JAKARTA: Indonesia on Wednesday officially lifted quarantine requirements for overseas travelers and allowed the resumption of traditional practices for the upcoming holy month of Ramadan after two years of tight pandemic restrictions.
The easing of restrictions follows a decline in Covid-19 cases in the Southeast Asian archipelago, which battled an omicron-fueled surge earlier this year.
“The Covid-19 situation in our country continues to improve. Therefore, the government decided to take some easing measures,” President Joko Widodo said in a public statement on Wednesday.
Overseas travelers will be exempted from quarantine if they return a negative PCR test.
“However, if the travelers are tested positive, our Covid-19 taskforce will handle them,” Widodo said.
The measures come two weeks after a test reopening limited to the holiday island of Bali.
The government also expanded its visa-on-arrival policy for travelers from 42 countries, an increase from 23.
With the fasting month around the corner, Widodo also announced said traditional Ramadan evening prayers (tarawih) will resume at mosques in the world’s largest Muslim majority country.
Mass prayers have been restricted since the pandemic hit the country in 2020, although some communities have defied the ban.
A yearly exodus of Indonesians to their hometowns for Eid Al-Fitr celebrations at the end of the month of Ramadan, another cherished tradition, will also be allowed to resume, the president said.
Celebrations had been prohibited for two years to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We also allow those wanting to go back to their hometowns for Eid Al-Fitr provided that they have received full doses of vaccines and a booster shot,” he said.
LONDON: As global blood supply runs out, a British grassroots social justice charity has attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the most donations in one calendar day to raise awareness of this life-saving measure.
The aim is to especially seek more support from Black, Asian and minority communities where rare blood groups are common.
The volunteer-led global initiative, which was organized on Saturday by the organization Who is Hussein, was held in over 350 cities in 28 countries crossing six continents, from Auckland to San Francisco, organizers said.
“We call it Global Blood Heroes Day and it’s been an incredible response from the global community … in New Zealand to Australia, waking us up telling us they’re donating, to India, Pakistan, and America is now coming in,” Dr. Mohammed Abbas Khaki, trustee at the charity, told Arab News on the sidelines of one of their drive locations in London.
We’re proud of all our generous donors! Your blood donation is a lifeline for thousands of patients around the world #GlobalBloodHeroes https://t.co/iPzik9J8Q7
“The previous record was around 30 to 33,000 and we’re hoping to go to 50,000 and save 150,000 lives, but I think the most important thing is putting blood donation back on the map,” he said.
Khaki said when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, donations fell due to lockdowns and sicknesses and there is currently a global blood crisis.
“In June, the Red Cross in the US declared a global blood shortage, in the UK there’s only six days of stock of blood left if we were to stop today, so it’s a huge need (and) a free way to help other people and to save lives,” he added.
Khaki said many people are reluctant to donate because they believe their blood may not be used, or that it is a difficult process to undertake. He said the organization aims to change these misperceptions.
“Yasser Haragli was at death’s door three times when he went into cardiac arrest after a major car accident in 1999.”
Read how Yasser – with his son – ended up becoming multiple life-savers through #BloodDonation and #GlobalBloodHeroes @SBS @bkwanlive https://t.co/GitSogx7z5 pic.twitter.com/uwLKpHImrO
Hospitals in the UK need to recruit 400 new blood donors every day to save the lives of those involved in accidents, childbirth, and who have hemophilia, the charity said in a statement.
Who is Hussain was working in partnership with the Imam Hussain Blood Donation Campaign — one of the country’s oldest Muslim blood donation organizations. There is also collaboration with the National Health Service’s Blood and Transplant Service, Red Cross and other centers across the world. In the UK, the organization campaigned in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Luton.
Who is Hussein, inspired by the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, was set up in 2012 by several young Londoners. Within a few years the charity went international with 66 teams helping those most in need with shelter, food and blood.
“Once we do this and hopefully we break the record, one thing we’ll definitely be doing is keeping blood donation on our books and trying to keep that message going. But secondly, we’ll be looking at where the next need is, where can we go and address that and build long-term structures to try and support communities,” he added.
A post shared by Who is Hussain (@whoishussain_)
Dr. Sana Zehra, a registrar at the accident and emergency center at St. George’s Hospital in Tooting, said the attempt was important to raise awareness of the constant need for blood, that can be used for scientific research and to treat patients with various medical conditions including cancer.
She urged people from Black, Asian and minority communities to donate because of the presence of rare blood groups commonly found among them.
“Blood … is required by anyone and everybody, so if more and more people come up, it would be more of a mix and match and variety of blood products available, and that way we can serve our community and the place we live in more,” Zehra said.
One person, who asked not to be named, said he decided to donate after seeing the statistics and realized that one donation saves three lives; and that Islam teaches that “one life can save humanity.”
Yesterday heroes all around the world came forward in 28+ countries, 250+ locations as part of our #globalbloodheroes campaign to donate blood and break a world record! A special thanks to our 900+ volunteers for making it happen!! pic.twitter.com/azKIrha9Vr
BELLINZONA,Switzerland: A Swiss woman faces trial Monday accused of having tried to slit the throats of two women in a department store in the name of the Daesh jihadist group.
The 29-year-old is accused of having committed a “terrorist act” in the attack in the plush Manor store in Lugano in southern Switzerland’s Ticino region on November 24, 2020.
One of the two victims suffered a serious neck injury. The second sustained wounds on one hand and managed, with others, to control the assailant until the police arrived.
The trial takes place at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona in Ticino.
According to the indictment issued by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG), the accused, who cannot be named for legal reasons, “acted wilfully and with particular ruthlessness.”
“She brutally attacked her randomly-selected victims with a knife, with the aim of killing them and thereby spreading terror throughout the population on behalf of Daesh, triggering widespread reports in the media and thus propagating Daesh ideology,” according to the OAG.
The woman was known to the police.
After “falling in love” over social media in 2017 with a jihadist fighter in Syria, she had attempted to travel to the war-torn country to meet him, but was stopped by Turkish authorities at the Syrian border and sent back to Switzerland, it is alleged.
Police said at the time that she was then admitted to a psychiatric clinic.
The suspect is primarily charged with attempted murder and violation of laws against association with Al-Qaeda, Daesh and related Islamist groups.
She is also charged with unlawful prostitution between 2017 and 2020.
The OAG stressed that the presumption of innocence applies until a legally binding judgment has been issued.
The verdict is due on September 19.
The defense is expected to rely on the woman’s mental state to refute the alleged terrorist motive.
The alleged assailant had converted to Islam, according to the 24 Heures newspaper.
Switzerland has never experienced a large-scale jihadist attack, but two knife attacks took place in 2020.
A few weeks before the Lugano incident, a young Turkish-Swiss national, who had sought to travel to Syria in 2019, fatally stabbed a passer-by in a street in Morges in western Switzerland.
According to the Federal Intelligence Service, the terror threat level is still considered high in Switzerland.
“We find that the individuals who take action are radicalized people who grew up in Switzerland without ever having been to a conflict zone,” the federal police told AFP.
“They are becoming radicalized on the Internet, mostly in chats and closed forums, but also in groups and associations. This is what is called ‘homegrown’ terrorism,” it said.
According to the police, stabbings are not a new modus operandi, but their incidence has increased in recent times.
“The attacks of November 2020 in Lugano and September 2020 in Morges are proof of this, as are those abroad: for example, the attack on Salman Rushdie. This is what we call ‘low cost’ terrorism, implying little preparation and few resources.”
According to Christina Schori Liang, an expert on terrorism at the Geneva Center for Security Policy international foundation, this methodology “does not necessarily require large attacks, just enough to instill fear and terrorize the public.”
VIENNA: International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi said Monday he was on his way to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which has been the target of strikes in recent weeks.
“The day has come, IAEA’s Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya is now on its way,” Grossi tweeted, saying the team from the UN atomic watchdog would arrive at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant “later this week.”
In a photograph accompanying his tweet, the IAEA chief posed with a team of 13 people wearing caps and sleeveless jackets bearing the nuclear watchdog’s logo.
Grossi has for months been asking to be able to visit the site, warning of “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster.”
The Zaporizhzhia plant, which has six of Ukraine’s reactors, has been occupied by Russian troops since shortly after Moscow launched its invasion on February 24, and has remained on the frontlines ever since.
Moscow and Kyiv have traded blame for shelling around the complex, near the city of Energodar.
Its Ukraine operator Energoatom warned on Saturday of the risk of radioactive leaks and fire after new strikes.
The United Nations has called for an end to all military activity in the area surrounding the complex.
Ukraine initially feared an IAEA visit would legitimize the Russian occupation of the site before finally supporting the idea of a mission.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday urged the watchdog to send a team as soon as possible.
Between Thursday and Friday, the plant was cut off from Ukraine’s national power grid for the first time in its four-decade history due to “actions of the invaders,” Energoatom said.
It came back online Friday afternoon.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed that a team of independent inspectors could travel to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant via Ukraine, the French presidency said on August 20 after a call with Emmanuel Macron.
MERRITT ISLAND, United States: Seeing a rocket blast off to the Moon is “a once-in-a-lifetime thing to experience,” says Joanne Bostandji.
The 45-year-old has traveled all the way from northern England to Florida with her husband and two children for a space-themed vacation, and they’re prepared to make sure they don’t miss a second of the action as NASA’s newest and most powerful rocket is scheduled to launch for the first time Monday.
“The plan is to drive very early in the morning and get a spot” on Cocoa Beach, she said, not far from the Kennedy Space Center.
“I know it’s going be from a far distance, but I still think it’s going be a sight to behold,” Bostandji told AFP as the family waited to enter a park dedicated to space exploration.
Between 100,000 and 200,000 visitors are expected to attend the launch of the mission, called Artemis 1, which will propel an empty capsule to the Moon as part of a test for future crewed flights.
The “historic nature” of Monday’s flight, the first of several as the United States returns to the Moon, “certainly has increased public interest,” Meagan Happel of Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism told AFP.
Traffic jams are expected to start by 4 am, with the launch scheduled at 8:33 am (1233 GMT).
And even more people might show up if the launch faces a weather delay, as the make-up date falls on a weekend.
Sabrina Morley was able to find an apartment to rent not far from the beach, and plans to bring her two children and a few dozen other people on a boat chartered for the occasion by a company called Star Fleet Tours.
For $95 a ticket, “we’ll go out into the ocean as close as they can get to the launch and we’ll watch the launch from the boat,” she said
“I’ve never been this close to a launch before,” said the 43-year-old, who grew up in Orlando, less than an hour away.
As a child, she could see space shuttles taking off from her backyard, like “an orange ball of smoke” rising into the sky.
“We would hear the sonic booms,” she remembered.
Morley likes that NASA’s Artemis program aims to land a woman on the Moon for the first time, with a crew to head up in 2025 at the earliest.
“Representation matters,” she said, glancing at her two-year-old daughter, who is already wearing an imitation astronaut helmet on her head.
The return of prestigious space launches is an economic boon for the region. A family of three will spend an average of $1,300 over four or five days, according to the tourism office.
On the main road to Merritt Island, the peninsula where the Kennedy Space Center is located, Brenda Mulberry’s space memorabilia shop is packed with tourists.
As soon as they enter, visitors are greeted with Artemis T-shirts for sale, printed in-house — there were 1,000 copies made Saturday alone.
The last few days has seen an influx of customers, Mulberry, who founded “Space Shirts” in 1984, told AFP.
“They’re just excited I think to see a NASA launch because the private space business is not so motivating to the people,” she said.
This rocket, called the SLS — a large model of which is displayed in front of her shop — “belongs to the people,” Mulberry said.
“It’s their rocket. It’s not SpaceX rocket,” she added.
There is an air of nostalgia for the Apollo rocket program — it’s been 50 years since the last time a crewed mission went to the Moon, in 1972.
“My family, they had to go to the neighbor’s house to watch (the Apollo missions) because they didn’t have a television,” Bostandji, who was not yet born, said.
“Now we’re going to see it hopefully for real.”
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: Launch teams at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida spent a final full day of preparations ahead of Monday’s planned liftoff of NASA’s giant next-generation rocket on its debut test flight, kicking off the agency’s Artemis moon-to-Mars program 50 years after the end of the Apollo era.
NASA officials said on Sunday that all systems appeared “go” for liftoff, and weather forecasts called for an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions at the top of Monday’s two-hour launch window, starting at 8:33 a.m. EDT (1233 GMT), diminishing to 60 percent toward the end of that period.
If the countdown clock is halted for any reason, NASA has set Sept. 2 and Sept. 5 as potential backup launch dates.
“Everything to date looks good from a vehicle perspective,” said Jeff Spaulding, senior NASA test director for the landmark mission, called Artemis I. “We are excited, the vehicle is ready, it looks great.”
Although lightning rods at the launch site were struck during a storm on Saturday, Spaulding said he has not “seen anything on the ground systems that give us any concerns.” NASA said there was no damage to the spacecraft or launch facilities.
The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is set to propel an uncrewed capsule named Orion around the moon and back on a six-week test flight designed to put both vehicles through their paces before flying astronauts in a subsequent mission targeted for 2024. The SLS-Orion combo, standing 322 feet (98 meters) tall, form the centerpiece of the US space agency’s successor to the Apollo moon program of the 1960s and 1970s.
Billed as the most powerful, complex rocket in the world, the SLS represents the biggest new vertical launch system NASA has built since the Saturn V flown for Apollo, which grew out of the US-Soviet space race of the Cold War era.
If the first two Artemis missions succeed, NASA is aiming to land astronauts back on the moon, including the first woman to set foot on the lunar surface, as early as 2025, though many experts believe that time frame is likely to slip by a few years. The last humans to walk on the moon were the two-man descent team of Apollo 17 in 1972, following in the footsteps of 10 other astronauts during five earlier missions beginning with Apollo 11 in 1969.
The Artemis program seeks to eventually establish a long-term lunar base as a stepping stone to even more ambitious astronaut voyages to Mars, a goal that NASA officials have said will probably take until at least the late 2030s to achieve.
SLS has been under development for more than a decade, with years of delays and cost overruns. But the Artemis program also has generated tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in commerce under the primary contractors Boeing Co. for SLS and Lockheed Martin Corp. for Orion.
One issue NASA officials were eyeing on Sunday before the maiden flight of SLS concerned a potential — but minor — helium leak in launch pad equipment, though Spaulding told reporters during a launch-eve news conference that he did not expect any technical show-stoppers to the countdown.
“This is a test flight, remember that,” NASA chief Bill Nelson said in a Reuters interview that was interrupted by an unexpected phone call from US Vice President Kamala Harris, who will be in Florida to see the rocket launch in person.
“She’s excited!” Nelson said after the call.