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COVID-19: Pandemic of the unvaccinated, and what it means

Dubai: If you've had your double dose of COVID vaccines, and perhaps even a “booster” shot, you’re extremely lucky — 98.9% of people in less-developed countries have yet to get even their first shot. Today, there's solid proof that approved coronavirus jabs are safe and effective. Vaccines embody human advancement. Various clinical data sets now show vaccines help prevent severe infections. Giant scientific strides  More than 18 months since the pandemic first erupted, experts and clinicians’ understanding about the threat has advanced tremendously. There are today at least 19 vaccines approved against COVID-19. Health authorities had also approved monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapies proven to help patients from age 12 and above who had encountered severe COVID, the same drug given to Donald Trump, and which he later trumpeted as a COVID-19 "cure". Moreover, antiviral drugs, as well as the game-changing dexamethasone, have become part of standard care of COVID-19 patients. Vaccines vs vaccinations Vaccines have advanced much, but they do not solve a pandemic; rather, it’s vaccinations that do. The world now faces a huge challenge as only 1.1% of people in less-developed countries have received even their first shot. Image Credit: Our World in Data / Vijith Pulikkal / Gulf News A powerful anti-vax lobby hyperactive on social media embodies human folly. Combined with the highly transmissible Delta variant, this folly turns into a double punch. Add to that the uneven distribution of vaccines — 78% of the world is yet to get even the first dose — is a another serious challenge. The pandemic response, so far, has been defined by and within national borders. The virus, however, knows no bounds. Given the “pan” — all — nature of the threat ("demos" is Greek for people), the WHO has warned that only an immediate collective action, and the level of avoidance for risk of transmission, will decide our future. Yet, at the moment, given the "triple whammy" hammering the world, getting to the desired future seems an insurmountable task. Image Credit: Seyyed dela Llata / Gulf News The WHO has warned that only an immediate collective action, and the level of avoidance for risk of transmission, will decide our future. Yet, at the moment, given the "triple whammy" hammering the world, getting to the desired future seems an insurmountable task. The 'triple whammy' In the face of this “triple whammy” — the growing power of the anti-vax camp, viral mutation and vaccine shortfalls in less developed countries — could end up dulling our edge over the virus. Consider the following: Today (July 27, 2021), more than halfway through 2021: Only 13.8% of the world is fully vaccinated, according Our World in Data. Most of them belong to the 10 countries that have roped in more than 70% of the COVID-19 shots. That means more than 86% of the world’s inhabitants are yet to have even the first dose (as of this writing). 27.2% of the world population has already received at least one dose of the vaccine. An estimated 3.89 billion doses had been administered globally. 32.03 million are now administered each day. But only 1.1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose. I think one can make a reasonable assumption, based on the level of virus in the nasopharynx, that it would be less likely that that vaccinated breakthrough person would transmit compared to an unvaccinated person. Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases What do scientists say about the implication of these numbers? Scientists and doctors are convinced vaccinations are the only way out of the coronavirus pandemic. In the US, in particular, they were vehement in the criticism of people who refuse vaccinations and the general vaccine hesitancy after data showed that 99% of deaths last month had been among unvaccinated Americans. One important point to know: Vaccinated people with asymptomatic infections have “considerably less” virus in their nasal passages when compared to unvaccinated people with asymptomatic infections, Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a White House briefing on July 17. “I think one can make a reasonable assumption, based on the level of virus in the nasopharynx, that it would be less likely that that vaccinated breakthrough person would transmit compared to an unvaccinated person,” Fauci added. What’s the lowdown on the threats to unvaccinated people? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Friday that more than 97% of people hospitalised with COVID-19 hadn’t received vaccines. The US is now dealing with a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at Friday’s briefing of the White House COVID-19 Response Team. “Our biggest concern is we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalisations and sadly deaths among the unvaccinated. We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk, and communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well,” Walensky said. Only around 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May were of fully vaccinated people. That is about 0.8 per day, or five deaths per day on average. Image Credit: Vijithg Pulikkal / Gulf News “Each COVID-19 death is tragic, and those happening now are even more tragic because they are preventable,” said Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator. Infectious disease experts worry that unvaccinated people could become “variant factories” since variants evolve in the body of a person infected with the coronavirus. If there are fewer infections, the chances of mutants are also less. “Unvaccinated people are potential variant factories,” William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told CNN. “The more unvaccinated people there are, the more opportunities for the virus to multiply,” he added. “When it does, it mutates, and it could throw off a variant mutation that is even more serious down the road,” Schaffner said. His concerns were echoed by Vivek Cherian, an internal medicine physician in Baltimore, US. How dominant is the Delta variant? It is able to infect vaccinated people? Studies show vaccines continue to prevent fully immunised people from becoming severely ill. Clinical data, at least from India and the US, underlines the value of vaccination and the need to continue with COVID-appropriate behaviour (masks, social distancing, good hygiene practices). Genome sequencing of recent samples from across India and the US shows the Delta variant continues to be the dominant lineage behind new COVID-19 infections. However, the data suggests a strong correlation between vaccination and lesser severity — that means the jabs offer a high level of protection, according to the Indian SARS-CoV2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG). The Delta variant — which has high transmissibility and is more virulent as compared to others — contributed to a majority of clinical cases in vaccine breakthrough (infections post vaccination). Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal / Gulf News But very few cases needed hospitalisation, a latest study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) shows. Only 9.8% cases required hospitalisation and fatality was as low as 0.4%. In the UK, new research suggests that two doses of Pfizer's or AstraZeneca's vaccine are 88% and 67% effective, respectively, at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 from the Delta variant. Given the Delta variant, what’s the worst that could happen? “The worst-case scenario is if Delta mutates into something completely different, a completely different animal, and then our current vaccines are even less effective or ineffective,” Cherian told the Business Insider last month. Vaccine hesitancy: Why is it high, what is the ultimate result? “Health misinformation has cost us lives,” said Vivek Murthy, the US surgeon general, at a recent briefing. Last week, Murthy issued a surgeon general’s warning about misinformation online and urged social media companies to do more to combat the spread of conspiracies. Vaccine hesitancy is at the heart of the problem as viral mutations continue. Misinformation and conspiracy theories have resulted in a poor vaccination rate in the US, a country with adequate supplies of vaccines. Hesitancy is highest among rural residents, Republicans and those with a high school education or less, according to ABC News/Washington Post’s latest poll. “Even though we have a surplus amount of vaccines at this time, we are only seeing 50% to 55% completely vaccinated patients,” Vino K. Palli, a specialist in emergency medicine, internal medicine and urgent care, told the Associated Press. “The scientific data has honed in on one thing — vaccines are effective in preventing hospitalisations, ICU admissions, ventilations and deaths,” he added. “There are people who still doubt the severity of COVID-19 and the effectiveness of the vaccine … This is still a serious illness. The vaccines are highly protective against these severe outcomes. This is real,” William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Centre at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the Washington Post. “The fact that only 0.8% of COVID-19 deaths are in the fully vaccinated should persuade those people still hesitant about vaccination,” says Hugh Cassiere, medical director of Respiratory Therapy Services at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York. ‘BREAKTHROUGH’ INFECTIONS Breakthrough infection is the infection of a fully-vaccinated person. It tends to be rare, and happens among older people or those who are immunocompromised because the shots may be less effective for them. Scientists say that while COVID-19 cases are surging, it's not due to 'breakthrough infections'; and point to new data showing that 99% of deaths and 97% of hospitalisations are among the unvaccinated. So yes, you can get COVID-19 after being vaccinated. But it's different from getting COVID-19 as an unvaccinated person: Your body is equipped with defenses it didn't have before. More importantly, it means this: your body does not go back at its immunological square one after a "breakthrough". Therefore, "breakthroughs" are only notable because they're rare. For example, of the 160 million people vaccinated in the US, just 3,733 were subsequently hospitalised for severe COVID-19 infection, and 791 have died. That doesn't mean vaccines don't work. Of the 273 who died OF COVID on July 26, 2021 across America, 273 were unvaccinated. Breakthroughs don't mean vaccines don't work. The numbers show it's the opposite that's true. In a July 25, 2021 update, Public Health England (PHE) estimates good vaccine effectiveness for both Alpha and Delta. The UK mostly uses AstraZeneca shots. A new pre-print study published in medRxiv server on vaccine efficacy using clinical data on 800 patients from US Flu VE Network (February 1 to May 28, 2021), shows mRNA shots reduce symptomatic confirmed COVID-19 by 91% in the fully vaccinated group, vs. 75% among the partially vaccinated. Another in France suggests high efficacy of mRNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern. Do vaccines become less effectively against new viral strains? New strains haven’t blunted the vaccines, although their efficacy is reduced. A study published in Nature on July 8, 2021 shows that individuals who are fully vaccinated (two doses) generated a neutralising response against Delta (B.1.1.617) in 95% of cases. Researchers led by Delphine Planas of the Virus and Immunity Unit, Department of Virology, Institut Pasteur in Paris, stated though that titres among fully vaccinated individuals were 3 to 5-fold lower against Delta than Alpha. They explained that this shows one thing: Delta variant spread is associated with an escape to antibodies targeting non-receptor binding domain (RBD) and RBD Spike epitopes. Image Credit: File “What we’re seeing is that these variants don’t seem to affect T-cell immunity all that much and they [the T-cells] seem to be as effective in recognising these variants as they do the original virus,” Galit Alter, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said. “What that means is that we actually have very important backup mechanisms built into our vaccines that will continue to provide protection against these newly emerging variants,” she said in a report in the Harvard Gazette. Is a return to 'normal' possible? Countries with robust vaccination programmes have been able to reduce the rate of transmission. And that’s enough reason to be optimistic. When a sufficient percentage of a country’s population is inoculated to achieve herd immunity, a return to the normal is possible. The UK and some US states that have opened up are some examples of this, though it remains unclear whether a fresh outbreak would lead to new lockdowns.

https://gulfnews.com/opinion/op-eds/england-covid-19-restrictions-ease-but-caution-remains-1.80800341 Is herd immunity possible? What should be minimum vaccination rate target? The herd immunity threshold is not a fixed target, experts say, as it could range from 70% to 90% depending on the efficacy of the vaccines. That means, given the 1.1% vaccination rate in poor countries, and only 13.8% is fully vaccinated overall, humanity has a long way to go to deal with SARS-CoV-2.  Why is access to vaccines a major issue? For much of the world, COVID-19 vaccination is a mirage. When a country like Australia struggles to inoculate its residents and have resorted to lockdowns to keep out the virus, the underdeveloped countries have no hope of achieving herd immunity through vaccinations any time soon. Vaccine alliances like Gavi and Novax have been working to supply vaccines to less-affluent countries, but there’s still a long way to go. Wealthy nations, on the other hand, should be able to reach herd immunity faster if they can overcome vaccine hesitancy. Some countries that high vaccination rates would emerge from the pandemic sooner. Based on our current estimates, there's good news, sort of: The combined East+West vaccine production capacity stands at 12.18 billion doses. Image Credit: S UAE ranks first in the world in number of COVID-19 vaccine doses per 100 people What are the major vaccination challenges today? 1. A billion COVID-19 vaccines could kill other health goals Vaccinating at least 60% of the world by March 2022 requires about 4.75 billion vaccine courses, estimates a World Bank report. At present, there are at least 10 vaccines in production line with publicly available research data showing the efficacy of 50% and above against COVID-19. Many countries have adopted these vaccines as this level of efficacy offers sufficient protection against hospitalization and death in case of a COVID-19 infection. So what would be the production requirement? Gavi, the international vaccine alliance, says 14 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines are needed by the end-2021. This is roughly three times the global annual supply of all vaccines combined in the pre-COVID-19 era. Such a massive production gap, specifically focused on one vaccine alone, would invariably have serious knock-on effects on all other healthcare products. This would seriously hamper the future of our ability to successfully battle all other diseases, basic health care and other sectors, to say the least. The cumulative impact of this can be measured only in years to come.  Highlights from a WHO report out earlier in July could gives you an idea about the impact on immunisation programmes alone: Global immunization coverage saw a drop of 6% in year 2020 when it fell to 83%, from 86% the previous year. 23 million children under the age of one year did not receive basic vaccines last year, which is the highest number since 2009 Only 19 vaccine introductions were reported in 2020, less than half of any year in the past two decades. 2. Rich vs poor divide Most rich countries have now vaccinated more than half of their population and are in the process of reopening, although with some setbacks in the face of Delta variant outbreak. Most of the middle and lower-income countries are still struggling with limited access to vaccines while the high-income ones have pre-purchased more than enough vaccines to cover their entire population. Only 1.1 % of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data. In Canada, 55.4% of the people have been fully vaccinated while an estimated 71.2% received at least one dose, Reuters says. Corresponding US figures are 49.7% and 57.4%, respectively. Compare this with some of the least vaccinated countries, Liberia or Cameroon where only 0.2% have been fully vaccinated. In Chad, the figure is less than .1 per cent. When will the whole world get vaccinated? At the current pace of immunisation, it will take until the middle of next year to achieve a high level of global immunity and bring the pandemic under control, a Bloomberg report said. With more research and a greater understanding of the coronavirus and its variants, the vaccines can only get better. There’s lingering concern: even if the world manages to end the pandemic, the SARS-CoV-2 will become endemic, possibly with more mutations every year. Much like flu and viral fever. That would mean newer and improved versions of the vaccines each year. So an annual COVID-19 shot could well be the reality. A return to normal could be at least another year away. So it’s not yet time to ditch the mask. Image Credit: Jay Hilotin / Gulf News / Airfinity / Reuters / NPR / The Diplomat / Boston Consulting Group SITUATIONER: Southeast Asia: Struggling with COVID cases and lack of vaccines Hospitals across Southeast Asia from Indonesia to Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, fuelled by the Delta variant. Unfortunately, most of these countries are still struggling to fully roll out vaccines. Vietnam has vaccinated less than 1 per cent, Thailand around 5 per cent and Indonesia 5.5 per cent, according to Oxford University’s COVID-19 Our World in Data. Government medical contract doctors participate in a walkout strike at Kuala Lumpur Hospital amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia July 26, 2021. Image Credit: Reuters Nearly 10,000 COVID-19 infections are being recorded in Thailand a day and in Vietnam it has surged past 2,000 a day, close to 10 times more than in early June. “Millions of people in Asia are living on the cruel and sharp edge of a global vaccine divide between richer countries that have a steady supply and most nations in Asia that are struggling to access sufficient doses to keep their populations safe. There is mounting evidence that COVID-19 vaccinations are already saving tens of thousands of lives around the world,” said Alexander Matheou Asia Pacific Director, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “It is encouraging that a number of richer countries have made generous pledges and donations of vaccines to countries in Asia in recent weeks,” said Matheou. “We need to speed up the delivery of these lifesaving doses so that we can get them into people’s arms, giving us a genuine shot at containing this pandemic once and for all.” Drugmaker AstraZeneca recently said it was on schedule to meet its commitments for supplying coronavirus vaccines in Southeast Asia, after some initial delays in regional production and delivery. Australia: Just over 11% of the population is fully vaccinated A year and a half into the pandemic, some 13 million Australians are under hard lockdown, with a sluggish immunisation program. Just over 11% of the population is fully vaccinated. The main vaccine in the government's arsenal, developed by AstraZeneca Plc, has been recommended for use only for people aged over 60 due to a remote risk of blood clotting, while a vaccine made by Pfizer Inc has been restricted to over-40s due to limited supply. Under mounting pressure, PM Scott Morrison said on Wednesday (July 21, 2021) that he took responsibility for both "regrettable" delays in the country's vaccination rollout, but also for the solutions to make up for lost ground. "Those delays are regrettable, we all know they're the result of many factors," Morrison told reporters in Canberra. "I take responsibility for the problems that we have had, but I am also taking responsibility for the solutions we're putting in place and the vaccination rates that we are now achieving." He said his government has asked its independent expert panel, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, to relax its conservative advice on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Africa: Slowest vaccination rate Customers sit on chairs at Maponya Mall as South Africa starts to relax some aspects of a stringent nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Johannesburg, South Africa, May 5, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters Among all the continents, Africa has the slowest vaccination rate. Some African countries have yet to start mass vaccination campaigns. COVID-19 caused a severe socio-economic impact in Africa, which led to GDP contraction in 2020. For example, South Africa, the most affected country on the continent, experienced the sharpest decline, at -7%, followed by Central Africa at minus 2.7%. The pandemic also hit most of Africa’s key economic sectors. Nigeria, the continent’s leading oil-exporting country, witnessed a sharp drop in crude oil trade in 2020, while the shrinking number of tourist arrivals led to a loss of over 12 million jobs in Africa’s travel and tourism sector. The number of people living in extreme poverty was estimated to increase by around 30 million in 2020, according to Statista. As of July 24, 2021, Seychelles posted the highest coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination rate in Africa, with 142 doses were administered per 100 individuals. Since the population of Seychelles is extremely small, below 100,000 inhabitants, the country managed to vaccinate a large part of the population in a limited period. In continental Africa, Morocco had a vaccination rate of 58 doses per 100 people, the highest number of inoculations. In South Africa, the vaccination rate reached only 10.6 per 100 population. A hospital worker in Nigeria receives one of the country's first coronavirus vaccinations, using the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and provided through the global COVAX initiative, at Yaba Mainland hospital in Lagos. Image Credit: AP The continent uses several types of vaccines. African nations are both purchasing new doses and receiving them from other countries. Donations came from all over the world, such as China, the UAE, India, and Russia. The UN-led COVAX initiative already provided Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech doses to some African countries. Within this program, the continent would receive a total of 600 million doses by December 2021, to vaccinate 60% of the African population by June 2022. Moreover, the start of the vaccination campaign has also been an occasion for intra-African solidarity. Senegal has, for instance, donated vaccines to the Gambia, while in January 2021, Algeria announced that it would have shared its supply with Tunisia. According to the supply forecast made in March 2021, the African continent would receive around 600 million doses of vaccines against the coronavirus (COVID-19) by the end of 2021 under the COVAX initiative. The UN’s COVAX program aims at providing vaccines to all countries of the world. The objective is to at least immunise the most-susceptible population in each country, including the elderly and the health care workers. Latin America, Caribbean Just 15% of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated, with some countries like Honduras and Haiti yet to reach even 1% inoculation. Cases are accelerating in much of Central America and on smaller Caribbean islands, while cases and deaths are spiking in Cuba and hot spots persist in Amazonian regions of Colombia and Peru. The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has warned that the only way to stop a spike in coronavirus cases is through vaccination. With nearly 4.7 million doses, Uruguay has the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate. As of July 2021, the South American country reported having administered 134.24 doses per 100 inhabitants. The country has had 380,584 cases and 5,936 deaths. Indigenous take part in a protest against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Manaus, Brazil on June 19, 2021. Brazil has passed the milestone of 500,000 COVID-19 victims. Image Credit: AFP Nicaragua, on the other hand, registered 6.27 doses per 100 population. But its COVID-19 figures have also remained low – 9,108 cases and 194 deaths.  Brazil has — and continues to have — one of the world's worst outbreaks, driven by new variants, low vaccinations and misinformation. About 18 per cent of Brazil’s population has been fully vaccinated. But the country has had 19.7 million COVID-19 cases and 551,000 deaths. “Everything that you should not do, Brazil has done,” said professor Pedro Hallal, an epidemiologist leading Brazil’s largest COVID-19 study, told BBC. The average number of new daily cases in Brazil remains above 37,000 cases, as per Our World in Data. Similar to Colombia and Brazil, Argentina’s recent devastating wave of COVID-19 has finally begun to subside even as the country continues to record a high number of cases and deaths. Last week, the country passed the grim milestone of 100,000 coronavirus fatalities. US and Canada Canada had a sluggish start with vaccinations. But as of July 19, more than 49% of eligible people in Canada were fully vaccinated, and 70% had received at least one dose of vaccine, according to figures from the Our World in Data project. The rates in the United States are about 48% and 55.5%, respectively. The pace of US vaccinations has spiked significantly in the first six months of 2021, but remained relatively flat in recent weeks. Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, gives a thumbs up before receiving a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine with his wife Sophie Grgoire Trudeau, left, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Friday, April 23, 2021. Image Credit: Bloomberg In a renewed push, President Joe Biden asked employers to set up clinics at work and to offer paid time off for workers to get vaccines. After a sharp drop in virus cases, the highly contagious Delta variant is now fueling infections among the unvaccinated. Outbreaks have emerged in some parts of Texas, Arkansas and Missouri. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated the country could be ready to accept fully-vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents across its border for non-essential travel from mid-August.

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Three UAE students more than triple their savings on the stock market in a year. Here’s how…

Dubai: Several teen students in the UAE have proved time and again how they didn’t wait till they graduated from school or college, or even get a well-paying job to start earning money. Even as students routinely stay up to date on their curriculum-based and predominantly theoretical courses or grades, when it comes to making money practically or on the stock market, there has been a growing trend wherein many are learning the ropes, venturing out – and succeeding. Here are detailed accounts on how three Indian expatriate students went about increasing their profits after investing their savings on the stock market since the pandemic began last year. Several teen students in the UAE have proved time and again how they didn’t wait till they graduated from school or college, or even get a well-paying job to start earning money. Image Credit: Stock photo #1: How this 16-year old Abu Dhabi student more than tripled his savings Advait Arya, a 16-year-old Indian student of Abu Dhabi’s Raha International School, more than tripled his savings despite some stock market downturns and making a few incorrect investment choices over the course of the past year. Using personal allowance, and gift money from relatives, Arya started investing in the stock market in July last year with Dh8,000 in hand. Arya’s savings rose to Dh30,000 in the span of a year. With the help of investment-related websites like Investopedia and YouTube tutorial videos from financial experts, Arya began to build his stock portfolio on eToro, an Israel-based trading platform. Advait Arya “I believe persistence is key when trading in the stock market, there are going to be times where money will be lost but this will only educate you to make better decisions in the future and give you scope to analyse the reason for the downturn,” Arya added. Arya generally implements a long-term investment strategy on his portfolio, which in his opinion is “worth more than short term gains”. Arya mostly invests in top heavyweight companies in the technology and consumer goods industry, including US companies such as Tesla, Apple, Etsy, Disney, Dropbox, Netflix, Target, Alibaba, and Facebook. “However, I also diversify my portfolio with cryptocurrency, renewable energy stocks, as well as healthcare and the service industry stocks,” Arya said. Advait Arya, a 16-year-old Indian student of Abu Dhabi’s Raha International School, more than tripled his savings despite some stock market downturns. Image Credit: Supplied He also invests $100 (Dh367) into a fund that tracks the US S&P 500 index (a key stock market benchmark, tracked by investors and stock markets worldwide) every month, which has an annual average rate of 8 per cent return. This Arya believes will be “extremely beneficial by retirement”. "Even though I have tried investing in high risk-high reward companies, I found it extremely challenging to make money on them because it requires a lot of research and commitment which I could not give.” Arya uses the eToro platform as his primary stock trading platform which gives detailed insights with graphs into trending stocks and provides examples of time-tested investment portfolios of successful stock traders around the globe. "I started trading during a period of market volatility mostly because I was interested in exploring the stock market which could keep me occupied during the summer break last year.” Arya mostly invests in top heavyweight companies in the technology and consumer goods industry, including US companies such as Tesla, Apple, Etsy, Disney, Dropbox, Netflix, Target, Alibaba, and Facebook. Image Credit: Supplied #2: How this 17-year old Dubai student more than tripled his savings Mohammed Salahuddin, 17 years, made around Dh49,000 in profits after having invested $3,000 (Dh11,019) of his savings since June last year. Mohammed Salahuddin After investing his savings, over $60,000 (Dh220,381) was invested in the form of two separate instalments from his family’s businesses. This was after he proved he was able to manage money, trade effectively and bring in significant returns with the amount of capital he had. “Today I manage investments worth $85,000 (Dh312,206) (in both cryptocurrencies and stocks),” Salahuddin said. Mohammed Salahuddin, 17 years, made around Dh49,000 in profits after having invested $3,000 (Dh11,019) of his savings since June last year. Image Credit: Supplied “My total savings is currently down from nearly Dh75,000 after the cryptocurrency market took a hit recently. However, a majority of my savings is still invested in stocks and cryptocurrencies for the long-term, leaving just a small sum in my savings account.” Salahuddin invested in a wide variety of stocks, from Coca Cola (Trading symbol: KO) (which is very fundamentally stable and provides dividends to its shareholders) to extremely volatile companies like Tesla (TSLA), which has gone up over 500 per cent since last year. He lists out a few US stocks, namely Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), Virgin Galactic (SPCE), Nvdia (NVDA), Netflix (NFLX), Berkshire Hathaway (BRK), Fiverr (FVRR), Spotify (SPOT) and Zoom (ZM), as his favourites. Salahuddin invested in a wide variety of stocks, from Coca Cola to extremely volatile companies like Tesla, which has gone up over 500 per cent since last year. Image Credit: Supplied Also, he favours an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks key US stock market benchmark, the S&P 500, which comprises the 500 largest companies in the US. “As I was constantly buying and selling, there was never a fixed percentage as to how much I invested in each company,” he added. “However, I would invest larger percentages into companies which are less volatile and more fundamentally sound, such as Berkshire Hathaway and Apple.” For those starting out, Salahuddin recommends a $1,000 (Dh3,670) to start off your initial investment, to avoid emotional play on your market-related profits or losses whilst they maintain playing larger trades on their demo trading accounts. For those starting out, Salahuddin recommends a $1,000 (Dh3,670) to start off your initial investment. Image Credit: Supplied #3: How this 14-year old Dubai student more than tripled his savings Aadi Verma, a 14-year old student of British international school JESS in Dubai’s Arabian Ranches, read up on the stock market and dabbled with small amounts at first. After some success, he went “all in”, investing all Dh5,000 of his savings, when there was a stock market crash in March last year, after seeing it as an opportunity to buy stocks at lower than market prices. Aadi Verma Verma later got about Dh15,000 from several of his relatives after he started to gradually grow his investment portfolio by making smaller transactions on different stock markets worldwide. By buying and selling stocks on US stock exchanges, besides a few in the Chinese stock market, he now has an investment portfolio worth Dh260,000, with investments also in cryptocurrencies. However, like Salahuddin, Verma’s profitability too recently dropped due to the current decline in crypto prices. At first, the student used to deal mostly in penny stocks – shares whose value is normally below $5 (Dh18) but have the potential to skyrocket – or nosedive. As his profits soared, he changed strategy, going for “growth stocks” that are more stable, more expensive and gradually increase in price, typically. Aadi Verma, who is passionate about robotics, has invested in stocks of over 40 companies, including famous ones such as Amazon, Google, Apple, Tesla, Microsoft, Facebook and Boeing. Image Credit: Supplied He has invested in stocks of over 40 companies, including famous ones such as Amazon, Google, Apple, Tesla, Microsoft, Facebook and Boeing, as well as lesser-known ones such as Beyond Meat and those that have recently gone public. When it comes to Verma’s investment strategy on opting either long-term or short-term stocks, he believes in a balanced portfolio which also includes a portion of his investments allotted towards cryptocurrencies given the digital currency’s growth potential.

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Fake website of UAE Embassy in India blocked after COVID-19 travel scam

UAE|: Dubai: A fake website of the UAE Embassy in India being used to extort money from UAE residents stuck in India due to the COVID-19 entry restrictions has been blocked after the scam came to light following complaints from some Indian expatriates stuck in Kerala. The fraudsters were using the fake website with a ‘.in’ domain [uaeembassy.in] cloning information — excluding the contact details — on the original website of the UAE Embassy in India that uses a ‘.ae’ domain. They were targeting expats seeking special approval to return to the UAE. The call centre of the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC) confirmed to Gulf News that the website using the ‘.in’ domain is fake. The site is currently not accessible in both India and the UAE. Reports from India said that the cyber cell of Kerala Police had begun investigations into the scam after some UAE residents reported the matter to the police. V Muraleedharan, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, had reportedly taken note of the incident. Speaking to Gulf News from Kerala, Namitha Venugopal, one of the complainants, said she had ended up accessing the fake website when she was searching for help to know what to do to renew her visa to return to the UAE. “My visa is due to expire on August 5 and I didn’t know what to do. I tried the GDRFA [General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs — Dubai] website, but couldn’t find out what I needed do to in order to renew my visa and whether I could fly back on the same visa once the entry restrictions are lifted,” said Namitha, who lost her job as a network engineer in Dubai amid the pandemic. She said she thought of contacting the UAE Embassy in New Delhi to seek clarification on the matter. Top on Google search “When you search for the [UAE] Embassy on Google from India, this fake website was the first one that pops up. Usually, we see email IDs with ‘information’ or ‘admin’ for general enquiries. Hence, I didn’t have any suspicion when I sent an email to the administrator of that website.” A screenshot of the fake website. Image Credit: Supplied However, in reply to the mail, Namitha was informed that an agent of the Embassy would assist her on the WhatsApp number +971566787769. When Namitha contacted this number, she was asked to get a special permission letter from the Embassy by sending copies of her documents to the administrator’s email. She was also asked to refer the name of one Naveen Kumar. Since there have been reports of UAE residents returning from India with special approvals, Namitha did not think twice and sent copies of her passport, visa, Emirates ID, air ticket, COVID-19 vaccination certificate and photograph of her and her husband to the said email address. It was when she got a reply to that email asking for a fee of Rs16,100 that Namitha suspected that she had been taken for a ride. “In the reply, we were asked to deposit this money to the money exchange account of one Veeru Kumar and the details of a bank account in Delhi were given. I realised it was a scam from the language used in that letter and the requirement to send the money to an individual instead of the mission’s account.” Site linked to Google Maps too Namitha’s husband Naveen Balan, who works as a business development manager in Dubai, said they were shocked to find that the fake website had also been linked to the Google Map of the UAE Embassy. “Once you Google the location of the Embassy, you get the Google Map link and if you click on the tab for the website, it takes you to this fake site. People would never expect this.” When Gulf News tried to access the fake site directly, it showed that the server could not be found from the UAE. However, when we searched for the location on Google Maps and tried to access the site linked to that, we could earlier visit the fake website from the UAE. This has since been changed and the genuine site of the embassy is now linked to Google Maps. Gulf News has also found out that the WhatsApp number first contacted by Namitha is still active and was using the logo of the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. When inquired about travel approval in guise of a stranded expat, we also received the message asking us to send email with the reference of Naveen Kumar. “This is a serious scam and we are afraid many gullible people may fall for it. We have no idea how many people may have already sent money to these fraudsters. We are glad the site has been blocked. But, we hope the authorities in India and the UAE will take strict action against those behind the scam. We have sent letters to the UAE Ambassador to India and the Home Minister of India apprising them about this fake website conning people,” said Namitha and Naveen. An immediate response was not available from the UAE Ambassador to the UAE.

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Video: Two-year-old Yemeni girl treated in Abu Dhabi hospital for rare congenital anomaly

Health|: Abu Dhabi: A two-year-old Yemeni girl, born with a rare medical condition — in which her rectum, vagina and urinary tract were all fused into a single external opening — has been successfully treated in Abu Dhabi. S. Taleb was diagnosed with the condition, known as a cloacal malformation, as a three-month-old, when Dr Amin El Gohary, consultant paediatric surgeon at Burjeel Hospital, visited Yemen on a charity mission hosted by Burjeel’s parent company, VPS Healthcare. This kind of a condition is seen only once in 50,000 live births. Complex case “This was a complex case. Taleb’s rectum, vagina and urinary tract were merged into one long exit channel when we first saw her. The child also had ambiguous genitalia that resembled a male child’s, so we had to conduct a chromosomal investigation, which helped us determine that she was a girl,” Dr El Gohary told Gulf News. “She was having urinary leakage and abdominal bloating at the time. Since health facilities and medical equipment are limited in Yemen, we performed a simple colostomy to divert the stool and prevent it from contaminating her other organs,” he added. Taleb underwent a three-hour procedure at Burjeel Hospital, led by Dr El Gohary, Dr Shahid Rashid and Dr Hamdy Aboutaleb. Image Credit: Supplied Further treatment However, this did not completely resolve her condition and Dr El Gohary continued to be in touch with the family. In May 2021, the little girl was finally flown down to Abu Dhabi with her family. She underwent a three-hour procedure at Burjeel Hospital, led by Dr El Gohary, Dr Shahid Rashid, paediatric surgery specialist at the hospital, and Dr Hamdy Aboutaleb, urology consultant. The surgery separated the joint organs so that Taleb would be able to have full control of her urine and bowel movements, and also so that she could have full reproductive function. “We are grateful to the doctor and the hospital for their kindness and compassion. They helped us a lot. We do not have words to express our gratitude. The hospital had done everything, right from bringing us from Yemen to getting the right treatment. We will not forget this in our life,” said Mohsen Taleb, the girl’s father. Read more Peanuts, shellfish or dairy can kill you: know the allergies, triggers, treatments and preventive measures UAE health alert: Why periodic screening for hepatitis, vaccines are a must Gulf Medical University offers scholarships and discounts for Emirati students Will NMC Healthcare founder B.R. Shetty's high-stakes $7b legal gamble in the US pay-off? Taleb is now recovering and after being discharged from hospital, has flown back to Yemen. Dr El Gohary added that he had remained in touch with the family to ensure a smooth and successful recovery. “She is already doing extremely well and we believe she should also be able to have a normal reproductive life as an adult. As a doctor, I am happy that a charity mission enabled us to find and treat this little girl,” he added.

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Saudis to slap 3-year travel ban on citizens flouting COVID-19 travel rules

Saudi|: Dubai: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced a three-year travel ban for citizens who travel to countries on the red list, state press agency SPA said. The Ministry of Interior warned Saudi citizens against travelling to countries that have been put on the no-travel list recently as these countries are currently witnessing a surge in cases of COVID-19 and its variants. The red-list countries include the UAE, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Belarus, India and Vietnam. An official source at the ministry was quoted by SPA as saying: “Travelling to the banned countries is an obvious violation of COVID-19 related travel restrictions and the Kingdom’s updated instructions.” The source said that there are reports about citizens travelling to the banned countries where travel is prohibited in violation of the instructions issued by official authorities. “Those who violate travel ban will be held accountability and slapped with heavy penalties,” the source said. He added that those who are found to have violated the instructions would be banned from travelling abroad for three years. The ministry called on citizens against travelling directly or indirectly to the red-list countries where the pandemic has not yet been controlled and there is a surge in cases of mutated strains of coronavirus. It also urged citizens to exercise caution and stay away from areas where instability prevails or the virus is spreading, and take all precautionary measures regardless of their destination.

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Latest update on flights to the UAE from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka

Dubai: If you have been waiting for the flights from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to resume, you may be confused about which is the latest announcement. Here is a roundup of the announcements made so far regarding the flight suspension from these four countries. India The suspension of flights from India was announced on April 22 by the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) and the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). In the latest update by Etihad, the flight suspension will continue until August 2. According to an official announcement on July 23 by Emirates, passengers who have connected through India in the last 14 days will not be accepted to travel from any other point to the UAE. Which flights have been suspended? According to the announcement on April 22, all incoming flights from India to the UAE, on national and foreign carriers, have been suspended. Flights carrying transit passengers have also been barred from coming to the UAE, with the exception of transit flights coming to the UAE and heading onward to India. Pakistan According to an announcement by Emirates, flights from Pakistan have been suspended until July 31. The statement added that passengers who have connected through Pakistan in the last 14 days will not be accepted to travel from any other point to the UAE. UAE Nationals, holders of UAE Golden Visas and members of diplomatic missions who comply with updated COVID 19 protocols, are exempt and may be accepted for travel, according to the announcement. Bangladesh In the announcement by Emirates on July 23, flights from Bangladesh have been suspended until July 31. The statement added that passengers who have connected through Bangladesh in the last 14 days will not be accepted to travel from any other point to the UAE. UAE Nationals, holders of UAE Golden Visas and members of diplomatic missions who comply with updated COVID 19 protocols, are exempt and may be accepted for travel, according to the announcement. Sri Lanka In the announcement by Emirates on July 23, flights from Sri Lanka have been suspended until July 31. The statement added that passengers who have connected through Sri Lanka in the last 14 days will not be accepted to travel from any other point to the UAE. UAE Nationals, holders of UAE Golden Visas and members of diplomatic missions who comply with updated COVID 19 protocols, are exempt and may be accepted for travel, according to the announcement.

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Dubai-based singer Shweta Subram talks about ‘Jalebi Baby’ and its sweet success

Music|: Indian singer Shweta Subram, who was born and raised in Dubai, has earned a quirky moniker. She’s now called the ‘Jalebi Baby’ girl wherever she goes because her brassy and bold voice in Canadian singer Tesher’s catchy song has captured the imagination of music lovers across India and the world. The viral song rolled out on TikTok has been used in nearly four million videos and has been viewed more than 90 million times on YouTube. Even pop sensation Jason Derulo wants a piece of it, while celebrities such as Alia Bhatt were spotted dancing at her best friend’s wedding to ‘Jalebi Baby’. Actress Nora Fatehi cherry-picked ‘Jalebi Baby’ to show off her dance moves. “I don’t think either of us expected that kind of response … Usually you spend millions on music videos and it’s an expensive affair … But ‘Jalebi Baby’ was a lyrical video but the audiences have given us their verdict and we are loving it,” said Subram from her living room in her apartment at the Dubai Marina. Subram was a banker before the music bug bit her. Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News She remembers recording the song at her dining table last October and sending it over to Tesher before it became a universal rage. The sweet success of ‘Jalebi Baby’ is proof that you don’t need frills if your song is catchy. Subram, who recently moved back to Dubai from Canada with her husband and her toddler to be closer to Mumbai (the epicentre of the Bollywood music industry), was a banker before the music bug bit her. Born to South Indian parents who valued education above all else, she’s armed with two degrees in psychology and economics. But to this singing sensation, the big, bad world of Bollywood felt more bewitching than clocking in hours at the fraud department at a bank. Here’s her take on … Being born in Dubai and moving from Canada to the UAE: “I was born and raised here. When I moved away from Dubai I felt I left a piece of myself in Dubai. This is a city where I want to live for the rest of my life … And ‘Jalebi Baby’ happened right here when I recorded my part on my dining table and sent it to Tesher … Honestly, my move to Dubai was prompted because Dubai is home for me. Making that shift to India from Canada might be a little difficult because living in India is a whole different ballgame, especially if you never lived there before. I have lived in Dubai and Canada all my life, so I am not sure if I am up for it. So let’s just one step at a time. Dubai is a hop, skip, and jump away from Mumbai. The idea was to be close to the Bollywood music fraternity and closer to Bollywood in general, where all the work happens.” Breaking into the Bollywood music industry: “It’s a very challenging journey. I’m not going to lie nor am I going to paint a rosy picture of it. It has been very tough because firstly you just have to know the ropes of the business and how things work. In the beginning, I thought it was all about talent, but being talented alone wasn’t the case. I remember going to Bombay and it was so important for me to network. Thousands can sing, but the important thing is about meeting the right people at the right place at the right time. It’s important that if you work on a project, you constantly message the team or go out for a cup of coffee or a drink. It helps in building that relationship and it often leads to more work.” Her biggest challenge: “Living outside in Canada… My first playback Bollywood debut was with Ayushmann Khurrana’s ‘Hawaizaada’ (2015) where I sang ‘Dil-e-Nadaan’. With him. I was literally at the airport in Canada on my way to India for a vacation when I got a call from his team saying that they watched my YouTube videos and offered me a song for his new film because my voice matched his requirements … Since I was already on my way to India, I almost walked into the studios for that audition. "In less than 12 hours, I found out that my voice was going to make it to the song. It was an unbelievable surreal experience. After that project, many told me that the wise thing to do is actually to stay back in Bombay … But I went back to Canada. Come to think of it, I am a little spoilt because even though I didn’t shift to India, I got a lot of opportunities. But I would have done a lot more work if I had shifted to India.” ‘Jalebi Baby’ going viral: “I don’t relish eating jalebis, but the song is a different story altogether. It went viral, exploded, and began trending during the lockdown. A week before Diwali, my friend just mentioned Tesher, a fellow Canadian singer who’s doing pretty well, and his song ‘Young Shah Rukh’. I was surprised that I didn’t know him even though we belong to the same music industry. I felt a little ashamed and set out to find out who Tesher is. I went to his Instagram, realised that he has done some cool work, and congratulated him. "He was sweet enough to write back and told me that he has gone through my work and he was working on a project called ‘Jalebi Baby’. He was looking for my kind of voice in terms of texture and tonality and asked me to give the song a shot. Thanks to technology, I was sitting here on this dining table and I just recorded my bits. He came back saying he’s using my vocals … Three weeks later, a friend of mine brought it to my attention that this song was exploding on Instagram and social media.” "I don’t mind rejection because with rejection you grow if you look at it objectively," the singer said. Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News On millions streaming the song: “I don’t keep a tab honestly because I am not much into the number game. I am not obsessed with how many likes or followers I have on Instagram or Facebook … On a side note, I see many youngsters getting depressed if they don’t hit the million followers mark. It’s worrying. I don’t seek validation from followers, but I get a lot of validation from my fans and supporters who write to me.” Bollywood being hostile to outsiders: “I don’t have a straightforward answer to that because I have seen outsiders who are doing pretty well right now. Perhaps, that can be attributed to the power of social media. I have found that Bollywood is very welcoming towards talents with a huge amount of followers on social media … I am not saying that they don’t look at talent, but having an army of followers matters. Packaging matters and sometimes talent can be overlooked … Fortunately, I haven’t experienced hostility. "But what irks me is the lack of professionalism … I was speaking to a fellow singer recent and he was talking about how disturbing it can get … There’s a well-renowned music director who records the same song with 10 singers … In the end, he just listens to those 10 singers and says which voice does it for him and which doesn’t. It’s very disheartening because each singer goes in thinking that his or her voice is going to be on that big-budget Bollywood blockbuster. They don’t even get a call on whether their song will be used for the film or not.” Facing rejection: “I don’t mind rejection because with rejection you grow if you look at it objectively. But what irks me is the lack of professionalism and communication … I am not sure if I will handle that. I come from a working culture where the level of professionalism is on a whole new level … Many songs of Indian singers are being played on millions of radio stations but the artist cannot show a single penny for it.” Her biggest mentor: Sonu Nigam. Image Credit: GN Archives “Sonu Nigam ji. A few years ago, he came across my work and shared my original song ‘Rasiya’. I remember sending him an email about it, without expecting a reply from him. But he sent back a detailed response on what he loved about the song. The next day, I woke up to him sharing that song on his [Facebook] page, and then he even called me to perform with him on his tour to the US. He’s been a constant mentor and even now if I have a question about music, I send him voice notes.”