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UAE: Emirati chef’s journey to fitness delivers culinary dream

Food|: The most fun rising young Emirati Chef Khaled Al Saadi from Dubai has with cooking is when he gets to tell you the name of an Emirati dish but plate it in a way that you’d never recognise it. Take the machboos, the traditional Emirati dish that’s similar to a pilaf. At an event in Abu Dhabi recently, Chef Khaled served the machboos - a dish that depends heavily on rice - with rice making up just 10 per cent of the whole dish, even presented not as rice but as a rice cracker. It met with quite some awe, with diners immediately recognising the flavours and identifying the notes, but being unable to put their finger on exactly what they were eating. “And then when I finally mentioned the dish it’d be this ‘aha’ moment,” he said. Same with the ouzi, traditionally a dish with a whole lamb on rice, but Chef Khaled’s adaptation consisting of canapé-sized cubes of lamb meat braised in spices of ouzi, topped with a chutney powder. And the thareed, a casserole with bread soaked in it, deconstructed by Khaled into carrots and potatoes and bread, and plated as an amuse bouche. Chef Khaled Al Saadi at Ossiano restaurant in Atlantis - at the beginning of his career, Khaled sat himself in the dining area of Ossiano and told head chef Gregoire that he wasn’t leaving the restaurant until he gave Khaled a shot there to try and learn something Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/Gulf News photographer In a fun twist, Khaled serves the machboos - a dish that depends heavily on rice - with rice making up just 10 per cent of the whole dish, as a rice cracker. Image Credit: Supplied At best, fusion is a word that invites extreme reactions, but as an aspiring chef, adopting this new approach to Emirati cuisine was the only way forward according to Khaled. After all, why – and how - could he play around with what had already achieved perfection? “If I was to cook traditional Emirati cuisine, no matter what I did I wouldn’t be able to beat the average home cook. People like my grandmother for instance - I can never top that. So I knew all I could do was take her dishes and the same flavours and just plate it differently,” the owner of Fae cafe in Abu Dhabi told Gulfnews.com. Keeping the nostalgia Khaled believes in sticking to the main ingredients of Emirati cuisine to keep both the flavour and nostalgia Image Credit: Supplied It helped that he’d seen his share of Emirati-inspired dishes botched in the name of hybrid food, and was determined to not fall in the same trappings of fusion. “You have to be able to identify a proper balance where you can still call the dish Emirati,” he said. “I mostly just play with the presentation, but stick to the main ingredients to keep that flavour and nostalgia. I modernise the presentation to cater to individual dining, to showcase that Emirati cuisine is not just about the big plates with a massive whole roast lamb placed on it.” This approach to rethinking Emirati dining and making the ingredient shine on its own started when Khaled returned from the US a few years ago after studying at the University of Tampa in Florida. In the US, Khaled would go out to eat often, and is candid about his struggles with obesity. “To cope with the life in a new country, I ate. Juggling a new life with a lot of studying wasn’t easy, and I’d just go out a lot to eat. When I came back to the UAE after graduation I was told I had to go through military service and had to lose weight in order to be part of it. I joined the gym and had a personal trainer working with me on a daily basis. I had to change my eating habits.” After a struggle with obesity and not enjoying healthy food made in restaurants, Khaled decided to have a go at cooking good food himself Image Credit: Supplied Well into that journey, Khaled soon realised he didn’t enjoy food served in healthy restaurants. So he decided to have a go at it himself. “I just wanted to make good clean food. So every day I would Google and YouTube for basic cooking instructions. Inevitably I ended up with a lot of raw chicken, a lot of burnt chicken, a lot of burnt everything. But somehow in the process I started to develop a passion towards working with ingredients and learning how to perfect them.” From grilled cheese sandwiches to fine dining After military service, Khaled decided he would dabble in food full time. And despite his healthy slant he veered towards a grilled cheese sandwich shop: “My main food to binge on in the US was grilled cheese sandwiches. Yes, this wasn’t in line with my fitness goals, but I just wanted to make something simple and something that people could enjoy fast, and that was cheese, bread and butter.” So he opened Grilled Cheesery – later called Krust – with: “The tackiest sign in the world. I didn’t know anything about the industry, I had zero Food and Beverage background, and I wasn’t ready to accept people’s feedback. A customer would say there wasn’t much cheese in their sandwich and I’d be like ‘but I put so much in there!’ When you’re starting out, you perceive things differently and I’m so much more mature now. I realised attention to detail really goes a long way.” Despite its subsequent closure, Krust got the ball rolling. His daily interactions with customers made Khaled realise he loved nothing better than the feeling of providing good food to people. And riding high on that wave of passion, he was discovered by the team from Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development. “They asked me to represent the UAE in Paris. And I said ‘but I’m only here making grilled cheese’. To represent the UAE I would need more, I would need professional training.” Chef Khaled spent two years in Atlantis Dubai's kitchens Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/GN This led him straight to Chef Gregoire at Ossiano restaurant in Atlantis. Khaled sat himself in the dining area of Ossiano and told Gregoire: “I wasn’t leaving his restaurant until he gave me a shot there to try and learn something. He was generous enough to open his kitchen for me and teach me everything I needed to know to create the menu I served in Paris.” His association with Atlantis wasn’t a one-off stint. After the success of the Paris event the team at Atlantis opened their doors for Khaled to all their restaurants: “To be able to learn from the diverse kitchens they have here. It took me some time to develop the confidence to work in their kitchens and serve guests. You really have to know what you’re doing to maintain the standards of Atlantis. After about two years of rotating in Atlantis kitchens I felt capable enough to work on my own projects freelance – creating menus, developing concepts and so on.” Spices and big flavours Khaled was then offered a space for a restaurant at the Abu Dhabi Youth Hub, for which he approached one of his personal role models and Food and Beverage pioneer and entrepreneur Alia Al Mazrouei. “I proposed the idea and menu for Fae café, and she just said ‘let’s do it’.” Fae, which Khaled now devotes most of his time to, is a test kitchen: “Where I get to create and constantly change the menu. We try to keep it seasonal, with local ingredients.” Khaled Al Saadi during a collaboration with Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens Image Credit: Supplied While his restaurant keeps it low-key (there are a lot of burgers), Khaled’s favourite cooking styles are a bit more multifaceted, and vary from French to Asian. “I love Asian cuisine’s diversity of flavour, cooking style, and the versatility you get to enjoy in the kitchen – it gives you so much room to do whatever you want. I love its spiced elements. At Khaled's restaurant Fae café in Abu Dhabi, he creates new dishes and constantly plays around with the menu, keeping it seasonal and using local ingredients Image Credit: Supplied “I also really enjoy executing a French style of cooking, but being Emirati I wanted to try and utilise my experiences around the cuisine I grew up with - all the spices we are known to enjoy, all the big flavours. Some of my favourite cooking memories revolve around that – me annoying my grandma in the kitchen, sticking my fingers in all the pots, getting burnt, getting yelled at by her… fond memories that make me sentimental.” Khaled says while expectations are high for him to be opening another restaurant or expanding his current one, his vision is different. “Dubai offers up a diverse platform where chefs from all over the world get to come and work with any cuisine they like, and still get a diverse population who will try it. The calibre of chefs makes it fun and challenging for chefs like me to come up with dishes. And while opening a restaurant and providing good food to such a huge chunk of people is a great thing, my focus is on contributing to the sustainability of food in the UAE using Emirati resources. I want to establish something that could help the UAE with more nourishing food that’s locally grown and sustainable.” Khaled advises aspiring chefs to stay dedicated to their food journeys through it all. “You’ll definitely get hit across the face a lot and if you let those moments and all those different variables of failure get to you, you won’t reach anywhere. It might sound like a cliché but you just have to persevere and stay on top of what you want and eventually it will just happen, your cooking dream will materialise.” Tell us about your favourite dishes or recipes at food@gulfnews.com

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UAE: Robot financial advisors on rise: Is it worth the cost? How does it fare against traditional alternatives?

Dubai: As an investor, you have always had two options when it comes to managing your investments. You could do it yourself through something like an online broker or you can work with a financial advisor. With the entry of robo-advisors, online investment services that offer financial advice driven by algorithms, there’s a third option, and that’s to merge the benefits of professional money management and advice with the convenience of an all-digital application. Since launching more than a decade ago, robo-advisors have grown into an industry that managed $460 billion (Dh1.7 trillion) in 2020 – a 30 per cent increase from 2019. Some analysts predict robo-advising will become a $1.2 trillion (Dh4.41 trillion) industry by 2024. Who are robo-advisors? Robo-advisors are investment management companies that rely on computers — rather than human financial advisors — to build and manage your portfolio. They are essentially a class of financial adviser that provide financial advice or investment management online with moderate to minimal human intervention. They provide digital financial advice based on mathematical rules or algorithms. In other words. robo-advisors are automated portfolio managers and can often be thought as an autopilot for investors. Robo-advisors manage your assets based on your goals and your tolerance for risk. Since portfolio management is handled by software rather than a human financial advisor, robo-advisors charge lower fees, which can translate to higher long-term returns for investors. ALSO READ Breaking down the importance of active and passive investing strategies in day-to-day finance Picture used for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: iStock image Who are robo-advisors meant for? Most robo-advisors manage both individual retirement accounts and has minimum investment requirements. Although some robo-advisors require $5,000 (Dh18,366) or more, a majority have account minimums of $500 (Dh1,836) or less. What are ‘indexed’ strategies or ‘indexing’? Indexing is – very simply – an investment strategy, which attempts to mimic the performance of a market index. An index is a ‘yardstick’, and a market index is a group or ‘basket’ or portfolio of securities selected to represent and reflect the market as a whole. Are robo-advisors cheaper? While traditional (human) financial advisors typically charge 1 per cent or more per year of your total investments, most robo-advisors charge around just 0.25 per cent per year. They are able to charge lower fees because they use algorithms to automate trades and indexed strategies that utilise commission-free and low-cost ETFs. How to calculate robo-advisor fees? When using a robo-advisor you will still have to pay the expense ratio (operating costs relative to your investment) of the funds pool of money set aside to invest) you’re invested in. On top of that, you’ll pay a fee to the robo-investor for doing the work for you. They will choose your funds and rebalance them as necessary. Now let’s look at what this could actually cost you in the long run. Are robo-advisors worth the cost? How it fare against other options? To give you a sense of the way these different fees add up over the years, here’s an analysis. Here are the assumptions: • You’re saving Dh5,500 per year in a retirement fund (or about Dh458 per month). • You get an average annual return of 5 per cent. • You’re 25 years old. This gives you about 40 years until retirement age. With regard to fees, 0.25 per cent of your investments are assumed as the fee for a robo-advisor, as that’s the median fee across the board. To estimate the cost of a financial advisor, an estimate of 2 per cent of total managed asset value is used. While we compare the fees associated with making use of robo-advisors in managing your investments, versus human financial advisors, let’s also compare them to what it would cost when using other alternatives. Before that let’s briefly look at what these alternatives are. Are robo-advisors worth the cost? How it fare against other options? Image Credit: iStockphoto What are Mutual Funds, Index Funds, Target-Date Funds and Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)? A mutual fund is a professionally managed investment fund that pools money from many investors to purchase securities like stocks and bonds. An exchange-traded fund is a type of investment fund and exchange-traded product, i.e. they are traded on stock exchanges. ETFs are similar in many ways to mutual funds, except that ETFs are bought and sold throughout the day on stock exchanges while mutual funds are bought and sold based on their price at day's end. An index fund is an investment that tracks a market index, typically made up of stocks or bonds. Index funds typically invest in all the components that are included in the index they track, and they have fund managers whose job it is to make sure that the index fund performs the same as the index does. A target date fund – also known as a age-based fund – is a collective investment scheme, often a mutual fund or a collective trust fund, designed to provide a simple investment solution through a portfolio whose asset allocation mix becomes more conservative or less risky as the target date approaches. A type of index fund is a target-date fund, which aims for your planned date of retirement, shifting investments as you get older. This would be a very simple way for you to “set it and forget it” when investing for retirement. Pick a date that you’ll expect to retire, and put all your money in that fund. ALSO READ How can one go about investing in exchange-traded funds (ETFs)? What are the key perks and risks? A quick guide to investing in international mutual funds With an end in sight for market uncertainty, mutual fund investors should stay invested to reap gains UAE: When is the right time for NRIs to book profits in mutual fund investments? Comparing costs of an Index Fund, Target Fund to having a Robo-Advisor When comparing the cost of a mutual fund or ETF, you need to look at the expense ratio (which are the operating costs relative to your investment amount). The expense ratio is the percentage fee the fund charges to pay for its management. Actively managed funds (ones that have a person running it) are the most costly. Index funds are passively managed and cost much less. Cost of target-date funds and ETFs According to US-based brokerage Morningstar, the average expense ratio of target date funds is around 0.78 per cent. So for every Dh100,000 you have invested in the fund, you’ll pay Dh780 in fees. But that’s the average target-date fund. A US-based Vanguard target-date fund could cost as little as 0.14 per cent, which is almost 82 per cent off. As ETFs are traded on the like stocks, they are more versatile and liquid than a mutual fund, making it much cheaper. Example: Cost comparison using four different investment methods The amount you could pay in fees over the course of 40 years for a financial advisor is over Dh260,000. If you assume the same return and the same contributions for each option, then the one that costs the least will also be the cheapest over the long term. However, target-date funds, robo-advisors, and financial advisors all claim to offer consumers a better deal: higher returns, less hassle, or both. Financial advisors, especially, claim that they can beat the market and get much higher returns. However, research shows that 90 per cent of them miss their targets. How have robo-advisor portfolios performed against target-date funds? While it’s impossible to say what return a hypothetical financial advisor would give you over the long term, we can however, say what target-date funds would have given you over the past five years. If you select 90 per cent stocks (which a 25-year-old should), and set your range from between June of 2011 and June of 2016, then the average annual return for your portfolio would be about 5.6 per cent. Perks of using a robo-advisor • Robo-advisors offer you convenience and peace of mind Robo-advisors take the work and worry out of the three most important elements of retirement planning: regular contributions, low fees, and a diversified portfolio. • Robo-advisors keep you diversified automatically You want to separate your investments, keeping a certain amount in stocks (and different kinds of stocks), a certain amount in bonds, and possibly some even in cash. However, due to shifts in the market (i.e. stocks go up or down, or bonds go up or down), those amounts may get out of balance, and far away from where they should be to reduce risk. When that happens, you need to rebalance. Robo-advisors’ algorithms automatically rebalance your portfolio based on a number of different factors, like your age and the amount of time you have until you need the money. • Robo-advisors put your money in low-cost ETFs Robo-advisors mostly invests your money in exchange-traded funds, which tend to be very cheap, with expense-ratios often under 0.10 per cent. Robo-advisors or traditional (human) advisors - which is better? Image Credit: Shutterstock Verdict: Robo-advisors or traditional (human) advisors? Consider all types of costs when you are deciding how to invest—specifically the financial and time costs or savings of signing up with a robo-advisor. If you’re new to investing, experts suggest you try it on your own and check out robo-advising. But if you’re a savvy investor and have time to dedicate to in-depth research and frequent monitoring of your portfolio, a robo-advisor may not be for you. Will robo-advisers ever completely replace human advisors? Robo-advisors are becoming mainstream, which is good news for consumers who are looking for low-cost financial advice. Time is on the side of the robo-advisory industry as the technology continues to improve and the younger generations accrue more wealth. Research has shown that interest and support from millennials and Gen Z helped robo-advisors rise to prominence. While critics have remained skeptical about whether robo-advisors can entirely replace human advisors, many robo-advisors are providing hybrid services that combine human and digital advice.

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COVID-19: Indian doctor, a philanthropist in UAE, supplies free oxygen cylinders back home

Health|: Dubai: Rising to the need of the hour, an Indian expatriate has organised several container loads of oxygen cynlinders and concetrators, approximately worth over Dh1 million, for India, free of cost. Dr Sanjay Paithankar, a dedicated doctor and philanthropist from the UAE, has shipped about 600 oxygen concentrators and 200 cylinders with medical oxygen in the first consigment that is likely to reach the Indian shores in the next 15 days. Of these, about 150 oxygen concetrators have been air-lifted and will reach Nagpur by May 8. Speaking to Gulf News about his Save India mission, Dr Paithankar said, “As soon as I heard about the oxygen shortage in my home town Nagpur and the Vidarbha region in Maharastra, I decided to reach out to like-minded friends there to see how we could all help. The response was quick and magnanimous and many contributed generously. In fact, one wealthy buinsessman who wished to remain anonymous, contributed 250 concentrators, in this consignment,” said Dr Paithankar who has personally chipped in a sum of Dh200,000 to organise the concentrators and cylinders. Since there is a shortage of concetrators and oxygen cylinders, sourcing them was a challenge. Dr Paithankar said, “I decided to source the cylinders and concentrators from around the world to reach India as quickly as possible. I was finally able to source these in China and the first consignment will be in Mumbai via Thailand and Singapore in the next 15 days. For the next batches, I am working to air-lift the cargo for quicker delivery and these efforts are ongoing. I have started this work and will do my best to serve my motherland to the best of my capacity,” said Dr Paithankar, who has spent three decades in the UAE. A large portion of thisn period has been dedicated to providing affordable health care to the underprivileged in the UAE. Reaching out to the sick and needy A recipient of the 10-year Golden Visa, Dr Paithankar is the managing director of Right Health Group that provides affordable health care to the doorstep of the labour workforce of UAE with over the clinics across Dubai and Northern Emirates. By charging a subsidised price for consultation, treatment and medicines in the last 32 years, he has made it possible for blue-collar workers to get complete access to quality health care within their basic health insurance. Where the worker is unable to meet the expense of co-payment, Dr Paithankar has never turned away a worker from getting the medical help he requires. Battling early COVID-19 transmission During the earliest phase of the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UAE in March 2020, Dr Paithankar and his health care team played a very crucial role by organising free screening camps for all blue collar workers to prevent transmisison and spread of the disease. In the earliest stages when people in the UAE were still discovering the lethal impact of the COVID-19, Dr Paithankar joined hands with the Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Police to assist them in screening all blue collar workers. It was a mammoth task which required a lot of manpower as several thousand blue collar workes, the weakest chain in the link, had to be screened, diagnosed, quarnatined or hosptialised. Workers await their turn at a COVID-19 screening camp in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied COVID-19 screening DHA and Dubai Police had set up medical screening camps near various labour camps in early March 2020. At such a juncture, when there was strong need for health care workers to step up and come forward to offer their services, one man decided to brush aside all other concerns for self-preservation and collaborate extensively and unconditionally with the government. With clinics located close to all labour camps, Dr Paithankar and health care workers had the best accessibility and reach to the workers. “This was my way of giving back to the UAE, a country that has given me so much in the last three decades. I decided to collaborate with the government and offer my services right away as DHA and Dubai Police set up the screening tents near the labour camps at Dubai Investment Park, Jebel Ali, Al Quoz and right up to the emirate of Ajman in all our 25 Right Health clinics.” This was a nascent period when information about the virus was still very limited. Dr Paithankar added, “At that moment, we had no idea of how lethal the virus was and we were using the basic protective equipment. We would screen all those who came with symptoms of cough, cold and fever. Those who fit the profile of being infected with COVID-19 were sent for testing to DHA designated centres. We worked closely with the authorities and were screening up to 3,500 workers per day. Of these, nearly 200-300 were sent for RT-PCR testing as in those days, the PCR test was a new diagnostic tool and was limited to a few places. At all the camps, we were putting in long hours during the earliest days of the pandemic. I had recruited extra staff and cancelled annual leave of all my staff and we were putting in over 14 hours of work per day, from 9am to 11pm,” recounted the doctor. Controlling community transmissions It was this rapid screening, segregation and isolation which proved to be very effective in those early days in controlling community transmission rates. In the next three months, as the government set up field hospitals, designated hotels etc, it became easier to grade patients into mild, moderate and severe cases. Those who had mild conditions could isolate at hotel rooms, while those who were moderately affected were sent to field hospitals and those who were in severe or critical conditions and required ventilator support were admitted into the COVID-19 Intensive Care Units of hospitals. However, early mass testing of blue-collar workers went a long way in containing the infection rate. Dr Sanjay Paithankar (centre) with members of the Right Health Team. Image Credit: Supplied Over 300,000 workers screened from March-May 2020, free of cost “In those three months from March to May 2020, we helped screen over 300,000 blue collar workers across all our 25 clinics and about five per cent of these required hospital admissions,” added Dr Paithankar. Today, with the worst of the pandemic behind him, Dr Paithankar and his team continues to serve the workers with heavily subsidised health packages. “We try to make the entire package as affordable to the worker without compromising on the quality of service. From consultation to diagnostics to medication, we provide packages from Dh9 to Dh120, all-inclusive. In most cases, the workers’ Essential Basic Plan (EBP) is able to cover this cost. Wherever we find workers unable to pay, because they are in between jobs or their health insurance has expired, I never charge them at all. I let them avail the treatment and I must commend the integrity of these workers who actually always make it a point to come and repay their outstanding amount whenever they are reinstated into jobs or have the money,” said Dr Paithankar. Right Health is able to cater to about 100,000 workers per month and about 1.2 million annually, at the moment. “We aim to work more efficiently and take this number up to 1.8 million by 2022,” explained Dr Paithankar. “The doctors who we hire have a vast body of experience and are experts at taking detailed case histories and prescribing only tests that are essential. In fact, we monitor the number of tests a doctor prescribes and incentivise those who have success with patients with lower number of prescribed tests. This helps in keeping the cost down. We try and offer all other subsidies that accrue to us as a group to the workers. This has worked to the benefit of workers,” added Dr Paithankar. The pharmacy in Dubai run by an all-women staff. Image Credit: Supplied All-woman pharmacy at Muhaisnah The group has also set up an all-women pharmacy in Muhaisnah, Dubai, this month. “We decided to have this all-woman pharmacy as we realised that many female workers employed in hotels, saloons etc had several inhibitions discussing their health care issues with male pharmacists. Providing female pharmacists has helped these female workers to share their health issues and be more open about seeking medical help. We have a female service staff of five, two in the morning and two in the evening. The pharmacy is open right from 7am up to 11pm,” said Dr Paithankar. Read more COVID-19 crisis: Dubai's Jacky's Electronics launches direct supply of oxygen concentrators to India from Hong Kong COVID-19: UAE reports 1,724 new coronavirus cases, 3 deaths COVID-19: Aster DM Healthcare launches field hospital in Kerala COVID-19: UAE administers almost 11 million doses of vaccine Karama clinic With the success of his clinics, Dr Paithankar is all set to open a state-of-the-art centre in Karama, which will include a comprehensive diagnostic and treatment centre. “This will be working on the hub-and-spoke model, wherein this centre will be the hub and all other clinics across all labour camps in Dubai and the Northern Emirates will be able to send in patients for advanced consultations and examinations here. We want blue collar workers to get access to the best diagnostics and speciality consultations which will be possible at this centre,” said Dr Paithankar.

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COVID-19: CureVac vaccine offers new hope in fight against coronavirus

A new RNA vaccine will soon join the global fight against COVID-19. CureVac, a German pharmaceutical company, has been working on a vaccine against the coronavirus and is expected to announce the results of its late-stage clinical trials next week. If it’s found to be safe and effective, it will be the third RNA vaccine, after Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna. And it could be a gamechanger. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been successful in reining in coronavirus infection, having provided protection to millions of people in more than 90 countries. The two are pathbreakers in vaccine technology. They use the mRNA (messenger RNA) route to implant genetic information in the human body to produce the coronavirus spike protein, which will provoke a response from the immune system. All RNA (ribonucleic acid) vaccines are generally required to be kept in a deep freeze. That poses problems in transportation and storage. Pfizer had circumvented it by making custom-made boxes to maintain freezing temperature during transit and in warehouses. Here’s where CureVac scores. It doesn’t have to be kept in a deep freeze. Ordinary refrigerators would do, making the vaccines accessible in many parts of the world, especially places hardest hit by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. What’s CureVac’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate? CVnCoV is a vaccine candidate made by CureVac that uses unmodified, natural mRNA to trigger the production of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. Its targeted optimisation can induce high levels of protein protection in the cells with low mRNA doses, according to the company website. After the vaccine is injected into the body, it prompts the production of spike proteins. That activates the immune cells to produce antibodies and T-cells to fight it. What’s its dosage? The vaccine is delivered as a muscle injection of two doses administered four weeks apart. How’s CureVac different from other RNA vaccines? All RNA vaccines have to be kept in a deep freeze because they are fragile and degrade quickly. That has been a stumbling block in their storage and distribution. So RNA vaccines haven’t reached much of the developing world, which do not have an uninterrupted power supply. And the lack of funds rules out the purchase of deep freezers. Here’s where CureVac will come in handy if the trial results are encouraging. If it is found to be safe and effective and obtains approvals from health regulators, CureVac could help immensely in the fight against COVID-19. Since it can be stored in standard refrigerators at 36–46°F (2–8°C), the CureVac vaccine can be stored and transported more easily than the other RNA vaccines. How does the CureVac jab remain stable? CureVac’s researchers found a method to put the RNA molecules in fatty bubbles to prevent them from disintegrating, enabling the vaccine to remain stable at relatively warm temperatures. So it doesn’t need a deep freezer; a standard refrigerator would suffice. The vaccine can be kept in a room (outside the fridge) for 24 hours before injecting it.  According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, encapsulating mRNA in a protective shell will prevent its degradation and improve vaccine effectiveness. more on COVID-19 VACCINES Could nasal spray against COVID-19 help solve the pandemic? What do we know about Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine and rare clots? How and when will the COVID-19 pandemic end? COVID-19: What’s in vaccines? It’s mostly water, says global alliance How soon will it be available? CureVac launched a Phase 3 trial in December 2020, with 36,500 volunteers in Germany. In February, the European Union began a rolling review to speed up approval if the Phase 3 trial results are promising. The results are expected next week, and if they are positive, CureVac can submit requests for approval. Since the approvals are dependent on the health regulators of each country, it’s difficult to put a time frame. Who are CureVac’s partners? CureVac has been a laggard among RNA vaccine developers partly due to funding issues. Germany’s BioNTech benefited from their partnership with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, while Moderna allied with the National Institutes of Health and received a billion dollars from the US government’s Operation Warp Speed. So they were able to speed up vaccine development. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a foundation that supports vaccine research, gave $34 million for CureVac’s research in 2019. In June 2020, the German government invested around $360 million. Other support came from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and billionaire Dietmar Hopp, the co-founder of German software giant SAP. Last year, German newspapers reported that US President Donald Trump had offered CureVac $1 billion to move its operations to America. But the company denied the reports. Image Credit: Seyyed Llata/Gulf News Has CureVac lost the vaccine race? Pfizer and Moderna have snapped up vaccines deals from much of the developed world. But CureVac’s better stability at relatively warmer temperatures will help secure the agreements to provide vaccines to underdeveloped countries. Besides that, they already have contracts with the EU, Tesla and several pharma giants. Bayer, Celonic, GSK, and Novartis have thrown in their support for the production of the CureVac vaccine and for developing new ones to combat newer strains of the coronavirus. These companies will support the production of 150 million doses in 2021 and up to 360 million doses in 2022. CureVac has a deal to provide the EU with 225 million doses of their vaccine. It has also linked up with Elon Musk’s Tesla to create mRNA “micro-factories” that could be set up worldwide to make the vaccine. What are the production and supply targets of CureVac? CureVac says it can manufacture up to 300 million doses this year and ramp it to a billion doses next year. With Tesla’s help, the mRNA “micro-factories” could make billions of doses of the vaccine. The German firm says US export restrictions on key materials are affecting its short-term supply in Europe. “Due to the Defence Production Act, we are not getting certain goods out of the USA,” CureVac Chief Executive Franz-Werner Haas told the German weekly Der Spiegel. “We are not getting all the materials that we need,” he said. The Act gives US federal agencies the power to decide on procurement orders related to national defence, but it has also been used in times of natural disasters. That would slow CureVac’s vaccine production. The world can’t have enough vaccines. Every additional dose would help.

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NRIs to be taxed under domestic law while carrying out transaction over Rs20 million (Dh995,994)

Markets|India|: New Delhi: Non-resident Indians (NRI) in transactions with those in India will be liable for tax under the country's law - even if they do not have a physical presence in India and operate digital businesses. The Central Board of Direct Taxes has notified new rules for operation of business by NRIs under which any transaction over Rs20 million (around $27,100; Dh995,994) in respect of goods, services or property carried out by them with a person in India. This also applies to download of data or software in India. The new provisions are applicable with effect from Financial Year 2021-22. It had become fully functional now with CBDT notifying the thresholds for triggering SEP and consequently tax liability in India. Gulf News Tax clarifications have come too late for NRIs stuck in India Setting facts straight on India's recent tax changes for NRIs The provisions of Significant Economic Presence (SEP) will also apply if the number of users with whom continuous business activities are solicited exceeds Rs300,000. These provisions were introduced as legislation in 2018 with an intent to tax non-residents operating online-based businesses that function without a physical presence. It meant that SEP of a non-resident in India shall constitute a 'business connection' in India. According to PwC, the Central government has now made it clear that economic presence in India by NRIs is not limited only to the physical presence in India but also includes a virtual establishment. But non-residents could offset the taxability under these provisions by exploring taking relief under Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements.

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Upto Dh100,000 fine, jail for infected person deliberately spreading infectious disease in UAE

Crime|: Abu Dhabi: A fine from Dh50,000 to Dh100,000 will be imposed on anyone convicted of deliberately transmitting an infectious disease through their actions, the UAE Public Prosecution has warned. A maximum jail sentence of five years can also be imposed on a convicted individual, the authority said. “It is prohibited for any person who knows that he/she is infected of one of the diseases [stated in Law No 14 of 2014 concerning combatting contagious diseases] to deliberately commit any behaviour that would cause the transmission of the disease to others,” Public Prosecution warned. “Anybody who violates this prohibition shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a duration of not more than five years and/or fined a monetary penalty of not less than Dh50,000 and not more than Dh100,000,” it added. Inclusion of COVID-19 The penalties have been detailed in Articles 34 and 39 of Federal Law No 14 of 2014 concerning combatting contagious diseases and they include COVID-19 with effect from March 2020. In case a convicted person is found repeating the offence, the jail term will be doubled. Other penalties Other aspects of Law No 14 include penalties for doctors, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and medical professional who fail to inform health authorities within 24 hours if a person is suffering from or has died of a communicable disease. In such a case, the medical professional can either be sentenced to jail or fined up to Dh10,000, or both. Supervisors at the workplace are also obligated to inform the authorities about people under them who may be infected. In addition, drivers of public transport vehicles and ship or airplane captains will also be held accountable under the law for transporting infected people. Infected individuals A jail sentence or a Dh10,000-Dh50,000 fine, or both, will be imposed on anyone who knows that he or she is infected, or suspects infection from a contagious disease, and yet fails to inform the health authorities while visiting any place, other than a medical facility, without the approval of the health authorities concerned. These infected individuals are also obligated to show up for tests and treatment and can be penalised if they fail to do so.

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COVID-19: Abu Dhabi issues new safety regulations for tour guides, hotels, desert camps

UAE|: Abu Dhabi: A new set of safety guidelines now direct tour guides, desert camp operators and hotels on COVID-19 safety measures during tours and events in Abu Dhabi Emirate. Issued in a circular by the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT Abu Dhabi), which regulates the tourism sector in the emirate, the measures allow 20 people to participate in tours of open spaces, and up to 10 people to visit closed spaces as part of a single tour. COVID-19 testing, masking, and regular disinfection of equipment, make up some of the other requirements that tour guides and tour operators must ensure. The DCT Abu Dhabi also specified that it will inspect these facilities to ensure compliance, and that “legal measures will be taken” against those found failing to adhere with the measures. Read More Reader in UAE asks: As a buyer, can I file a case if apartment size is less than what the contract says? UAE slams rumour of a weekend switch Free on-demand free bus service in Abu Dhabi to launch next week Here are the guidelines issued: -Tour guides must acquire the updated information on health and hygiene risk prevention guidelines in the activity. -Maximum of 20 clients in open spaces and 10 clients in closed spaces are allowed per tour accompanied by one tour guide, with strict adherence to all precautionary measures. -Tour guide should undergo COVID-19 testing before tour, and according to set frequency in relevant circulars. -Tour guide can resume work if the test result is negative. -If the tour guide experiences any symptoms of the disease, even if they are mild, they should refrain from providing the service. -Tour guide must be instructed to install Al HOSN application. -Temperature checks must be done to all individuals (tour guide and clients). Tour operators are responsible to provide thermometer and freelancing tour guides should provide it for themselves. -Every client that has a body temperature of or higher than 37.3 Degrees Celsius, is escorted to a designated isolation room in proximity of the main entrance and the “Estijaba” service at the operation Centre Department of Health at 8001717 must be alerted in line with local COVID-19 rules and regulations. Alternatively, the suspected case should be directed to the nearest health care provider for evaluation. If the individual wants to leave the premises immediately this will be allowed, but guide should try to obtain ID and contact details. -Clients for tours showing flu symptoms are to be denied access for the tour. -Report any client who display flu symptoms to “Estijaba” service at the operation Centre Department of Health at 8001717. -Tour guide must inform clients about applicable prevention and hygiene measures, restrictions, limitations or modifications to the service. -The tour guide must inform the group of how the visit will be carried out, the route and the rules and/or possible restrictions applied by the various providers (museums, monuments, natural areas, etc.). -The tour guide should urge clients to comply with the control measures. -Tour guides to prepare one-way routes to avoid groups crossing whenever possible (small towns, historical centres), coordinating in any case with other tour guides. Tour guide must contact the attraction and confirm the booking for the tour. -All clients and tour guides are required to wear masks at all times. Non-compliance will lead to refusal of entry to the facilities and tour. -The tour guide who chooses to wear gloves must put them on in front of visitors and use them correctly, although hand washing before and after the visit and whenever equipment is shared is recommended. -Clients must be instructed to avoid socialising with people outside of their own group. -The safe physical distance of 2 meter between the tour guide and clients, and between clients themselves, should be maintained throughout the tour. -Forms of greeting and/or saying goodbye that involve physical contact with the client should be avoided. -Avoid greeting other tour guides, providers and clients with physical contact, including shaking hands. -Ensure availability of hand sanitiser for the clients. -Immediately throw away any personal hygiene waste -especially tissues-, including PPE in authorised waste bins or containers. -Wash hands frequently with soap and water or, when this is not possible, with hand sanitiser. This is especially important after coughing or sneezing, and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces (knobs, railings, lifts, etc) -Disinfect personal items (glasses, mobile phones, microphones, etc) frequently with soap and water and, if this is not possible, with a disinfectant solution. Use specific products applied with a cloth, or special disinfectant wipes, to disinfect electronic equipment. -Properly disinfected or single-use headsets/whispers/radio guides should be used. If they are not single-use, the client will disinfect their hands before and after use. The client will return these devices, placing them all in a bag which will be sealed. Other alternatives can be considered. -Client voice reception systems (headphones, whispers, etc) that are not single-use must always be disinfected at the end of the service and, in any case, before being used by another person. -One disposable cover per person should be used for microphones that may be used consecutively by several tour guides. -As a general rule, all materials used during the service must be disinfected at the end of the service. -Avoid share work equipment or devices with other tour guides as much as possible. If certain equipment or devices are shared (walkies, radio guides, telephones, umbrellas, etc), the tour guide must establish cleaning and disinfection regime. -Walking tours and stops for explaining monuments must be done in open and/or wide spaces, respecting the safe distance of 2 meter. -The tour guide should coordinate with suppliers in order to avoid crowding when groups arrive. -For attractions that have specific dress code guidelines, tourist guide must inform the visitors to dress properly and if the tour guide will provide some clothing, then it is must be for single-person-use. -If clients are to be transported by cars organised by the organisation, the maximum number of people allowed in the car is 3 (including driver). -If visitors are to be transported by buses, seating arrangement should respect physical distancing rule in each row. -In particular, each passenger must sit in the same seat every time they get on the vehicle. -Sanitiser gel and wipes must be available in the car and buses for guest use. -Masks should be worn by all commuters throughout the journey. -Vehicles must be cleaned & disinfected before/after each trip. -Printed material such as maps, brochures, etc should be avoided. If this is not possible, they should be plasticised, and be easy to clean and disinfect, or be disposable. -Avoid the use of cash and prioritise the use of cards or other electronic means, preferably contactless, when charging and paying for services and/or providers (e.g. prepayment online). If cash is handled, hands should be washed or disinfected as soon as possible.

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COVID-19: ‘Secret sauce’ of mRNA vaccines to be revealed?

Business|: Pharmaceutical giants, aka "Big Pharma", are protected by undisclosed trade secrets and patents. An exclusive group of drug makers has ensured that rich countries can lay claim to most of their miracle drugs — while limiting the number of companies that can also produce the vital vaccines. America follows an advanced system and strict laws to protect the intellectual property (IP) of its most innovative companies from copycats or knockoffs. But with COVID-19 vaccines, the US has made a sweeping policy U-turn by supporting a vaccine patent waiver proposal at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). In effect, the move announced late on Wednesday (out on Twitter on Thursday), allows other pharma companies within and outside the US to make copies of the most advanced COVID-19 vaccines, notably the mRNA shots. On May 5, 2021, US President Joe Biden threw his support behind waiving IP rights for COVID-19 vaccines, in a landmark decision. World leaders lauded the US move. Biden's support for a waiver — a sharp reversal of the previous U.S. position — is historic. It was followed swiftly by a statement from his top WTO negotiator, Ambassador Katherine Tai. WHAT IS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY? Intellectual property is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect. There are many types of intellectual property, and some countries recognize more than others. The most well-known types are copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. Pfizer, Moderna COVID-19 vaccines highly effective after first shot in real-world use: US study Abu Dhabi begins offering Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine US response to global health crisis Ambassador Tai stated:“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures." Her statement came amid growing concerns that big outbreaks in India could allow the rise of vaccine-resistant strains of the deadly virus, undermining a global recovery. President Biden and drugmakers had been facing demands from activists and global leaders to suspend IP rights cover for vaccines as pandemic-driven deaths and infections rise, even as the world faces the worst economic downturn in decades, triggered by vicious cycles of lockdown and infections. WHAT THE 'TEMPORARY' US IP RIGHTS WAIVER MEANS The US would support a proposal for the temporary waiver of intellectual property (IP) provisions on COVID-19 vaccines working its way through the WTO. Such a policy would waive the IP rights of vaccine makers to potentially enable companies in developing countries and others to manufacture their own versions of COVID-19 vaccines. Countries suffering from a massive spike in new cases — including India and South Africa — have pushed for the waiver. In India, now facing a “COVID tsunami”, it was reported recently that less than 2% of the population had been vaccinated. New COVID cases are at record highs globally, as the pandemic rages unchecked in many poor and middle-income countries. Drew Weissman, father of revolutionary COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, sets next target: Cancer, other viral diseases Vaccine approved: UK authorisation for Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine marks revolution in medicine In effect, the US government is now saying that the intellectual property (IP) protection for the COVID vaccines — especially the mRNA shots developed by US researchers dubbed as “incredibly effective”, but not widely available — will now be “open-sourced”. The move is dubbed "monumental". But that means super-profits expected by the companies behind it may no longer be realised. But the flipside could potentially end the pandemic sooner, instead of later. It’s not the first time that it happened. In 1921, soon after Federick Banting discovered that insulin could be used to treat diabetes, he sold the patent to the University of Toronto for about a dollar. (Banting later won a Nobel prize, as his discovery meant a life-saving drug could become widely available.) With the IP waiver, “generic” or lower-priced mRNA shots made by third parties could theoretically become more widely produced by a network of second-tier vaccine makers closer to where they’re needed, where they could also be delivered much faster. This raises the "soft power” and do-gooder profile of America — but would incense the CEOs of its biggest pharmaceutical companies, notably Pfizer, Modern and Novavax. mRNA ‘secret sauce’ will now be known? Moreover, the move will, in theory, make the “secret sauce” to the revolutionary mRNA vaccine technology — such as how “lipoprotein nanoparticles” (LNPs) are used to deliver mRNA to target cells to boost immunity — known to other drug makers, who until now have no idea how it’s made using the Kariko-Weissman technique. In declaring IP waivers for the COVID-19 vaccines and therapies, the Biden government has made a bold policy decision that could end the pandemic sooner. The US evaluation regime for new drugs is one of the most advanced, due to the independence of its scientists as well as massive government support for research and development. Stringent rules also govern clinical trials of new drugs/vaccines, manufacturing and post-distribution. It's not immediately known what part of the mRNA vaccines will be "open-sourced". Tesla, a US-based EV maker, has also open-sourced much of its car-making techniques, except the self-driving AI software. It's not clear how the move would hasten the production and distribution of badly-needed COVID-19 vaccines, especially for the developing world, given the WTO process can be tedious. Ambassador Tai cautioned deliberations would "take time" but that the US would also continue to push for increased production and distribution of vaccines - and raw materials needed to make them - around the world. Shares in vaccine makers Moderna Inc and Novavax Inc dropped several percent in regular trade, although Pfizer Inc stock fell only slightly.

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COVID-19: Total lockdown in Kerala from Saturday until May 16

India|: Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala has announced a total lockdown in the state from Saturday until May 16 in an effort to curb the rising cases of COVID-19. Minister for Transport A.K. Saseendran confirmed that the state had no other option but to go for total lockdown given the surge. “This is the only way out and it will only benefit all of us. So all have to abide by it and stay home,” said Saseendran. President of the Kerala Government Medical Officers Association, Vijayakrishnan said there is no way out other than for strict lockdown. The IMA State wing also wanted tough protocols, but an all-party meeting held last week decided to wait and was against declaring a total lockdown. “This lockdown is different from the one we had last year as then the number of cases was very less. The situation now is grave as the numbers are going high by the day. This lockdown will certainly help us bring down the new cases,” said Vijayakrishnan. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday expressed grave concern over the spike in cases and said 41,953 people turned COVID-19 positive after 1,63,321 samples were tested in the past 24 hours. The TPR on Wednesday stood at 25.68 per cent and the total number of active positive cases in the state stood at 375,658, while 23,106 people recovered taking the total recoveries to 1,362,363. Since the end of last month as a first step, partial lockdowns were enforced on Saturdays and Sundays, which was extended from Tuesday.

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UAE slams rumour of a weekend switch

UAE|: Dubai: The UAE has denied rumours of a weekend switch and confirmed that the state news agency WAM has not reported any type of information pertaining to the matter. In response to word on the grapevine and the widespread misinformation across social networking sites in the UAE, authorities urged residents not to pay attention to the false claims allegedly made on behalf of WAM. ALSO READ Rumours in UAE: How authorities keep residents safe “There is no truth to what is being circulated that the UAE is considering to switch the weekend, from Friday and Saturday, to Saturday and Sunday. [It is also fake news] that employees in government and federal departments will work 12 hours on Friday,” confirmed WAM. The UAE had previously changed its official weekend in 2006 with the aim to help improve the business sector and align its activities with Western countries. The change led to the days switching from a Thursday-Friday weekend to a Friday-Saturday one. Dh1m fine for spreading rumours Spreading malicious rumours on the internet is a crime in the UAE, and can be punishable by imprisonment and a fine not exceeding Dh1 million. Under Federal Legal Decree No 5 for 2012 on combating cybercrimes, spreading rumours “damaging social peace and public order” and causing damage to “national peace” empowers the UAE government to prosecute concerned individuals. The UAE Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) had also reiterated its warning on spreading fake news across social media platforms. “The UAE law for combatting cybercrimes stipulates the punishment of whoever publishes information, news statements or rumours on a website, or any computer network or IT means, with intent to make sarcasm of the state flag, the national peace, its logo, national anthem or any of its symbols,” said the TDRA. How does misinformation spread? The MIT Sloan School of Management has defined false news, or fake news, as “entirely fabricated and often partisan content presented as factual.” In a study published in 2019 by MIT Sloan researchers, the report identified a number of problems with the spread of misinformation on social media. In their research, authors also discovered: False rumors spread faster and wider than true information People who share false information are more likely distracted or lazy, rather than biased To help spot fake news, FactCheck.org recommends to only rely on information from credible sources, check whether the news cites official sources, and to always double-check the date as events that happened long ago may be mistaken as a recent event.

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India may be ready for Rahul Gandhi, but is Rahul Gandhi ready for India?

“I don’t know about you,” said a friend, “but I am ready for Rahul Gandhi.” What he meant was that after Covid second wave he was ready to try even Rahul Gandhi as India’s Prime Minister. Since Rahul Gandhi joined politics in 2004, I have never heard anyone say this. I have never heard anyone hope, wish, pray or even toy with the idea of Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi. As a compulsive election tourist, I travel in Indian elections in different states, just talking to people. It’s my way of knowing my country, seeing corners I never would. And I have never heard anyone wish for Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi. Not even the Congress worker. Not even the last Congress voter standing in Allahabad, cradle of the Nehru-Gandhis. Not even the Muslim voter who fervently hopes the Congress wins the next election. So for even one person to say he’s ready for Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi is a breakthrough moment in Indian politics. What has changed for Rahul Gandhi is that for the first time he has demonstrated he could do good for the people of India. We are talking here about his regular warnings on Covid in India, and how he’s been right each time, how he’s been ahead of the government each time. Be it the first wave or second, be it vaccination or testing, be it his critique of the lockdown last year or the need for one right now, Rahul Gandhi has been on the money. This he has done mostly through Twitter but not just. For example, there was a Zoom press conference last year where he made the point about how the government needed to be strategic in its lockdown and strategies. The BJP’s social media propaganda made a video of how many times he had used the word ‘strategic’ and ridiculed him. But with every passing day we have seen how right Rahul Gandhi was: if we had been strategic rather than knee-jerk, we would have been better prepared for the second wave. If not Rahul, then who? It has been a pipe-dream of the Congress party to see the incumbent government make mistakes and become unpopular, so that the people of India automatically elect the Congress back into power. Since there are only two parties with a pan-India presence, we can have either a BJP-led government or a Congress-led government. It’s not as if the people of India have a broad menu to choose from. This is how the Congress has been written off and yet returned to power, sometimes to its own surprise. So if voters want change, they will have to resign themselves to the idea of Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi. If not Rahul then who? We’re not going to have a Macron. Not one of 1.3 billion Indians has the guts or talent to think of capturing national imagination. When the pandemic began last year, Orhan Pamuk, the light of Istanbul, had been researching past pandemics for a new novel. Writing in The New York Times, he observed what her had learnt about pandemics and political change: “The history and literature of plagues shows us that the intensity of the suffering, of the fear of death, of the metaphysical dread, and of the sense of the uncanny experienced by the stricken populace will also determine the depth of their anger and political discontent.” We’ve already seen the pandemic take down Donald Trump, and as of today, the pandemic is bad enough in India to speculate of the possibility of similar political change here. God helps those… But the Congress party and its de facto President, Rahul Gandhi, would be making a mistake in just counting on such change happening on its own. Even if India gets ready for Rahul Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi will have to demonstrate he is ready for India. Donald Trump didn’t just lose on his own. The Democratic Party worked very hard to win. Voters want to see if Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party want to win. If the Congress party and its leadership keeps sitting calmly, occasionally campaigning in state elections and conducting press conferences, then the BJP has enough time and space to make up for the disaster that is Covid Second Wave. For example, the BJP could start distributing freebies and giving out cash transfers to make people forget the suffering of the second wave. There are three political milestones ahead of us: Uttar Pradesh assembly elections 8 months from now in February 2022; the Gujarat assembly elections 18 months from now in November 2022; and the national general elections in May 2024. Unless the opposition can win at least one of the first two, the third one is not going to be easy. A three year plan Since the Congress party is going to win somewhere around zero seats in Uttar Pradesh, it should just exit the state and support the Samajwadi Party there on every seat. Rahul Gandhi should formally become party president and commits himself to working 16 hours a day for national-level agenda setting for the Congress party, doing non-stop campaigns of a national nature so that nobody can say, ‘Rahul Gandhi is doing nothing’. He should completely extricate himself from state elections, because they can be a distraction from setting a national narrative. He should make his sister Priyanka Gandhi in-charge of all state elections, including Gujarat. Most of all, he should stop disappearing from the public eye for days. He should be seen to be putting in hours of work every day. The people of India are not going to give the keys of power to anyone without them earning it. Indira Gandhi’s return to power in 1980 seemed miraculous given how she had been summarily rejected in 1977 by voters thanks to the Emergency. In the intervening three years, she worked hard to gain the trust of the people. The next three years are just such a test for Rahul Gandhi. To begin with, how about give up on the regular holidays? Becoming prime minister is surely a bigger thing than the sights and sounds of Europe. Shivam Vij @DilliDurAst Shivam Vij is a journalist and political commentator based in New Delhi. He tweets as @DilliDurAst, the handle means 'Delhi is still far'

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First Emirati woman mechanic: How Huda Al Matroushi is carving out her own place in a male-dominated industry in the UAE

Dubai: Huda Al Matroushi, 36, an Emirati, was overwhelmed with emotion last week after she received the phone call of her life. It was from none other than His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Sheikh Mohamed congratulated her for making her presence felt in a job, and an industry, that is otherwise dominated by men. Al Matroushi is a car mechanic who owns her own garage, Imex Car Service, in Sharjah’s Industrial Area 1. She also has a day-time job with Sharjah government where she heads a department. Her passion for and perseverance with her twin responsibilities should send out a strong message to women all over the world that anything is possible, anything is achievable — no limits, no boundaries. Huda Al Matroushi, the first Emirati female mechanic, at her IMEX Car Service in Sharjah Industrial Area 1, Sharjah. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News In a video that has gone viral on social media, Al Matroushi is seen speaking to the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince on the phone, who is seen congratulating her for achieving a feat that very few women have dared to even attempt. In an interview with Gulf News, Al Matroushi said her happiness knew no bounds when the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince said he was proud of people like her. “I was in tears when His Highness asked me if I would accept his car for servicing in my garage. I could not help being emotional. It was such a special moment in my life. I felt so proud of being an Emirati that day,” she said. Al Matroushi has broken gender stereotypes to follow her passion and we were quite pleasantly surprised by the ease with which she went about her work. A government employee in love with cars Al Matroushi works for a Sharjah government department during the day, while in the evening, she is seen holding bolsters and pliers, tirelessly repairing cars parked in her garage. So how did this come about? “When I was young, I used to be curious about toy cars. I wanted to understand the mechanics behind them,” Al Matroushi said. Today, Al Matroushi can identify car models without even looking at their chassis. The garage she and her father built is a result of Al Matroushi’s dream. With accessories such as wrenches, ratchets, screwdrivers hanging from the wall, this Emirati woman is defying all odds to follow her passion. “I love what I do. I started doing it 16 years ago, but I opened this garage in 2020,” she said. In fact, for 16 years, Al Matroushi had been hopping from one garage to another just to familiarise herself with the mechanics of different types of cars. She cut her teeth fixing engines, replacing tyres, doing car maintenance work, undertaking diagnostic testing for vehicles, inspecting vehicles and getting friendly with the electronic systems pertaining to steering, brakes and more. Huda Al Matroushi at her IMEX Car Service in Sharjah Industrial Area 1, Sharjah. “One day, in July 2020, I was being driven by my chauffeur. It was peak summer. The AC was not working in my car and I asked my driver if he had refilled the gas for the AC. He said he did and added that the problem was probbaly with the compressor. So we got it replaced. A month later, the air-conditioner stopped working again. Then I asked myself, ‘Why did the compressor fail in just one month?’ I knew for sure the compressor was not original and that was why it had failed. It was then that I decided to set up my own garage, so I could source my products from the right companies.” Al Matroushi took us to a Porsche parked in her garage. “The client called me to say the car was heating up. I checked the shock absorber and realised that it was not an original one. I asked the client about it, but he did not have any idea. He said he had given his car for servicing and since then he started noticing this problem. So one has to be very careful about where one drops off one’s car for repair.” Setting an example as a woman Elaborating on her garage, Al Matroushi said: “When I asked my father to help me build the second floor of my garage, he asked me if I was sure of what I was doing. He said it was a tough job for a woman to handle. I told him it wasn’t tough for me. My staff also sometimes tell me not to dirty my hands, replacing a tyre or checking the level of oil and water in the engine. But I keep telling them that there is no difference between a man and a woman today. Both are equally capable of doing any job.” Sticking to her roots and her attire Al Matroushi insists on wearing an ‘abaya’ while working in the garage. She says she really does not find it a hindrance. “It is practical for me to wear an ‘abaya’ as the material is no different from an overall that mechanics usually wear. I am proud of my roots and my ‘abaya’ stays with me even when I am working in the garage,” she said. The future Al Matroushi added: “I am not an engineer, but I will be one day. The dream is to expand my garage into a proper car centre that does repair work as well as serves as a hub for car accessories. I do not yet know whether I will ever get that far, but I’m sure my future looks bright.” Huda Al Matroushi at her IMEX Car Service in Sharjah Industrial Area 1, Sharjah. Huda Al Matroushi at her IMEX Car Service in Sharjah Industrial Area 1, Sharjah.