile played on her lips when she rode down an escalator at Incheon airport as her brother Kim Jong Un’s envoy to the 2018 Winter Olympics, becoming the first member of the North’s ruling dynasty to set foot in the South since the Korean War.

Every detail of her visit was closely watched, from the clothes she wore to the bag she was carrying and even her handwriting. When she had a brief meeting with Seoul officials on arrival, the delegation’s titular leader Kim Yong Nam – at the time Pyongyang’s ceremonial head of state and a man in his 90s – offered her the seat of honor. The Games ushered in a rapid diplomatic rapprochement on the peninsula and she attended a series of summits as aide to her brother, sometimes straying into shot as he walked with US President Donald Trump or the South’s Moon Jae-in. But in keeping with the secrecy shrouding North Korea’s leaders, it is not known whether she is married. — AFP

DUBAI: An Emirates Airlines flight takes off from Dubai International Airport in this file photo. Gulf carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways are extending the period of reduced pay for their staff until September, it is reported.

DUBAI: Gulf carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways are extending the period of reduced pay for their staff until September as they try to preserve cash during the global coronavirus pandemic.

The aviation industry has been among the worst hit by the outbreak, which has dented travel demand and forced major airlines to lay off staff and seek government bailouts. State airlines Emirates and Etihad have operated limited, mostly outbound services from the United Arab Emirates since grounding passenger flights in March.

They are due to restart some connecting flights this month after the UAE last week lifted a suspension on services where passengers stop off in the country to change planes, or for refuelling.

Dubai’s Emirates told employees yesterday it would extend a three month wage cut due to end this month until September 30, according to an internal email seen by Reuters. In some cases, pay cuts will also be deepened, with some basic salaries reduced by 50%, the email to Emirates Group employees said. The decision was made after reviewing all possible options to preserve its cash position, it said.

State-owned Emirates Group, which employed 105,000 as of March and includes the airline among its assets, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Emirates had previously reduced basic wages reduced by 25 percent to 50 percent for three months from April, with junior employees exempted.

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways has extended its salary cuts of between 25 percent to 50 percent to September, a spokeswoman said, as it considers all options to protect jobs and preserve cash. he airline originally reduced salaries for the month of April.

Etihad last week laid off some cabin crew and its not planning any further crew redundancies, according to emails seen by Reuters. The spokeswoman said there have been redundancies across several areas of the airline, and last month sources told Reuters Etihad was planning to lay off 1,200 employees. Like other airlines, Emirates and Etihad have laid off staff due to the impact of its business. Fellow Gulf carrier Qatar Airways has said it could lay off up to 20 percent of its employees. — Reuters

SHANGHAI: File photo shows a worker shoveling building material around a soon-to-be torn down and empty residential building in Shanghai. —AFP

BEIJING: Farmers in China have faced forced evictions and illicit land grabs for decades – sources of social unrest that the government is finally trying to address in a major shake-up of its property law. Millions of hectares of rural land were taken away from farmers in the past three decades and given to developers as China raced to urbanize, often with little or no compensation in return. Rural migrants living in run-down inner-city areas have also been forcefully evicted in recent years as cities fight congestion.

“Land disputes trigger half of an estimated 100,000 social protests in China every year, making them the second leading cause for public unrest after labor disputes,” Ni Yulan, a lawyer who advocates for property rights of low-income families in Beijing, told AFP. Ni has been jailed twice for her advocacy and is paralyzed from the waist down, a result she says of beatings received during her detention. Her house in Beijing was demolished by officials in 2008, but she hasn’t yet been able to file a complaint about it because local courts were operating hand in glove with the local government, her husband Dong Jiqin said.

China’s first-ever civil code approved by parliament last week focuses on giving judges greater independence and curbing the influence of local officials, but the judiciary is still ultimately answerable to the Communist Party. The new guidelines have narrowed the interpretation of “public interest” to prevent abusive land grabs. It also makes it mandatory for local governments to make public announcements on “all acts taken by the state in relation to private property”, thus making land transactions more transparent. But it does not stipulate any punishments for those illegally expropriating land or the rights of individual farmers to collective land, making it harder for families to seek compensation. The wide-ranging legislative package will come into effect on January 1.

“For the first time, the civil code offers one whole (legal) system,” Liu Qiao, who specializes in Chinese and English civil law at the City University of Hong Kong, said. “It forces courts and judges to be consistent with their interpretations, thus reducing room for political meddling.” But Dong, who is also an activist, was concerned that the new provisions will be ignored during enforcement. “The problem in China is that there is no supervision, and the judiciary doesn’t act in accordance with the law,” he said. Local governments have taken away land from 100,000 to 500,000 farmers every year between 2005 to 2015 in violation of national land-use laws, according to a study by Qiao Shitong, a property and urban law professor at the University of Hong Kong.

‘At peace’

In China, land can only be owned by the state or collective organizations. Private individuals or businesses can only buy the right to use land for up to 70 years. The civil code  – for the first time – clarifies what will happen once a home owner’s 70-year usage rights expire. The law affirms that land-use rights for residential homes will be automatically renewed after expiration but does not say whether owners need to pay for renewals. “This is a strong boost of confidence to the country’s homebuyers who were in the dark about what would happen… once the so-called usage-period expires,” said Dong Jizhou, a real estate analyst for Huatai Financial Holdings. Ruo Lan, a dumpling vendor in Beijing, said she was earlier nervous about pouring her life savings into buying an apartment for her son. “I can’t afford a new apartment, and I was worried about buying one built 30 or 40 years ago because it wasn’t clear whether we could still live in it after the 70-year property use period expired,” Ruo said. “Now I’m at peace knowing my grandchild can inherit the property.”

Lights out

Tenants enjoy very few rights under a patchwork of contradictory laws in China. Han Bingxing, who rents a luxury apartment in Beijing, found her water cut off in March after being just two weeks late on rent.  “I was laid off in February, and I had asked for some time from the landlord to settle the bills,” the 26-year old copywriter told AFP. “But this was an ominous sign she wanted to evict me.” Cutting off utilities – or even sending thugs – is a common practice when landlords want to get rid of tenants in China. Liu said the civil code bars property service companies from cutting off water or electricity of tenants who are in arrears. The government hopes the move will bolster China’s 1-trillion-yuan ($145 billion) rental market that has been battered by the coronavirus outbreak. — AFP

 

بیجنگ: چین میں کسانوں کو کئی دہائیوں سے جبری بے دخلی اور ناجائز اراضی پر قبضے کا سامنا کرنا پڑا۔ معاشرتی بدامنی کے ذرائع کہ حکومت بالآخر اس کے املاک قانون کی ایک بڑی دھجیاں اڑانے کی کوشش کر رہی ہے۔ پچھلی تین دہائیوں میں لاکھوں ہیکٹر دیہی اراضی کاشتکاروں سے چھین لی گئی تھی اور ڈویلپروں کو دیئے گئے تھے کیونکہ چین شہری بننے پر مجبور ہوتا تھا ، اس کے بدلے میں بہت کم یا معاوضہ بھی مل جاتا تھا۔ شہروں میں ہجوم کی لڑائی لڑنے کے ساتھ ہی شہر کے اندرونی علاقوں میں رہنے والے دیہی تارکین وطن کو بھی زبردستی بے دخل کردیا گیا ہے۔

بیجنگ میں کم آمدنی والے گھرانوں کے جائیداد کے حقوق کی حمایت کرنے والے ایک وکیل نی یولان نے اے ایف پی کو بتایا ، "چین میں ہر سال زمین کے تنازعات میں تخمینہ شدہ ایک لاکھ سماجی احتجاج کا نصف حصہ بڑھ جاتا ہے ، جس سے وہ مزدوری تنازعات کے بعد عوامی بدامنی کی دوسری اہم وجہ بن جاتے ہیں۔" . نی کو اس کی وکالت کے الزام میں دو بار جیل بھیج دیا گیا ہے اور اسے کمر سے نیچے مفلوج کردیا گیا ہے ، اس کے نتیجے میں اس نے اپنی نظربندی کے دوران ملنے والی مار پیٹ کا بتایا ہے۔ ان کے شوہر ڈونگ جیقین نے کہا کہ بیجنگ میں ان کے گھر کو حکام نے 2008 میں منہدم کردیا تھا ، لیکن وہ ابھی تک اس بارے میں شکایت درج نہیں کر سکی ہیں کیونکہ ان کے شوہر ڈونگ جیقین نے بتایا کہ مقامی عدالتیں مقامی حکومت کے ساتھ کام کررہی ہیں۔

چین کا پہلا پہلا سول کوڈ جو پارلیمنٹ نے منظور کیا تھا ، ججوں کو زیادہ سے زیادہ آزادی دلانے اور مقامی عہدیداروں کے اثر و رسوخ کو روکنے پر مرکوز ہے ، لیکن عدلیہ اب بھی آخرکار کمیونسٹ پارٹی کو جوابدہ ہے۔ نئی رہنما خطوط نے زمینوں کو ناجائز قبضوں سے بچانے کے لئے "عوامی مفاد" کی ترجمانی کو محدود کردیا ہے۔ مقامی حکومتوں کو یہ بھی لازمی قرار دیتا ہے کہ وہ "نجی املاک کے سلسلے میں ریاست کی طرف سے کی جانے والی تمام کارروائیوں" کے بارے میں عوامی اعلانات کرے ، اس طرح زمین کے لین دین کو زیادہ شفاف بنایا جائے۔ لیکن غیر قانونی طور پر زمین ضبط کرنے والے افراد یا اجتماعی اراضی کے انفرادی کسانوں کے حقوق کے ل any کسی بھی سزا کا پابند نہیں ہے جس کی وجہ سے اہل خانہ کو معاوضے کے حصول میں مشکل پیش آتی ہے۔ وسیع تر قانون سازی پیکیج یکم جنوری سے نافذ ہوگا۔

ہانگ کانگ کی سٹی یونیورسٹی میں چینی اور انگریزی شہری قانون میں مہارت حاصل کرنے والے لیو کیائو نے کہا ، "پہلی بار ، سول کوڈ میں ایک مکمل (قانونی) نظام پیش کیا گیا ہے۔ "یہ عدالتوں اور ججوں کو اپنی تشریحات کے مطابق رہنے پر مجبور کرتی ہے ، اس طرح سیاسی مداخلت کی جگہ کم ہوجاتی ہے۔" لیکن ڈونگ ، جو ایک سرگرم کارکن بھی ہیں ، کو تشویش تھی کہ نفاذ کے دوران نئی دفعات کو نظرانداز کردیا جائے گا۔ انہوں نے کہا ، "چین میں مسئلہ یہ ہے کہ یہاں کوئی نگرانی نہیں ہے ، اور عدلیہ قانون کے مطابق کام نہیں کرتی ہے۔" ہانگ کانگ یونیورسٹی کے پراپرٹی اور شہری قانون کے پروفیسر کیو شیونگ کے ایک مطالعے کے مطابق ، مقامی حکومتوں نے 2005 سے 2015 کے درمیان ہر سال زمین سے استفادہ کرنے والے قومی قوانین کی خلاف ورزی کرتے ہوئے 100،000 سے 500،000 کسانوں کو زمین چھین لی ہے۔
An elderly man approaches riot police during a protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Buffalo on June 4. — Reuters
 who then falls and cracks his head, a confrontation that resulted in the suspension of two officers.

The video from WFBO of Thursday night's encounter, which happened near the conclusion of race protests over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, quickly sparked outrage.

It showed an officer pushing a man who approached a line of officers clearing demonstrators from Niagara Square around the time of an 8pm curfew. The man falls backward and hits his head on the pavement. Blood leaks out as officers walk past.

The mayor, Byron Brown, said in a statement that the man, who hasn't been publicly identified, was in serious condition.

"A hospital official said he was alert and oriented,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted Friday morning. "Let's hope he fully recovers," Poloncarz said.

 

The video immediately generated outrage, including among elected officials, despite lacking the racial element that made the death of Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer pressed a knee on his neck for several minutes, such a flashpoint.

The officer and the man in the Buffalo video both appear to be white.

Governor Andrew Cuomo endorsed the suspensions, tweeting that what was seen on video was wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful.

"The police commissioner suspended two police officers without pay," the mayor said.

 

"The district attorney's office continues to investigate the incident,” officials said in a news release, but the victim could not talk to investigators on Thursday night.

Buffalo police initially said in a statement that a person was injured when he tripped & fell, WIVB-TV reported, but Captain Jeff Rinaldo later told the TV station an internal investigation was opened.

"When I saw the video, certainly, it was incredibly distressing and very disappointing. You don't want to see anything like that," Brown told WIVB-TV on Friday.

The office of state Attorney General Letitia James tweeted that officials there were aware of the video. US Senator Charles Schumer called for an investigation, according to a statement reported by WIVB-TV.

"The casual cruelty demonstrated by Buffalo police officers tonight is gut wrenching and unacceptable," John Curr, the Buffalo chapter director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement, adding that it should be a wake up call for city leaders to address police violence.

California mayor resigns over email about police killings

The mayor of a Southern California city resigned following an email in which he stated he didn't believe there's ever been a "good person of color killed by a police officer” locally.

Temecula Mayor James Stewart had apologized on Thursday for the email, saying he never meant to use the word good. He had said he is dyslexic and so used voice text to send his message but failed to notice the added word.

"Unfortunately, I did not take the time to proof read what was recorded. I absolutely did not say that,” Stewart told the Riverside Press-Enterprise on Thursday.

"What I said is 'I don't believe there has ever been a person of color murdered by police' on context to Temecula or Riverside County. I absolutely did not say 'good'. I have no idea how that popped up."

Stewart said he was replying to someone concerned about our police officers and their sensitivity training.

The city issued a press release late on Thursday announcing that Stewart, who was elected to a four-year term in 2016, was stepping down from his post and the city council, news outlets reported.

"You have every right to be hurt and offended. My typos and off-the-cuff response to an email on a serious topic added pain at a time where our community, and our country, is suffering," Stewart said in a statement.

“I may not be the best writer and I sometimes misspeak, but I am not racist." He said he was resigning because he understood his sincerest apologies cannot remedy this situation.

MARYLAND: In this file photo, US President Donald Trump greets Secretary of Defense James Mattis (right) as he walks to board Air Force One prior to departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. —AFP

WASHINGTON: Former Pentagon chief Jim Mattis issued a stinging rebuke of his erstwhile boss Donald Trump on Wednesday, accusing the president of trying to “divide” America and failing to provide “mature leadership” as the country reels from days of protests. Mattis, who resigned in December 2018 over Trump’s ordering of a full troop withdrawal from Syria, also voiced support for the demonstrators whose anti-racism rallies have roiled the country. “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people – does not even pretend to try,” Mattis wrote in a blistering statement posted online by The Atlantic. “Instead, he tries to divide us,” added the retired Marine general, who had previously argued it would be inappropriate for him to criticize a sitting president.

“We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership,” he stated. Mattis described himself as “angry and appalled” after witnessing events of the last week, which saw Trump threaten a military crackdown on American citizens as nationwide protests turned violent in some cities. The fury was ignited by the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a black man who suffocated beneath the knee of a white police officer, and whose agonizing death was filmed by bystanders. The demonstrations have mostly been peaceful, but some have degenerated into violence and looting as night falls.

Mattis wrote that the protesters’ call for equal justice was a “wholesome and unifying demand.” And he slammed the decision to use force to clear peaceful protesters from near the White House on Monday to allow Trump to pose for photographs at a nearby damaged church, calling it an “abuse of executive authority.” The photo op has become a lightning rod for criticism of Trump’s handling of the crisis, with religious leaders, politicians, and onlookers around the country expressing outrage. “When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution,” Mattis stated.

“Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens – much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.” Trump dismissed Mattis with a tweet, rehashing his claim that he “essentially” fired his Pentagon chief. “Probably the only thing Barack Obama and I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General,” the president wrote. Mattis was head of US Central Command when Obama fired him in 2013 over his hawkish views on Iran.

‘We can unite without him’

For months after Mattis resigned, he refused to criticize Trump publicly, insisting the military must remain apolitical. Wednesday’s statement appeared to signaled he no longer felt bound by that sentiment, as he called for solidarity – with or without the president. “We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society,” Mattis wrote.

Retired Marine Corps General John Allen echoed Mattis’ criticism of Trump after his speech threatening to deploy the US military against American citizens. “To even the casual observer, Monday was awful for the United States and its democracy,” the former commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan wrote in Foreign Policy.

“The president’s speech was calculated to project his abject and arbitrary power, but he failed to project any of the higher emotions or leadership desperately needed in every quarter of this nation during this dire moment.” Allen, president of the Brookings Institution, also took aim at the president’s church photo-op. “Donald Trump isn’t religious, has no need of religion, and doesn’t care about the devout, except insofar as they serve his political needs,” he wrote.—AFP

The WHO suspended trials of the drug that Donald Trump has promoted as a coronavirus defence, fuelling concerns about the US president's handling of the pandemic that has killed nearly 100,000 Americans.

Trump has led the push for hydroxychloroquine as a potential shield or treatment for the virus, which has infected nearly 5.5 million people and killed 345,000 around the world, saying he took a course of the drug as a preventative measure.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has also heavily promoted hydroxychloroquine while the virus has exploded across nation, which this week became the second most infected in the world after the United States.

But the World Health Organisation said on Monday it was halting testing of the drug for Covid-19 after studies questioned its safety, including one published Friday that found it actually increased the risk of death.

The WHO "has implemented a temporary pause... while the safety data is reviewed", its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, referring to the hydroxychloroquine arm of a global trial of various possible treatments.

Trump announced last week he was taking the drug, explaining he had decided to take after receiving letters from a doctor and other people advocating it.

"I think it's good. I've heard a lot of good stories," Trump told reporters then, as he declared it safe.

Trump dismissed the opinions then of his own government's experts who had warned of the serious risks associated with hydroxychloroquine, with the Food and Drug Administration highlighting reported poisonings and heart problems.

Trump has been heavily criticised for his handling of the virus, after initially downplaying the threat and then repeatedly rejecting scientific analysis.

The United States has by far the world's highest coronavirus death toll, reaching 98,218 on Monday, with more than 1.6 million confirmed infections.

Despite the WHO suspension, Brazil's health ministry said Monday it would keep recommending hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19.

"We're remaining calm and there will be no change," health ministry official Mayra Pinheiro told a news conference.

Bolsonaro is a staunch opponent of lockdown measures and like Trump has played down the threat of the virus, even as Latin America has emerged as the new global virus hotspot.

Brazil has reported nearly 375,000 cases, widely considered to be far fewer than the real number because of a lack of testing, and more than 23,000 deaths.

Chile also is in the grip of a virus surge, with a record of nearly 5,000 infections in 24 hours on Monday.

'Thrilled to break the isolation'

While South America and parts of Africa and Asia are only just beginning to feel the full force of the pandemic, many European nations are easing lockdowns as their outbreaks are brought under control.

In hard-hit Spain, Madrid and Barcelona on Monday emerged from one of the world's strictest lockdowns, with parks and cafe terraces open for the first time in more than two months.

Elsewhere, gyms and swimming pools reopened in Germany, Iceland, Italy and Spain.

And slowing infection rates in Greece allowed restaurants to resume business a week ahead of schedule — but only for outdoor service.

"I'm thrilled to break the isolation of recent months and reconnect with friends," said pensioner Giorgos Karavatsanis.

"The cafe in Greece has a social dimension, it's where the heart of the district beats."

Despite the encouraging numbers, experts have warned that the virus could hit back with a devastating second wave if governments and citizens are careless, especially in the absence of a vaccine.

The latest reminder of the threat came from Sweden, where the Covid-19 death toll crossed 4,000 — a much higher figure than its neighbours.

The Scandinavian nation has gained international attention — and criticism — for not enforcing stay-at-home measures like other European countries.

'What will happen if I die'

The extended lockdowns, however, have started to bite globally, with businesses and citizens wearying of confinement and suffering immense economic pain.

Unprecedented emergency stimulus measures have been introduced, as governments try to provide relief to their economies, with the airline and hospitality sectors hit particularly hard because of travel bans.

Lufthansa became the latest major global company to be rescued, as the German government agreed a 9 billion euros ($9.8 billion) bailout for one of the world's biggest airlines.

But analysts have warned that the pandemic's economic toll will be even more painful for countries far poorer than Western nations.

In the Maldives, a dream destination for well-heeled honeymooners, tens of thousands of impoverished foreign labourers have been left stranded, jobless and ostracised as the tiny nation shut all resorts to stop the virus.

"We need money to survive. We need our work," said Zakir Hossain, who managed to send about 80 percent of his $180 a month wage to his wife and four children in Bangladesh before the outbreak.

"I heard that if a Bangladeshi worker dies here, they don't send his body back and he is buried here," he said. "I am worried what will happen if I die.

This picture taken on May 24, 2020 during the early hours of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday which starts at the conclusion of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, shows an aerial view of the Grand Mosque and Kaaba in the centre of Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca. – Saudi Arabia began a five-day, round-the-clock curfew from May 23 after COVID-19 coronavirus infections more than quadrupled since the start of Ramadan to around 68,000 . — AFP

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia will begin easing restrictions on movement and travel this week, more than two months after stringent measures were introduced to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Restrictions will be lifted in three phases, culminating in the curfew completely ending – with the exception of the holy city of Makkah – from June 21, the state news agency reported in a statement early yesterday.
The hajj and umrah pilgrimages – which attract millions of travelers from around the world – will remain suspended until further notice. The kingdom has so far recorded 74,795 cases of COVID-19 with 399 deaths. More than 2,000 cases are still being reported daily. The first phase, starting on Thursday, will see the 24-hour curfew reduced to between 3 pm-6 am countrywide. Free movement between regions and some retail and wholesale activities, including malls, will be allowed to resume.
Saudi Arabia had imposed 24-hour curfews on most towns and cities but eased them for the start of the fasting month of Ramadan. The 24-hour curfew was reimposed during the five-day Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, which began on Sunday. From Sunday May 30, free movement will be allowed between 6 am and 8 pm, Saudi Press Agency reported. Domestic flights will be allowed to resume, but a ban on international flights will stay.
Mosques can hold prayers once again, subject to social distancing and hygiene measures, except for in Makkah where restrictions on attendance will stay in place. Public and private sector employees will be allowed to return to their offices. Social gatherings of more than 50 people will still be banned, including weddings and funerals. Citizens will still be urged to wear masks in public and continue hygiene and social distancing measures after June 21.
Makkah will stay one phase behind the rest of the country, with curfew times adjusted to 3 pm-6 am until June 20, revised up to 8 pm thereafter. Prayers will only be allowed to resume in mosques from June 21.

Meanwhile, Dubai will begin allowing free movement and business activity to restart from Wednesday, Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed said on Monday. Starting Wednesday there will be no restrictions on movement or business operations between 6.00 am and 11.00 pm, the Dubai Media office said in a press release. Some retail and wholesale businesses will be allowed to reopen subject to further sterilization operations and social distancing measures, the media office said on Twitter.
This will include cinemas, indoor gyms and education and treatment centres for children among others. Business and tourism hub Dubai allowed malls to reopen at limited capacity during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that began on April 24. Dubai has also allowed dine-in restaurants and cafes to resume business at 30 percent capacity and public parks to reopen with restrictions.
Monday’s announcement reverses a measure taken last week by the UAE to extend its nationwide curfew by two hours after reporting an increase in daily cases of the coronavirus. The UAE reported 822 new cases on Monday taking the cumulative total to 30,307, with 248 deaths. Monday’s statement added that Dubai’s airport will also begin to receive returning residents and travellers in transit as of Wednesday.
The UAE, which had suspended entry of non-Emirati residents on March 19, said last week it would soon start allowing in those with valid residencies stranded abroad whose families are in the UAE. The state news agency said residents with relatives in the UAE could start returning as of June 1 to reunite with family. The country halted regular passenger flights and closed most public venues to combat the disease, but like other Gulf Arab states it saw the virus spread among low-income migrant workers living in overcrowded quarters, leading it to increase testing. – Reuters

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