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Emirati, Filipina, Russian share Dh1 million prize purse from Mahzooz draw in Dubai

UAE|: Dubai: An Emirati, a Filipina and a Russian struck it rich after winning the Dh1 million second-tier prize in the latest Mahzooz draw. They matched five out of the six winning numbers (19, 29, 30, 40, 41 and 43) and took home Dh333,333 each. Thirty-nine year old Emirati F. Ahmed said her reason to participate in Mahzooz was the charitable aspect of the draw. She noted: “When I came to know about Mahzooz, I was so intrigued by the idea of entering the draw by simply donating a bottle of water to the needy. So, participating in Mahzooz has always been a win-win situation for me. I have won the Dh35 fourth prize multiple times and the Dh1,000 third prize once, but winning Dh333,333 is a different story. I really feel happy and blessed,” added the mother of two, who said the prize money was a great gift for her family. She also said that the money will be put in an investment. Right timing For Rea, the 41-year old Filipina winner, the prize came at the right time. She said: “My mum has come to visit me here in Dubai, but she couldn’t fly back to the Philippines due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions. This prize money is a blessing because she can stay longer with me here now.” Rea, who has lived in Dubai for 13 years and works as an analyst for a food packaging company, added that her mum was her lucky charm. “Last Sunday, I was having my morning coffee with my mum. I then checked my emails and came across a message from Mahzooz saying that I had won Dh333,333. I simply couldn’t believe it. I showed the email to my mum and we both shed tears of joy,” she added. Securing family’s future For the Russian winner named Muslim, 42, a father of five, winning the second prize in Mahzooz will “secure his family’s future”. He said: “My wife and kids are so excited about this win that has transformed our lives in the blink of an eye.” How to participate The next Mahzooz draw is scheduled for July 31, at 9pm (UAE time). Tickets are priced at Dh35. Entrants can participate by registering on the Mahzooz website. The live weekly draw is hosted by Lebanese presenter and TV personality Wissam Braidy, and Indian model, presenter and entrepreneur Aishwarya Ajit. Read more Dubai Police caution motorists after accident on Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Road Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to visit Austria on Thursday Dubai-based Canadian wins $1 million in Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire draw More than 18,000 Abu Dhabi workers get Dh300m in unpaid salaries Paediatric programme Meanwhile, Ewings, the managing operator of Mahzooz, has signed a contribution agreement with Al Jalila Foundation to support its paediatric ‘Farah’ programme, which provides life-saving treatment to children suffering from heart diseases, cancer and other chronic illnesses. The funds raised through the Farah programme are invested in medical treatment and research. “We collaborated with Al Jalila Foundation and supported their A’awen programme earlier this year. We are building on this successful partnership as we believe in the noble causes carried out by the Foundation. Contributing to the Farah programme gives us immense pleasure as every child deserves a happy and healthy life,” said Farid Samji, CEO of Ewings.

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Rise of Petrochem CEO Yogesh Mehta: From a monthly salary of Dh2,000 to owning a billion dollar firm in Dubai

Dubai: From a salary of Dh2, 000 a month to owning a billion-dollar company, the rise of Yogesh Mehta, 61, CEO of Petrochem Middle East - the largest chemical distributor in the Middle East - has been phenomenal. Mehta, who came to UAE in 1990, runs this family-owned business along with his son Rohan, 32, and a team of dedicated professionals. When it all started Bitten by the entrepreneur bug right from a young age, Mehta started his first business when he was 19 years old. “I ventured into some trading business. Some of it worked some did not.” Yogesh Mehta got married to Falguni when he was 24. “By the time I was 28, I had lost all my money. My business had collapsed. I was educated but nothing was going right in my career. So, with practically no money in my pocket, I set foot in Dubai on March 15, 1990. “When I landed here, I was pretty much down and out. I thought I was done with life. Although I was married with a son who was almost a year old, I felt I had reached the end of my career. I needed a boost, another opportunity to start life anew. So I thought I must give it a shot at trying a job in Dubai,” said Mehta. Yogesh Mehta with this wife Image Credit: Supplied And Dubai did provide him with the opportunity. Dubai – the land of opportunity Back in the early 90s, Dubai was not as developed as it is today. “But there was promise in the air. The positive vibes were unmistakable.” “When I was contemplating a career change in my life, many people said that Dubai is a land of opportunity. I came to try my luck here, but I did not know the massive growth potential that was waiting for me.” “Back in the days, we had two-lane highways. Everyone knew everyone,” he said. Mehta started work almost immediately after landing in Dubai. He worked as a partner for a small business dealing with chemicals – similar to what Petrochem is doing today. As the business grew, he separated from his old partner in 1994 and formed Petrochem with a British expatriate living in Dubai. “My dream was to be a business magnate. I wanted to be rich.” “Last year, the turnover was $1.5 billion. We are the largest chemical distribution company here in the Middle East and are ranked number 12 in the world,” said Mehta. Petrochem has businesses worldwide including in London where Mehta owns a large home. Other branches are in Singapore, Taiwan, China, India, Egypt, London and Amsterdam. The company is headquartered in Dubai. The company has a staff of 230 worldwide of which 145 are working in the UAE. Making it big in the UAE "Petrochem grew big because back in the days it was easier to get agencies to distribute chemicals. We wanted to create state-of-the-art distribution terminals, so we formed a team of professionals. We hired the best chemical engineers. They made it happen for Petrochem. It was great teamwork, end of the day,” said Mehta. "One of the biggest challenges we faced was the 2007 economic crisis. That was one of the worst times we faced. From the height of the boom we enjoyed in 2001. The stock market crashed, then gold. We almost felt that the world was coming off. But, as professionals, it was not the time to give up. We knew a downturn had struck, but we also knew it was the time for some innovation.” Mehta said he and his team went down to the drawing board once again. “We sat down as a team and listed things we could do and not do. One critical outcome of the brainstorming was the decision not to change our line of business, but we decided to change the way we did our business. Our strategies were revamped,” Mehta said. Yogesh Mehta with members of the Abu Dhabi Hindu Mandir committee Image Credit: Supplied The pandemic: the ups and downs Mehta said that after Lehman Brothers' collapse and the subsequent economic recession faced by the world, the next big blow to the economy has been the recent pandemic. “It has been a severe blow. In 2020 when the pandemic struck, it was sad seeing lives lost. Work came to a halt. Lockdowns and closures added to the woes. Luckily for us, we are in the chemical industry business. For example, we have products that are used in sanitisers. Demand for our products has grown because sanitisers are in huge demand now.” Running a successful family-owned business Mehta said that as the Petrochem business grew in 2018, his erstwhile British partner offered to sell his share of the business. “David came up to me one day and said it is better to run the company as a family-owned one since my son was already in the business. So we parted as good friends.” “In 2018, he left, and my son acquired the shares in the company. Today, we own this company jointly.” Taking a risk at 29 Mehta was 29 when he landed in the UAE. “I had nothing to lose as I had already lost everything. I had a wife and son to look after. I knew I had to take the chance. I set foot in Dubai hoping my life would improve. Little did I know it would change 180 degrees for the better,” Mehta said. Once in Dubai, he did a whole lot of research on the chemical industry business here. “I studied about various chemicals – like which ones get imported into the UAE and which were exported from here. I made a business file to show the potential investors. I strongly felt it was important at that time to have a business case and know really what made sense to bring to the UAE market.” Yogesh Mehta in his office Days of struggle Mehta said the first six months of his arrival into the UAE was a period of struggle. He came on a salary of Dh2,000. He had a wife and son to take care of. Thanks to his hard work, Mehta was given a raise of Dh2,000 by his former boss. His total salary stood at Dh4,000. “My wife was a Montessori-trained teacher and so I asked her to go and find a job. I told her that I would look after my son while she works at the school. We had to have a good, steady income flowing as there were expenses to pay like rent, food and other day-to-day expenses.” “I had a burning desire to grow. There was blood in my eyes,” he said.  The right business partner Mehta said one of the key factors behind the success of Petrochem was having the right business partner. “David Lubbock was my business partner at Petrochem. Together we started the company. We parted as friends and today he is like a brother to me.” The duo shared great chemistry when it came to propelling their business to great success. “David took care of the European part of the business I did the rest of the world. Together, we created value. We did some good business, secured good agencies, pushed Petrotech to be the best company it is today. In 2018, he felt it was fair that he sells his share of the business. His children were not keen to take over the business. My son Rohan was already active so he said it was time to make it a family-owned business. He is such a good man.” Education, family Yogesh Mehta is a graduate in chemistry.  Yogesh Mehta, Founder and CEO, Petrochem Middle East Ltd., during an interview on 11th July, 2021. Photo Clint Egbert/Gulf News “My father was a Gujarati Brahmin and my mother a Sindhi. They met in 1954 fell in love with each other. It was a huge thing in those days. They got married in 1956 and my older sister arrived in 1957. I came two years later in 1959,” said Mehta who was born and brought up in Mumbai (formerly called Bombay). He said his father was a businessman of sorts, dealing in chemicals. He had a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry. "I am in the same line of business,” Mehta said.  Yogesh Mehta said he could not have reached this far without the love and support of his wife Falguni, 61. “She has been my source of strength. We share a long history. We fell in love when we were 15. We got married when we were 24 and till today bank on each other for support. She completes me.” Yogesh’s son Rohan is married to Roshni, a British national. The family spends their summers in London every year. Yogesh Mehta with his family: son Rohan, daughter in law Roshni, wife Falguni and grandchildren. Image Credit: Supplied About Rohan Mehta “Rohan is a very talented young man. He is a doting husband and father of three children. I call him a good guy,” said Mehta with much pride for his son. Rohan graduated from Northeastern University in Boston, USA in 2011. He worked in Texas for two years before joining Petrochem. Rohan Mehta “I asked my son to join me in the business and he happily agreed.” There was no second thoughts, Rohan says. “Being brought up in Dubai for over three decades, the UAE is certainly home now. I was raised in a humble environment. I was just like any other kid growing up in the desert, playing football in the sand. Our family weekends were spent picnicking in parks in Hatta and Al-Ain,” he said. After graduating, he had the opportunity to work at a large multi-national company producing petrochemicals. “I was excited and packed my bags for my new adventure in Dallas, Texas. After an incredible amount of learning and experience, I decided to head home to Dubai and join Petrochem.” Today, almost eight years into Petrochem, Rohan said he finally feels settled. “It wasn’t an easy journey to start with. I faced challenges despite being in the family business. It was not an easy ride for me at all,” he said. “I jumped on the horse and learned how to ride it. There was a lot of learning I did on my own but there was also a lot I learned from the invaluable talent around me. My father has been a great source of strength and inspiration to me,” he says. “I feel I am extremely lucky to be surrounded by such mentors and experts here at Petrochem, the learning never ends and is a daily process. As a father myself, I look at running this company in the future and further building on this legacy to make my mark not only in this company but also in this region. The best is yet to come,” Rohan concluded.

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Emirati wins Dh1 million in Al Ansari Exchange draw

UAE|: Dubai: Emirati Hazza Slayem Alderei is now richer by Dh1 million after winning the grand prize in Al Ansari Exchange’s summer promotion draw, which was held on Tuesday. Alderei, who qualified to join the draw after making a remittance of Dh300 from the Al Ansari Exchange branch located on Khalifa Street in Abu Dhabi, is the eighth millionaire of the company’s annual promotions. In January this year, Nina Elmina Sanchez from the Philippines had won Dh1 million in the Winter 2020 draw. Prior to that, in 2019, Bangladeshi expatriate Abdullah Al Arafat Mohammed Mohsin had won the Dh1 million jackpot, while compatriots Al Dizon Banzil and Gina Realuyo Soriano registered back-to-back wins for Filipinos in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Mohammad Bitar, deputy CEO at Al Ansari Exchange, said: “Another successful edition of our annual summer promotion concluded on a high note with a vast number of entries this year. We are delighted to continue holding the promotion, which positively impacts people’s lives. This success would not have been possible without the support provided by our strategic partners and the loyalty of our valued customers.” He added: “We would like to congratulate all the winners of the 2021 campaign. To our eighth millionaire — congratulations to you and we hope the grand prize will make a difference to your life.” Read more Dubai Police emergency call centre received 1.2 million calls in second quarter of this year Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to visit Austria on Thursday Dubai-based Canadian wins $1 million in Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire draw More than 18,000 Abu Dhabi workers get Dh300m in unpaid salaries Other winners Mariam Saif Almazrooei won a brand-new BMW X2, while Noredah Asiimwe and Wafa Abdelaziz Ismail bagged half a kilo of gold each. Al Ansari Exchange also gave away latest iPhone 12 handsets during the promo’s weekly draw, while five more customers won Dh10,000 each. They were: Mellany Zabala from the Philippines, Muhammed Erasseri from India, Mohamad Nouri Ouf from Spain, Jesuscoro Maghamil from the Philippines, and Afaq Umair from Pakistan.

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Philippines’ Duterte says unvaccinated may be shut in

Philippines|: Manila: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has warned that Filipinos who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus will not be allowed to leave their homes as a safeguard against the more contagious delta variant. Philippine missions in the UAE to deploy five repatriation flights Stranded Filipinos in UAE told to apply for repatriation flights Duterte said in televised remarks Wednesday night that there is no law mandating such a restriction but added he is ready to face lawsuits to keep people who are “throwing viruses left and right” off the streets. The brash-talking president added that for people who don’t want to be vaccinated, “well, for all I care, you can die anytime.’” However, more than public hesitance, the Philippines has been grappling with vaccine shortages. Nearly 7 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated and more than 11 million others have received their first dose. That is a fraction of the government’s target of 60 million to 70 million people. Duterte also ordered his government to open the coronavirus vaccination campaign to anyone who wants a shot. “Give the vaccines to those who want to be vaccinated,” Duterte said in the late-night address, expressing concern over the contagious Delta variant, which is ripping through Southeast Asia, now a global epicentre for the virus. It was not immediately clear if his directive meant that the vaccines could now be given to Filipinos not included in the government’s priority groups. Given limited supplies, it is prioritising healthcare workers, elderly, people with existing medical conditions and working age adults. The country has so far reported 119 cases of the Delta variant, first detected in India, but health experts say there could be more undetected cases because of the slow pace of the country’s genome sequencing capacity. Daily reported infections have recently started to rise, and authorities this week suspended travel from Malaysia and Thailand, as well as tightened curbs in and around Manila. - with inputs from Reuters

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UAE: 5 food items that remind Indian expats of home

Food|: One evening at work, while discussing foods that remind us of home my colleague happened to tell me that she had never tried Amul cheese. Now, if you are an Indian who hasn’t tried Amul cheese, then, as expected I was shocked. Because, the brand, is so quintessentially Indian, especially the iconic Amul girl mascot. This set us off on a journey to find 5 food items in the UAE that remind Indian expats of their childhoods past. Surprisingly, these things had unique advertising jingles too, which had great recall value. For instance, “Amul cheese, yes please” or “Thumbs up, taste the thunder” are a classic. Here is the list of things that brought a smile back then, and do so even now. A noodle you can prepare in just two minutes? It’s Maggi masala Maggi Masala Noodles Image Credit: Shutterstock This instant noodle needs no introduction. A bright yellow coloured packet that has a small Maggi curry masala sachet (that’s the highlight of these instant noodles) with baked wavy noodles. Many have claimed to have eaten it raw too, right out of the packet, uncooked. “It is plain carbs (carbohydrate), but it’s Maggi after all,” said our 34-year-old Social Media Editor, Evangeline Jose. But how did Maggi get into Indian kitchens? Especially, traditional households unwary of the instant food fad (trend) back then. Here is how. Being a sought after brand, Nestle, targeted Indian-middle class women who had begun venturing into the job market and could do with help in the kitchen. Right then, the two-minute instant noodle Maggi was launched. Which by the way, was adapted for Indian palates with a zingy curry flavour. And then there was no looking back. #Maggi is also a popular hashtag on Instagram with over forty five thousand tags. This instant noodle adapted itself to every Indian kitchen and many varieties of Maggi became popular. Make it into a bowl of soupy Maggi, dry Maggi, cheese Maggi, vegetable Maggi and the list is endless. The most accommodating instant snack, ever. What’s interesting is its popularity among both the young and elderly. Because eating it required a new skill and cutlery - a whole new experience, quite oriental in every way. Maggi had made its way into the Indian pantry. It became a favourite snack of office-goers, students, hostellers, travellers and soon a popular must-have dish. Amul cheese, yes please… Grated Amul cheese Image Credit: Shutterstock Amul derived its name from the Sanskrit word ‘Amulya’, which means priceless. A bite into this salty, pliable cheese and you just might truly have a priceless culinary experience. Like many Indians, I grew up eating Amul cheese, which at a point was a luxury but slowly paved its way into weekend toasties and sandwich brunches. It was in 1995, that I had an opportunity to visit the Amul factory headquarters in Anand, Gujarat, where a life-long bond with the cheese and brand began. Nothing quite tastes like India, like Amul cheese does. Maybe it’s the buttery and salty taste that blends with breads or simply the nostalgia that it carries. The jingle does justice and I end up singing – Amul cheese, yes please in my head quite often…. India’s thunderous fizzy drink - Thums up Carbonated drink - Thums Up Image Credit: Shutterstock This carbonated fizzy drink from Parle Agro was launched in 1977 and led the Indian beverage market for a good 16 years before its international competitor Coca-Cola took it over in 1993. How did thums up become a popular Indian beverage? It is not quite hard to recall the red thums up logo. It was a fizzy, strong and punchy drink that matched Indian taste buds. Over time, the fizz mellowed (quite literally, for reasons best known to the company) but love for India’s first popular carbonated drink held on. Was it the celebrity advertising campaigns that worked? Maybe… but everybody wanted to taste the thunder then. There were popular combinations or pairings ranging from thums up with salted chips to thums up and Maggi. A sprinkling of chaat masala or black salt in the drink became popular as masala thums up, too. Well, only in India! The timeless Parle Glucose or Parle-G biscuit – 73 years and still on Parle G biscuits Image Credit: Shutterstock This biscuit needs no introduction. A biscuit for the masses that paired well with tea or chai and gradually became readily available at every tea vendor and departmental store. Even in the remotest Indian village. India, had it first branded biscuits, which was easy on the pocket, tasted great, what else? When? Every Indian, at some point has eaten this flat-baked rectangular biscuit that is wrapped in a yellow-and -white package with an illustration of a chubby little girl with short hair. This small rectangular biscuit has a decorative border and name stamped at the centre. The taste, design and packaging has been consistent for nearly 73 years now. So has the love for it, if not grown. The classic heritage drink - Rooh Afza Rose-flavoured drink Roohafza Image Credit: Shutterstock India and Pakistan’s very own rose-flavoured drink, since 1903 is Hamdard’s Roohafza. Hakim Abdul Majeed created this herbal drink from traditional system of Unani medicine, to help with heat and hydration. The drink Rooh Afza in Urdu translates to a – refreshes the soul. Rooh Afza is manufactured by Hamdard Laboratories (Waqf) Pakistan and Hamdard Laboratories, India. The 1947 India-Pakistan partition posed no threat to the brand. While its popularity grew among the youngsters every year, its memories lingered for the older generation. This rose drink has been popular with many Indian and Pakistani generations. Drink it as a fruit punch, add it to lassi (sweetened yoghurt), milk, desserts or make varieties of mocktails, it will taste blissful. For a tangy version, add a pinch of lemon while making it as a water-based drink. As a child growing up in a 90’s middle-class Indian home, making ice-cream or any ice-based dessert was a big deal. And all I could manage to get permission for was to freeze flavoured ice-cubes. I used Rooh Afza for the flavour. And trust me, ice-cubes never tasted better. Do you have a food or drink that reminds you of home? Share it with food@gulfnews.com

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Bollywood: Shilpa Shetty, Raj Kundra fined Rs300,000 for insider trading

BollyWood|: Mumbai: The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on Wednesday imposed a penalty of Rs300,000 (Dh14,835) on ‘Hungama 2’ actress Shilpa Shetty Kundra, her businessman husband Raj Kundra alias Ripu Sudan Kundra and their company Viaan Industries for violating its insider trading rules. As per the SEBI order, Kundra, Shetty and their company were fined for a three-year delay in the disclosure of an allotment of preferential shares. In 2015, Viaan Industries had made a preferential allotment of 500,000 equity shares. Of this 128,800 equity shares each were allotted to Kundra (referred to as Ripu Sudan Kundra) and Shetty, the promoters of the company. (FILES) In this file photo taken on May 8, 2018 Indian Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty and her husband Raj Kundra pose for a picture during the wedding reception of actress Sonam Kapoor and businessman Anand Ahuja in Mumbai. - Mumbai police have arrested Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty's husband Raj Kundra for allegedly producing and broadcasting pornographic films online, six years after the businessman was banned from cricket-related activities over match-fixing charges. (Photo by Sujit Jaiswal / AFP) Image Credit: AFP According to SEBI’s Prohibition of Insider Trading Rules, 2015, the promoters had to disclose this transaction to the company within two days if it exceeded Rs1 million in value. The company, in turn, has to relay this disclosure to the stock exchanges within two trading days. In this case, SEBI said the value of the transaction was Rs25.6 million each and the disclosures pertaining to the 2015 transaction were made only in 2019. In reply to a notice from the regulator, Shetty and Kundra acknowledged the mistake and said it was not done with malafide intent. “Securities and Exchange Board of India had conducted an investigation into the trading/dealings in the scrip of Viaan Industries Limited (formerly known as Hindustan Safety Glass Industries Limited), during the period September 01, 2013, to December 23, 2015. Pursuant to the investigations, it was observed that Ripu Sudan Kundra, Shilpa Shetty Kundra and Viaan Industries Ltd had allegedly violated the provisions of Regulations 7(2)(a) and 7(2)(b) of SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 2015,” SEBI order said. The market regulator further ordered the Noticees — Kundra, Shetty and their company — to remit/pay the penalty within 45 days of the receipt of the order. Kundra was arrested by the police on July 19 along with 11 other people on charges related to the alleged creation of pornographic films. He has been named as the key conspirator by the Mumbai Police, which has slapped charges against him under Sections 420 (cheating), 34 (common intention), 292, and 293 (related to obscene and indecent advertisements and displays) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) besides relevant sections of the IT Act and the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, said the police. Read more Raj Kundra arrest: Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty’s husband sent to judicial custody for 14 days Raj Kundra pornography case: New complaint by actress names company run by Shilpa Shetty’s husband and TV star Gehana Vasisth Raj Kundra arrest: A look at Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty’s husband, the pornography racket and whether this is his first brush with the law On Sunday, the police had informed that four of Kundra’s employees have turned witnesses against him in the pornography racket case, increasing troubles for him. On Monday, the Bombay High Court adjourned the hearing on Kundra’s bail plea until Thursday. The court has also asked the investigating officer to remain present during the hearing in the pornography racket case. The court has not given any interim relief to the businessman. Kundra and his associate Ryan Thorpe have been sent to judicial custody for 14 days. On Tuesday, Mumbai Crime Branch said that actor Shilpa Shetty has also not been given a clean chit in the pornography racket case yet, where her husband and businessman Raj Kundra is the prime accused. According to officials forensic auditors have been appointed to investigate the transactions in all the accounts of the people involved in the case.

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Is India’s prosperous Parsi community vanishing?

There is deep sense of loss setting in about the Parsis, a vanishing Indian community, who originally migrated from Persia to protect Zoroastrianism. Their settlement in India is one of the greatest examples of fusion of two cultures and exemplary peaceful coexistence of two starkly different religions in the history of mankind. Here was a small tribe that migrated to one corner of the Indian subcontinent and for more than 1300 years faced not one conflict or discrimination in their adopted land. However, the long journey of this happiest amalgamation of two different societies may have tragically entered its final lap. According to 2011 census only 57,264 Parsis lived in India. Their population has since dwindled further. There could be only 23,000 Parsis in the India by the next census. If this trend continues, this brilliant, rich and philanthropic community — which is conservative when it comes to their identity — may become history in the next century. The followers of Zarathustra arrived in India in the 8th century. Its believed that after a sea-storm, their ship landed in Sanjan port, Gujarat. Legend has it that when the local Hindu king, Jadi Rana, was somewhat reluctant to welcome the Persians, the Parsi priest requested for a glass of milk. The clever Zoroastrian added sugar into it and returned the glass. Rana was touched and gave conditional asylum to the community. The rest is history. Parsis adopted Gujarat as their own land, spoke Parsi Gujarati (they are called Bawas in Gujarati). They adopted the dressing culture of Hindus and had fusion food while retaining lots of central-Asian influence. Many centuries later when the British arrived in India, the Parsis adopted English etiquette, dresses, education and established enviable business links. The Tatas, Freddie Mercury & Other Bawas: An Intimate History of the Parsis by Coomi Kapoor, Westland Books, 320 pages Image Credit: Supplied The Tatas, Freddie Mercury & Other Bawas The recent best-seller in India The Tatas, Freddie Mercury & Other Bawas: An Intimate History of the Parsis by senior journalist-author Coomi Kapoor has traced her community’s history. The book raises many questions about the shrinking of the community that played a huge role in India’s nation building. The Parsis, who arrived in Mumbai from Gujarat, laid foundation of the modern city of Mumbai. Dadabhai Naoroji was one of the founders of Congress party, Homi Bhabha was the father of India’s nuclear programme, Indian army chief Sam Manekshaw was the first general to be awarded rank of field marshal, late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s husband Feroze Gandhi was a Parsi and India’s most famous industrial group of Tatas was founded by the legendary Parsi Jamsetji Tata. Madame Bhikhaiji Cama was a revolutionary and fought British rule with courage, funded Hindutva thinker Veer Savarkar, too. Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s descendants are Parsis too. Nusli Wadia, one of India’s biggest industrialists, is Jinnah’s only grandson. From the iconic singer late Freddy Mercury to the latest sensation Adar Poonawala, world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, Parsis have dominated India’s socioeconomic scene but their population is declining by 10 to 12% each decade. Coomi says, “As I became older, I became very nostalgic of the Parsi way of life. I felt very sad that its slowly going away because there are not that many people to keep up all the Persian traditions.” The author thinks that a small but very vocal section of the community is speeding the decline of the community because they are preventing the entry of the people who should logically be recognised as Parsis. “The most obvious example is not allowing the children of Parsi women, who has married outside the community, to be part of the community. Then, obviously the community is going to decline even faster than its birth rate” According to the community magazine Parsiana, about 30% of the Parsi girls marry outside the community. Coomi adds,“ Which other religion in the world says that no you can’t be one of us?” Parsis stoutly discourage conversion into their faith but this wasn’t the case earlier. Comi Kapoor Image Credit: Sheela Bhatt A unique, bright community The author sites history and says back in the 15th Century Changa Asa, Gujarati Parsi leader converted a few Hindus to increase the size of the community. He took advise ‘back home” from Iranian Zoroastrians. Nariman Hosang, resident of Bharooch city had travelled to Yazd and Kerman to meet dastoors for religious advise. The historical evidences suggests exchanges of information known as “Riyayat”, which continued for three centuries. However, after 1850 Parsis growth has been phenomenal. Prosperous Gujarati Parsis influenced a section of Iranian Zoroastrians who migrated to India and started bakeries and Irani restaurants. Some started chiku farming in South Gujarat. Late migrants and early migrants from Persia have intermingled well over the decades. Are all Parsis from Middle-Easter originally? Coomi says, “Somewhere along the line, they must have married native Indian women. There was National Geographic DNA test. My sister Roxana Swamy and my brother both did it. So if you do it from your girl’s side, then you get your maternal DNA. If you do it from the boy’s side, you get your paternal DNA. My sister’s DNA test showed that her ancestors came from somewhere in Central Asia. We joked that my mother’s side family were priests so we had not married outside the community since centuries. When my brother did the test we thought that my father’s side DNA test will come on the Asian side, but his DNA belonged to Central Asia, too. After so many centuries we had not 'mixed' much.” Coomi says DNA test of the Parsis traced our region in Central Asian countries. Dakhmas (Parsi Towers of Silence) have been excavated in Tazikstan and Uzbekistan, as well. Quoting experts, Coomi claims that the Kurds living in mountainous regions of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey have clear links with Zoroastrianism in terms of language, customs and culture. The author notes that Parsis never faced discrimination of any kind in India. They have been confident people with pride in their community. They even refused the offer of reservation of two seats in Parliament soon after the independence. Coomi isn’t all pessimistic. She thinks the religion that survived for thousands of years, even after its decline, would survive with few reforms and continue its voyage. Sheela Bhatt @sheela2010 Sheela Bhatt is a senior Indian journalist. She is based in New Delhi.

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Food Crowd launches a DIY cooking box: CookIT

UAE|: Exciting things are coming to the UAE to help you make the most of your cooking. Food Crowd has launched a DIY cooking kit (CookIT), curated with love by signature chefs, that enables customers to cook restaurant-quality meals from the comfort of their homes. CookIT will offer a new way of looking at grocery shopping by incorporating pre-measured meals for two to six people with a selection of 10 easy gourmet recipes with step-by-step instructions. Customers can order their preferred meal choices using the Foodcrowd app, website, or WhatsApp for as little as Dh49 and can choose from a variety of delectable meals from the chef's recipes such as cajun chicken pasta, Mexican-style tacos, tantilising Thai green curry, and many other equally compelling options. The ingredients, along with the recipe instructions, are then delivered free directly to their home in their brand new CookIT box that is sure to be a pleasant addition to any instagram feed. “We at Food Crowd are on a mission to help our customers reprogramme their relationship with food. One way we can do this is by offering them a wide selection of tasty dishes”, says Ronald Muzambe, Head of E-commerce, Food Crowd. Time is always of the essence and Food Crowd hopes to help families and friends spend less time in the kitchen, and more time with each other.” A factor that sets CookIT apart is that it does not require a long-term commitment. Foodies can order for a minimum of two days with same day or next day delivery as per their requests. Image Credit: Supplied Image Credit: Supplied Image Credit: Supplied Order now to get 30 per cent off your CookIT through www.foodcrowd.com, or on WhatsApp at +971 800 36632 and make sure you download the Foodcrowd app on App Store or Google Play. Food Crowd, the only crowd you want to be part of! Discover more about Food Crowd on Youtube and Instagram.

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COVID-19: Saudi Arabia bans unvaccinated citizens from travelling abroad

Saudi|: Dubai: Saudi Arabia on Wednesday announced that only fully vaccinated citizens will be allowed to travel abroad as of August 9. The decision was announced in a circular issued by the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) to all airlines operating in the Kingdom’s airports, including government and private airlines. Read more COVID-19: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar tightening travel curbs In its latest update on travel procedures for citizens travelling outside the Kingdom on international flights, GACA said that only citizens who took two doses of any of the coronavirus vaccines approved in the Kingdom will be allowed to travel abroad. The decision exempts children under the age of 12 years, providing they hold health insurance approved by the Saudi Central Bank to cover treatment for coronavirus infection outside the Kingdom. Also exempt are those who have recovered from coronavirus infection in the last six months, and those who have been infected with the virus and received one dose of the approved vaccines in the Kingdom. Saudis travelling abroad must hold health insurance during their stay outside the country which covers treatment for coronavirus infection. On Tuesday, the Kingdom announced a three-year travel ban on citizens who travel to red list countries. The Ministry of Interior warned that those who flout rules issued by official authorities will be held accountable and slapped with heavy fines.

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Today's Word Search: Want to help? Don't be a voluntourist

Play|: While on holiday, would you sign up to help out at an orphanage or build a well? Volunteering on vacation was a big trend a few years ago, but only recently have researchers learned about the impact it has had on developing communities. You might be surprised – it’s not as warm and fuzzy as it appears. Click start to play today’s Word Search, where you can see that words like “helpfulness” and “prudence” work together. The word “voluntourism” was first used in 1991. In the decades since, the practice of volunteering in a community where one is vacationing has become routine for those who are interested. With the click of a button, as a voluntourist, you can buy a working experience at an orphanage in India or join conservation efforts for Africa’s big cats in Botswana. But is this kind of occasional helping truly helpful? Although voluntourism may be driven by good intentions, it creates economic challenges. According to a 2018 report by UK-based news website The Guardian, organisations often give volunteers the chance to build homes and schools, dig wells, and participate in other construction projects in poor villages. But the last thing the local community needs is imported unskilled labour, especially when jobs are hard to come by. Moreover, for those looking to volunteer in orphanages in developing countries, there are even bigger issues. For one, according to ReThink Orphanages, a UK-based coalition that works to prevent unnecessary institutionalisation of children, decades of research has found that orphanages are an inappropriate response to poverty, and that children have the best shot at flourishing when they are in a family environment. Moreover, 80 per cent of children living in orphanages have one or more living parents, according to Friends International, an international nonprofit organisation focusing on children’s empowerment. When voluntourists step in, the situation gets even more complicated. According to the United Nations (UN) website, in Cambodia, the number of orphanages is growing due to increased demand – not from orphans, but from Australian tourists willing to pay to work in them. Perversely, orphanage voluntourism and international funding seems to be creating a demand for children to reside in orphanages. Those who set out to do good inadvertently create an environment that traps children from poor homes, who then likely fall prey to abuse and exploitation at corrupt orphanages. ReThink Orphanages reports that parents are often offered money to give up their children, or are coerced, enabling corrupt orphanages to profit through monetary donations or child trafficking. The experiment of voluntourism, it appears, hasn’t succeeded. But there are many other ways the privileged can help. The World Bank’s blog suggests a few options, such as providing clean water to rural villages and medical treatments for the poor, sponsoring children’s education, and donating to projects that promote literacy and access to technology. What do you think is the best way to help others? Play today’s Word Search and let us know at games@gulfnews.com.

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Golden Visa for doctors: Here’s how you can apply for a professional licence

Dubai: If you are a doctor living in the UAE, there is good news. The UAE government made an announcement on July 28, stating that all doctors licensed to work in the UAE will be allowed to apply for a Golden Visa. What are the details of the announcement and what do you need to do to fulfil the eligibility criteria? Here is all you need to know. Who is eligible to get a Golden Visa? All doctors licensed by a UAE health regulatory body can apply for the 10-year Golden Visa between July 2021 to September 2022. Apart from doctors, investors, entrepreneurs, doctorate degree holders, engineers in the fields of computer engineering, electronics, coding, electricity and biotechnology, as well as outstanding students can also apply for five- or 10-year visas. Also read UAE allows all doctors residing in the country to apply for golden visa How can licensed doctors apply for a Golden Visa? According to the announcement, if you are already a licensed doctor, you can start your application procedure through the website of the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA), here - smartservices.ica.gov.ae. However, for doctors licensed to work in Dubai, they would need to apply through the website of the General Directorate for Residency and Foreigners Affairs – Dubai (GDRFA-D) here: smart.gdrfad.gov.ae. The concerned government departments will receive and review the applications to issue the golden visa for those who qualify. What happens if I am not yet licensed to work in the UAE? If you are a qualified medical doctor, who does not hold a licence from a UAE health authority, you can apply for a medical licence as long as you fulfil the criteria stipulated in the Unified Healthcare Professional Qualification Requirements (PQR), which is a standardised licensing document developed by UAE health authorities. The document sets out the necessary requirements for licensure of healthcare professionals opting to practise in the UAE in accordance with the federal laws and international best practices and standards. If you wish to apply for a medical professional licence in the UAE, these are the steps you would need to follow. Abu Dhabi To be able to work in Abu Dhabi, you would need a licence issued by the Department of Health (DOH). Step 1: Set up DOH account To begin the process, you would first need to set up an account with the official Abu Dhabi government services website here: https://www.tamm.abudhabi/en/aspects-of-life/healthsafety/healthcareprofessionals/LicensingandCertificates/requestregistrationofnewlicenceforahealthcareprofessional You need to enter your basic information and create the account. Step 2: Complete document verification through Dataflow After completion of the profile, you will be asked to proceed with the document verification process through a Dataflow service, which ensures your medical qualifications and experience are verified. Step 3: Apply for the DOH exam You would then need to book an exam appointment, through the same DOH account. Once you have paid the fees your exam date will be finalised. After taking the exam, you will be notified of the results through your account online. Step 4: Complete the final procedures You will be required to complete the uploading of your documents and also fill certain forms to ensure the authorities can complete a background check. Once you have completed the steps listed above you will receive the licence online. Documents required These are the documents that you would need to upload on your account during the licence application process: • Passport copy (Both Side) • Passport size photograph (White Background) • Emirates ID • Attested Certificate / Academic Qualification / Record by issuing entity • Experience certificates • Staff data form • E-tarasol barcode • Good conduct certificate • Health licence copy from your home country or the country you have worked in previously • Official log book for the past two years - for surgeons only Fees Application Fees Dh100 Physician Licence Issuance Dh2,600 The licence is valid for two years. Dubai In order to work in Dubai, you would need a licence issued by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). These are the steps you would need to follow Step 1: Check if you are eligible DHA offers a self-assessment tool that physicians can use to find out if they fulfil the requirements laid out by the Unified healthcare PQR. You can complete the self-assessment online, here: https://services.dha.gov.ae/sheryan/wps/portal/home/services-professional/verify-pqr?locale=en If you meet the requirements, a primary source verification will be done by Dataflow. Step 2: Get registered online You would then need to register for the licence by setting up an account online through the DHA website. You may be required to schedule an oral assessment. Step 3: Book an exam While the primary source verification is being completed, which can take a few days, you can also book a date for the DHA exam. When you begin the process, you will be asked which country you are currently in. As DHA has examination centres in the UAE as well as in other countries in the world, you will be given the option of booking an exam at a centre nearest to you. The results for the exam come in within a few days. Step 4: Receive your licence online In case of approval and passing oral assessment (if required), the registration will be issued and the professional will automatically become part of the Dubai Medical Registry. Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm al Quwain, Fujairah To register as a physician in any other emirate in the UAE, you would need to register with the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP). Conditions and requirements These are the conditions that need to be fulfilled by applicants according to the Ministry’s website: • At least two years of experience is required. • There should be no more than a two-year gap in the work record. • Assessment certificates are valid for five years only, provided that there is no more than a two-year gap in work. • The facility must have a registered nurse for every two doctors it employs. • A certificate of functional fitness from the Department of Preventive Medicine is required if the applicant is 60 or older. • DataFlow report should be ‘positive’ or ‘not verified’. Required documents • Application letter from the institution • Assessment certificate • Experience certificate • Certificate of good conduct • Proposal to add a doctor • Job offer • Copy of passport • Physical and mental status report Step 1: Register online You would first need to create an account on mohap.gov.ae by creating a username and password. Step 2: Your company needs to add you on their online system The licensed medical service provider that is hiring you needs to then access the website service to license professionals through their account and provide the required information and documents. Step 3: Check application Once the transaction has been referred to MOHAP after the previous step is completed, you would need to check the application from your end. If the application meets requirements, it will be approved and the transaction will be sent to the facility for online fee payment. Step 4: Make the payment The organisation hiring you is required to then make the necessary payment of fees, after which a Ministry official will conduct a final review. If the conditions are met, the licence will be issued. Service Fees Application fee: Dh100 Doctor's license: Dh3,000

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Steroids, antivirals, antibodies and other treatments for COVID-19: What you need to know

[Note: This article is for information purposes only, and not meant as a medical prescription. If you have any symptoms, consult your doctor] Dubai: Doctors take two major routes to deal with COVID-19. The first is to curb the virus; the second is to modulate our body’s response to it. At the initial onset of the disease, SARS-CoV-2 infection does trigger direct symptoms — coughing, a loss of smell. Then, as the disease progresses, it triggers reaction from body’s immune system. Sometimes, the immune response goes on an overdrive. This causes problems like inflammation and, later, organ damage, or even failure. Getting a grip on this deadly disease has been a tricky job. In an ideal world, researchers conduct double-blind, randomised controlled trials — the so-called “gold standard” of drug efficacy and safety testing. Most of the approved COVID-19 vaccines used this standard. Drug repurposing The medical fraternity sometimes prescribe drugs for COVID-19 approved earlier for other uses, with established safety profile. This drug "repurposing" amounts to teaching news trick to old medications. One advantage is that it helps cut the years of study needed to ensure these drugs are safe. Given the pandemic’s overwhelming effect, recruiting an adequate number of people for such studies and getting results in time pose a big challenge. So much of the evidence for repurposed drugs to treat COVID-19 comes from less-than-ideal “observational studies”. Based on trial results, such therapies are given emergency-use authorisation. The antiviral drug remdesivir and the steroid dexamethasone are examples of drugs repurposed to treat COVID-19. Their efficacy hinges on one important condition: Getting patients PCR-tested for the virus at the earliest and getting results as soon as possible hold the key, especially for high-risk groups who need to be treated right away. especially if they begin to notice breathing issues. We now know that vaccines do work — and are safe — against COVID-19. The vaccine research pipeline is long, which is good news. Scientists are still investigating better treatment options, and more therapies, from repurposed existing drugs to novel drugs. Other than vaccines, the following are approved treatments against COVID: Image Credit: Seyyed dela Llata / Gulf News 1. Convalescent plasma therapy (CPT) Plasma is the liquid part of blood, including the proteins used for clotting. They’re harvested from patients who survived COVID-19. The immune system generates proteins called “antibodies” during an infection. They latch onto a part of the virus or to an infected cell. That attachment (or binding) can then block the virus from further invading hosts, preventing them from further replicating. They can also flag the virus or infected cells for destruction by “killer” T cells. Convalescent plasma therapy (CPT) uses these proteins from recovered patients. Doctors transfer the plasma (through transfusion) with the desired antibodies to a patient with an active infection. Convalescent plasma (also known as immunoglobulins) is the yellowish liquid part of the blood taken from someone who has recovered from an illness, like COVID-19. The Lancet has cited several studies that showed a shorter hospital stay and lower mortality in patients treated with convalescent plasma than those who were not treated with it. Image Credit: Reuters / The Lancet https://bit.ly/2YKDQHT Does this technique work? At least three studies show it does, i.e. that blood from recovered patients has proven to be one of the weapons of choice in treating severe COVID-19 cases. Its efficacy depends on the patient’s age. A Dubai study shows a critical factor is giving it early enough. Meanwnile, a three-month research (between April 4-July 4, 2020) conducted by Mayo Clinic on hospitalised patients revealed that plasma transfusions in a cohort of 35,322 patients led to lower risk of death. It has worked particularly on moderate-to-severe COVID cases. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency-use authorisation (EUA) for CPT on August 23, 2020, to treat moderate-to-severe cases of coronavirus. The evidence of how well it works against SARS-CoV-2 is mixed. While the FDA gave EUA to CPT, the National Institutes of Health reported at the time that the evidence for its effectiveness was “weak”. Other studies show it helps slow the disease when administered early, particularly in older adults. FDA revised its guidelines allowing CPT to be used to treat hospitalised COVID-19 patients. There’s one challenge: availability of convalescent plasma. It is limited by the number of patients who donate. Administration: It’s infused intravenously. It must be administered by a professional. Side effects: There are also side effects, such as allergic reactions and circulation problems associated with transfusion. 2. Monoclonal antibodies The use of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) takes the idea behind convalescent plasma a notch higher. Some antibodies are more effective than others at ringfencing a given pathogen. Cloning the best antibodies, therefore, makes CPT even more efficient. mAbs are emerging as an important weapon against SARS-CoV-2. Sotrovimab, developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Vir Biotechnology, works against known variants. Bamlanivimab, developed by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and the two-in-one cocktail of mAbs — casirivimab and imdevimab — created by Regeneron, were authorised by the FDA. President Trump famously received a course of the Regeneron therapy when he fell ill with COVID-19 last year. File photo: A COVID-19 ward at a hospital in the UAE. According to its developer, GSK, Sotrovimab can be used to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults, and in children aged at least 12 years or weighing at least 40kg. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News The UAE health authorities approved Sotrovimab on June 30, 2021. In general, monoclonal antibodies are most effective in the early stages of the illness, rather than in patients who are already hospitalised. The treatment reduced the likelihood of a high-risk patients needing hospitalisation. Administration: Like convalescent plasma, it requires transfusion for patients — aged 12 years or more — with severe case COVID-19. Side effects: They are similar to those of convalescent plasma, with allergic reactions being the main concern. Image Credit: Gulf News / Seyyed dela Llata 3. Antivirals Antiviral drugs are aimed to disrupt the reproductive cycle of a virus. Viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 hijack our cells to reproduce. In October 2020, the US FDA approved Remdesivir for hospital use against COVID-19. It is the only antiviral drug approved by FDA for treating COVID-19.   How does it work? Remdesivir is given by injection into a vein – with or without corticosteroids such as Dexamethasone. It can be administered to adults and children over the age of 12 who weigh more than 40 kilos. The drug was first developed to treat Ebola, a viral haemorrhagic fever. Other medicines considered for treatment of COVID-19 included Ivermectin and Nitazoxanide but they failed to get approval following insufficient data. An ampule of remdesivir. Image Credit: REUTERS It imitates one of the molecules the virus uses to encode the instructions for making copies of itself. The impostor molecule stalls the viral replication process — but it doesn’t fool human cells, giving it a targeted effect. There are concerns about how well it works with COVID-19. On November 20, 2020, the WHO advised against remdesivir to treat COVID-19. Other medicines considered for treatment of COVID-19 included Ivermectin and Nitazoxanide but they failed to get approval following insufficient data. Administration: Intravenous transfusion, so it must be administered professionally, under medical supervision. Side effects: Remdesivir is seen to trigger elevated liver enzymes, which could indicate liver damage, as well as allergic reactions leading to fever, shortness of breath, wheezing, swelling, low blood oxygen, and changes in blood pressure. 4. Corticosteroids COVID-19 can, in some cases, nudge our immune system to go berserk. Immune cells can start attacking healthy cells. The strain of being on constant high alert can trigger dangerous immunological conditions like "cytokine storms", even if the virus has been cleared from the body. Enter steroids, in use for more than half a century. They help reduce inflammation and treat a range of conditions, including arthritis, asthma, immune system disorders, allergic reactions, cancer and some skin conditions. Steroids that modulate the immune system help patients in more advanced stages of COVID. This seems to be the case with dexamethasone, a generic corticosteroid. It’s one of the few drugs that has been shown to actually reduce the mortality rate of COVID-19, and it costs as little as $1 per dose. Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid used in a wide range of conditions for its anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects. It is similar to a natural hormone produced by the adrenal glands and used as a replacement when the body doesn't produce enough of it. Dexamethasone is quite versatile: it's used to treat/prevent organ dysfunction and lung injury, as well as to treat arthritis and some disorders affecting the skin, blood, kidney, eye, thyroid, and intestine. When Dexamethasone was tested in patients on ventilators, the treatment was found to reduce mortality by about one-third, and for patients requiring only oxygen, mortality was cut by about one-fifth. Dexa has now become one of the most common drugs used to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients who are ill enough to need oxygen support. Administration: Oral (usually available as a tablet) Side effects: Because it can slow the immune system, it could actually backfire in early stages of COVID-19 when the virus itself is the main concern. Dexamethasone can also leave patients vulnerable to other infections and may cause dizziness, an irregular heartbeat, and psychiatric problems like anxiety. Packages of dexamethasone are displayed in a pharmacy in Omaha, Nebraska, US, on June 16, 2020. Image Credit: AP A UAE doctor's take on monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapy: Dr Vikas Bhagat, Head of Department, Critical Care Medicine , Aster Hospital What are monoclonal antibodies? A monoclonal antibody is a molecule developed in a laboratory that is designed to mimic or enhance the body’s natural immune system response against an invader. They have an advantage over other types of treatment for infection because they are created to specifically target an essential part of the infectious process. A monoclo- nal antibody is created by exposing a white blood cell to a particular viral protein, which is then cloned to mass produce antibodies to tar- get that virus. Do they really work against COVID-19? Monoclonal antibodies are effective, as evidenced from studies conducted against COVID-19, as post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent severe diseases or complications. However, some mutations may cause changes in the spike protein that could interfere with the effectiveness of currently available monoclonal antibodies. Although researchers are still learning which patients with COVID-19 are most likely to benefit from monoclonal antibody therapy, early data suggest greater benefit in high risk patients. Monoclonal antibodies are intended for patients recently diagnosed as having COVID-19 who are not sick enough to be in the hospital but who have some risk factors for severe infection. Giving the infusion as early as possible in the course of infection is important Image Credit: Supplied / Jay Hilotin Which monoclonal antibody drugs against COVID-19 are used today? Three monoclonal antibody therapies targeting SARS-CoV-2 (bamlanivimab-etesevimab [B-E], casirivimab-imdevimab [C-I], and sotrovimab are available and approved for the treatment of outpatients with early, mild to moderate COVID-19 and risk factors for severe disease. In preliminary reports of randomised trials, they reduced the combined rates of hospitalisation and death compared with placebo. Indication: Mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of clinical progression. Those who are not on oxygen therapy. Treatment to be ASAP must be within 10 days of onset. High risk of progression: Body mass index (BMI) ≥35, Chronic kidney disease, Diabetes mellitus, Immunocompromising condition, Currently receiving immunosuppressive treatment, Aged ≥65 years, Aged ≥55 years and have:Cardiovascular disease, or Hypertension, or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or another chronic respiratory. What is the typical dosage for complete treatment? • Casirivimab-imdevimab (600-600 mg, /1200-1200 mg, administered as a single IV dose [preferred], although may be given subcutaneously if IV not feasible or would delay treatment). • Sotrovimab (500 mg, administered as a single IV dose). • Bamlanivimab-etesevimab (700-1400 mg, administered as a single intravenous [IV] dose; distribution paused in the United States in June 2021 due to variants of concern with likely resistance to this agent). What’s been your experience with it: Are they combined with other therapies (i.e. dexamethasone)? Though here in our practice we have not used any of this, literature states that monoclonal antibodies also can be used in combination with corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone, to dampen the immune response in very ill hospitalised patients. Some COVID patients get sicker because of an overreaction of the body’s immune response (a cytokine storm) to the viral infection. When this happens, the body overproduces interleukin-6 (IL-6) — a protein involved in inflammation — in lung cells. The FDA has granted EUA for tocilizumab (Actemra), a monoclonal antibody that blocks the action of IL-6, and thereby dampens the exaggerated immune system response. Do you see more extensive mAb use going forward in the fight against COVID, as treatment? Although vaccines have been approved for mass vaccination, questions about their long-term effectiveness and any vaccine-related side effects are still to be answered. As a result, monoclonal antibodies will remain a viable alternative to the COVID-19 vaccine for the foreseeable future. Can you use mAbs against COVID-19 alongside vaccines. What’s the difference?u mAbs would provide viable therapeutic options for immune compromised and vaccine refractory individuals ( who cannot develop or maintain an adequate immune response after vaccination, such as older adults) In people who had not produced their own antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, monoclonal antibody treatment reduced the chances of dying by 20%. Monoclonal antibodies did not benefit people whose immune systems had already created antibodies in response to the virus. Monoclonal antibodies may be able to provide immediate protection or treatment for those who are exposed and not yet vaccinated. After vaccination our bodies respond to the vaccine by making antibodies against the virus. While, in case of mAb antibody, we skip that step and antibodies are directly injected in our bodies. Another key difference: antibodies produced naturally by your body in response to a vaccine can last for a long time, but these laboratory-made monoclonal antibodies usually only last for a few months.

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How much an Indian couple spent during a high-risk pregnancy in the UAE

Dubai: The financial costs associated with a pregnancy can sometimes be riddled with challenges. There are several expenses to be accounted for, starting with purchasing a pregnancy test kit to delivery packages and the cost of pre- and post-delivery care. In case of normal pregnancy, the expenses are straightforward but vary based on the choice of public versus private hospital. It is also vital to understand what costs will be covered by the medical insurance. ALSO READ Everything you need to know about UAE maternity insurance Help: I bought maternity insurance cover, but now my claims are being rejected Picture used for illustrative purposes Image Credit: Shutterstock A look at the total cost for a Dubai-based Indian couple Three years ago, at the age of 40 when UAE-based Indian national Basavdatta Halder went through a high-risk pregnancy and gave birth to her first child in a top rung private hospital in Dubai she incurred a total bill of approximately Dh100,000. Of this, Halder had to pay over Dh75,000 from her own pocket. The obvious question is how did she manage to shell out such a huge amount? “My husband and I diligently saved roughly Dh9,000 per month since the beginning of 2017. By the time of delivery in June 2018, we were fortunate to have saved a substantial amount that helped us to cover the medical expenses,” Halder shared. After thorough research Halder decided to consult an obstetrician-gynaecologist in a leading private hospital in the UAE, given her pre-existing health conditions. The decision required financial preparation since the hospital was outside the network offered by her company-sponsored medical insurance. While different co-payment terms applied for consultations, scans, tests and medicines, overall, the insurance covered only 40 to 60 per cent of the bills. In the absence of direct billing facility, Halder had to make full payments and applied for reimbursements later, subject to terms and conditions. “Although I did not purchase one, there is an option to buy additional maternity insurance cover. The premium tends to be high starting at Dh18,000 and can go up to over Dh25,000. That’s because in case of an active pregnancy, the insurance company will account for the cost of delivery and complications, if any,” Halder explained. Basavdatta Halder incurred a total bill of roughly Dh100,000 on a high risk pregnancy and childbirth. Image Credit: Supplied Consultations, scans and medicines: many costs to consider The cost of consultations and scans also tend to widely vary based on the choice of hospital. While the consultation fee at a UAE-based public hospital is approximately Dh265, it can go up to even Dh700 at a private hospital. Halder had to pay a total of Dh1,000 for consultation and ultrasound scan every time she met the doctor. Since it was a high-risk pregnancy, she had to meet the doctor at least twice a month during the first trimester (first three months of pregnancy), incurring a total cost of minimum Dh2,000. Add to this, the milestone ultrasound scans at twentieth and thirty second weeks that cost Halder a total of Dh2,000. “In addition, there are certain tests done to check genetic abnormalities that are not covered by the insurance. I had to pay Dh5,000 for the Harmony test, which is a non-invasive prenatal test to screen for abnormalities such as Down syndrome and two other fetal chromosomal abnormalities,” Halder shared. Further, there are certain prescribed medicines that women must take during the entire pregnancy such as Pregnacare that are also not covered by the insurance. Halder had to spend a total of Dh900 on this medicine. She also had to also take a blood thinner and progesterone medication. “The pharmacy bills would often range from as low as Dh35 to even Dh450, which were covered by my insurance but with co-payment and penalty.” Picture used for illustrative purposes Image Credit: Shutterstock What does it mean by co-payment and penalty or out-of-network fee? Under a health insurance policy, co-payment refers to the percentage of the claim amount that an insured person must pay while the remaining amount is paid by the insurer. Penalty or an out-of-network fee applies on the insured person if s/he decides to get medical care from hospitals falling outside of the network of the insurance policy. Cost of delivery and more Due to hyperthyroidism Halder had to do thyroid tests at least eight to nine times during the entire pregnancy spending Dh975 each time. Towards the end of her pregnancy, she also suffered from hypertension-related complications necessitating a two-day hospitalisation that cost her Dh7,950 along with laboratory tests. Moreover, Halder voluntarily underwent an optional genetic test that cost Dh7,000. Finally, she incurred a total bill of Dh37,000 for a Cesarean delivery (C-section) delivery. “Back in 2018, the hospital where I delivered used to charge slightly over Dh25,000 for a C-section delivery with a four-day stay. But due to several complications at the time of delivery I had to stay in the hospital for almost nine days, adding on to the initial package amount,” Halder explained. “We also opted for cord blood banking (process of collecting potentially life-saving stem cells from the umbilical cord and storing them for future use) that cost Dh14,000,” she added. Basavdatta Halder with her then five months old daughter Image Credit: Supplied photo Always plan for unforeseen The last three months leading to the delivery were physically and financially challenging for Halder. “Suddenly there was a change in our financial situation as ours became a single income household. We were fortunate enough to manage all the medical expenses from our savings. But for many that may not even be an option. So, I strongly suggest expecting parents to put aside at least Dh15,000-20,000 for pregnancy related expenses,” Halder said. “It is also important to read the fine print of the medical insurance to get the maximum benefits. I had to pay a premium since I opted for a private hospital outside the insurance network. Between March and June 2018 alone, I had pay Dh52,000 in total. Falling under the high-risk category, my case could be looked upon as uncommon. While this may not be the case for most pregnant women, it is important to do some research to opt for the best hospital within the insurance network and therein have access to direct billing. “For those who are compelled to step outside the network of hospitals covered by the insurance provider, my advice would be to meticulously plan and submit all the required paperwork in time to get the bills reimbursed. Post-delivery, I could not get the huge amount of paperwork sorted within the set deadline to get a portion of the hospital bills reimbursed by my insurance provider and lost out on a substantial amount,” Halder concluded. Costs at a glance: expenses related to a high-risk pregnancy in a private hospital

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COVID-19: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar tightening travel curbs

Saudi|: Dubai: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar have tightened travel curbs to contain the spread of COVID-19 variants. Kuwait has become the latest GCC country to tighten travel restrictions, banning unvaccinated citizens from travelling abroad as of August 1. The decision comes just a few hours after Saudi Arabia announced a three-year travel ban on citizens who travel to countries on the red list. Saudi red list countries The Saudi move follows reports about citizens travelling to the banned countries in violation of COVID-19 related travel restrictions and instructions issued by official authorities. The kingdom’s red-list countries include the UAE, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Belarus, India and Vietnam. Kuwait, however, exempted from the travel ban slapped on unvaccinated citizens children under 16 years and those with a health ministry certificate, saying they cannot be vaccinated, as well as pregnant women, who get a pregnancy proof certificate from authorities. Oman to unveil new rules on Thursday Meanwhile, Oman is expected to announce new travel restrictions tomorrow (Thursday) when the Supreme Committee tackling COVID-19 meets to decide on the future course of action for preventing the spread of the pandemic in the Sultanate. Oman has already barred travellers from 23 countries from entering the Sultanate until further notice. The red-list countries include Sudan, Brazil, Nigeria, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, Libya, Argentina, Colombia, and Brunei. Passengers who passed through the red list countries in the past 14 days are banned from entering the Sultanate. Bahrain curbs remain Bahrain updated its travel curbs on July 13 by adding more countries on its red list, banning the entry of travellers from these countries from entering the Kingdom. The decision was taken by the Civil Aviation Authority and the National Taskforce for combating coronavirus. The red list countries include Dominican, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Panama, the Philippines’, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Passengers who passed through the banned countries need to have a 14-day quarantine in non-prohibited countries, except for Bahrain’s citizens and residents. Qatar rules in place In Qatar, travellers, who have been  inoculated approved by health authorities, will not be quarantined as part of the country’s updated travel policy. However, the vaccinated passengers still need to take a PCR test before arriving in Qatar. The new policy classifies countries into three categories — green, yellow and red. A quarantine policy for each category will be applied to unvaccinated travellers arriving in Qatar. All passengers coming to Qatar will also have to pre-register on the “Ehteraz” website and attach all the required documents no less than 12 hours before arrival.