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Saturday, February 24, 2024 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
 Joseph Varghese
Joseph Varghese
A journalist with a penchant for reporting events, Joseph Varghese digs deep to unearth facts. With several years of experience, including at Gulf Times, Joseph handles health, science and technology, IT and education in addition to everyday developments.
Dr Soha al-Bayat
Qatar
Decline in daily Covid-19 cases due to strict restrictions and fast rollout of vaccine

Daily Covid-19 cases in Qatar have been declining steadily due to the current restrictions and the fast rollout of the vaccination programme, a senior official from the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said on Saturday. “It is still too early to be sure whether we have overcome the second wave of the pandemic but if we all continue to adhere to the restrictions and follow the preventive measures, we will see a persistent fall in the number of cases. We will ease the current restrictions only when we are sure that the threat of the disease has subsided,” said Dr Soha al- Bayat, head of vaccination at the MoPH, during an interview with Qatar TV. “All the measures against Covid-19 have led to a significant decrease in the number of people with Covid-19 in hospital. We continue to impose restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. With a new threat of the emerging Indian variant, Qatar has also introduced mandatory quarantine for travellers returning from some specific countries,” continued Dr al-Bayat. The official said more than 1.5mn doses of vaccine have been administered since the start of the vaccination campaign. “In Qatar, we are making great progress in the rollout of the vaccination programme, but we need at least 80- 90% of eligible people to be vaccinated in order to have maximum protection for the entire population. The vaccines do work – our data here in Qatar is conclusive. Since the beginning of 2021, we have had 1,766 Covid-19 admissions to ICU – and just 19 of these patients had been fully vaccinated. Only 1% of Covid-19 ICU admissions have been fully vaccinated against the virus. In fact, non-vaccinated people of all ages in Qatar are 91 times more likely to be admitted to ICU with Covid-19 than fully vaccinated people,” she noted. “Around 44% of the adult population has now had at least one dose of the vaccine. More than half a million people are fully vaccinated. Every week, more than 160,000 doses are given," she explained. Dr al-Bayat said 86% of people over 60 years have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 75% of people in this category has received both the doses. As for people over 40 years, 67% has got at least one dose and 41% both the doses. “This is especially encouraging as almost nine out of ten people over 60 years of age have now had at least one dose. The public in Qatar have responded very well to the vaccination programme and we are not seeing any significant degree of hesitancy,” she pointed out. According to the head of vaccination, the drive-through vaccination centres have been a huge success and so far, more than 170,000 people have visited these centres. “To improve the user experience at the drive-through centres, we have adjusted the policy for eligibility and from now on only people getting their first dose at Qatar National Convention Centre will be eligible for their second dose at the Lusail and Al Wakra drive-through centres. Other people who receive their first dose at a primary health centre will be booked for a second dose appointment at the same health centre,” she noted. “Receiving the Covid-19 vaccine during the holy month of Ramadan does not break a person’s fast because the vaccine is administered intramuscularly, and it is not nutritious. People should not delay their vaccination appointments during Ramadan. The operating hours of vaccination centres have been adjusted throughout Ramadan to enable convenient access to vaccination,” she explained. The official also cautioned vaccinated people to take necessary precautions. “It is still unknown whether the vaccines prevent passing Covid-19 to other people. So, vaccinated people still have the potential to contract the infection and pass it on to others. As the vaccines aren’t 100% effective , there is still a small chance – around 5% - that vaccinated people can get re-infected and become sick. So, people are advised to continue following the precautionary measures to protect themselves as well as others,” she added.  

Dr Goran Petrovski, left, and Dr Khaled Qaraqe
Qatar
QF researchers developing non-invasive gadget to detect low blood sugar

Researchers from Qatar Foundation (QF) and Texas A&M University in the US have developed an AI-based model to make a non-invasive gadget to detect low blood sugar in people with Type1 diabetes (T1D), Gulf Times has learnt. “The idea was to detect the frequency and magnitude at which signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar occur in people with T1D. To do this, we developed an app that would help us collect relevant data via a smart watch,” said Dr Khalid Qaraqe, professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering Programme, Texas A&M University at Qatar, a QF partner and the lead of the programme. Signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia can include sweating, feeling tired, dizziness and tremors. These physiological tremors were the focus of the project led by Dr Qaraqe and funded by QF’s Qatar National Research Fund. Dr Qaraqe explained, “We recruited 77 participants with T1D in two cohorts: one consisting of 45 adults located in the US, and 32 children, from 10-17 years located in Qatar. All members of both cohorts were users of Apple watch and continuous glucose monitor (CGM). The built-in motion sensor in the Apple watch and blood sugar data collected from the CGM were crucial for the study.” To collect data, the app was installed on each of the participants’ Apple watch. Through the watch’s built-in motion sensor and the app, the group was able to determine the frequency at which tremors were occurring in participants with T1D. "Hypoglycemia happens when the blood sugar drops to a level that's too low to sustain normal functioning- below 70 milligrams per deciliter. It is common in people with T1D to experience at least one or two episodes of mild hypoglycemia a week," said, Prof Goran Petrovski, diabetes consultant at QF’s Sidra Medicine who served as a consultant on the project. Existing solutions for glucose monitoring such as continuous glucose monitors can prevent these events but are very costly. The need to come up with a simple, wearable and inexpensive solution is what started this research. After obtaining the relevant data, the team used AI to develop a machine learning (ML) algorithm to correlate tremor frequency and hypoglycemia. Prof Qaraqe said, “When the algorithm detects a tremor within the frequency range that is indicative of hypoglycemia, it will send a message to the app user which, in the case of children, is parents to alert them of possible hypoglycemia.” The team has gone a step forward and developed another ML algorithm for prediction of hypoglycemia which can alert the user of hypoglycemia in advance, allowing them to prevent it from occurring rather than having to manage it. The algorithm is also able to predict and estimate the sugar level based on the tremor data. “What we want to do now is to create a wearable device, in the form of a bracelet or a ring which will use compact high-precision accelerometers to capture low frequency physiologic tremors and predict the blood sugar level,” Prof Qaraqe pointed out. Dr Petrovski said that the device will be a low cost one to cater to every segment of the society. “The device we envision will be a very low-cost device, which doesn’t require a screen making it low-maintenance and won’t need to be charged daily,” he noted. The developed technology has an accuracy rate of between 85-89% and “the accuracy range of our technology is actually similar to that of commercially available medical devices,” according to Prof Qaraqe. “Our technology is cloud-based which means it is low latency – that means it processes data with minimal delay. As of now, the total time between the tremor occurring, sending the data to cloud-based AI, performing the calculation in the cloud and getting it back is between 60-90 seconds, which is good, but we are working to reduce this further to a matter of a few seconds and have it almost in real time,” added, Prof Qaraqe.    

Team members of the project.
Qatar
QFRDI develops new method to fight corrosion in oil and gas pipelines

Qatar Foundation Research, Development, and Innovation (QF RDI) along with several partners, has developed a smart version of corrosion coupon to understand more than just the corrosion rate of oil and gas pipelines. “We have revamped the traditional corrosion coupon and created a smart version that tells us more than just the corrosion rate," said Dr Abitha Ramesh, corrosion researcher at Qatar Shell Research and Technology Centre (QSRTC), an anchor partner company of Qatar Science & Technology Park, part of QF RDI. The newly developed coupon incorporates three of the most commonly found deposits in sour gas pipelines and can also include an embedded sensor to monitor conditions beneath those deposits, she explained. A corrosion coupon is a small piece of metal, made of the same material type and grade as the pipeline. These coupons are retrieved from the pipeline at specific time intervals, cleaned and weighed. The difference in weight is used to calculate the average corrosion rate which in turn can be used to determine the integrity of the pipeline. These new corrosion coupons are manufactured in Qatar. The cost of manufacturing the first unit was equivalent to that of conventionally used coupons from the US. However, the cost is expected to go down considerably if they are mass-produced in Qatar. A conventional coupon cannot help in the complex scenario where UDC (under-deposit corrosion) occurs. In an effort to tackle one of the most prominent corrosion challenges in the oil and gas industry, a team of academic and industrial experts from QSRTC, Qatar University, Imperial College London teamed up to develop this innovative corrosion monitoring device through the financial support of QF’s Qatar National Research Fund. The purpose of having these deposits on the newly developed coupon is to measure the local chemistry (chloride ions, potential drop and pH) under these deposits and to pick up early warning signs that UDC may be occurring. The role of the sensor is to identify potential problems even earlier by detecting local changes in chemistry that are a precursor to corrosion. “These coupons are retracted every two months for detailed analysis, thereby allowing us to very closely follow changes associated with UDC and its most dangerous manifestation called pitting – a rapid and localised form of corrosion in which cavities or "holes" are produced in the material,” explained, Dr Ramesh. The smart-coupons developed in this project are expected to make an immense contribution towards the early detection of UDC and pitting. In addition, the sensor in the coupon will be able to relay information in real-time as it detects changes in the local chemistry. Having an online sensor that can communicate this crucial information in real-time will contribute significantly towards maintaining safe operations. Dr Ramesh noted, “Such early detection of pitting is very beneficial because when pitting starts the rate of pit propagation can be very fast and can have significant impact on the pipeline. The smart-coupons are currently being tested in the field. We deployed the coupons at Pearl GTL - a joint development by Qatar Petroleum and Shell in January this year; if things go as per plan, there is a real potential for these modified corrosion coupons to replace conventional coupons in the near future.” “Internal corrosion in pipelines, if not detected early, can affect the economics of production and processing, threaten lives and cause long-lasting environmental damage in case of failure. We can say with certainty that this novel UDC online sensor will play a significant role in ensuring the structural integrity of oil and gas pipelines not just in Qatar but also worldwide in locations with sour service pipelines,” Dr Ramesh added.    

HE Akbar al-baker speaking to the media at HIA
Qatar
Qatar Airways operates world’s first fully vaccinated flight

Qatar Airways created history Tuesday by operating the world’s first fully vaccinated flight. All the passengers, crew as well as the check- in staff were fully vaccinated with two doses of Covid-19 vaccine. Flight QR6421 took off from Doha's Hamad International Airport (HIA) around 12 noon and returned at 3pm. The special service was operated by the airline’s most technologically advanced and sustainable aircraft, the Airbus A350-1000. The flight also fully carbon offset in line with the carrier’s environmental responsibilities. The pilots of the world’s first fully vaccinated flight Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive and Qatar National Tourism Council secretary general HE Akbar al-Baker told the media at HIA that the airline wanted to send a strong message to the world that air travel is safe with fully vaccinated passengers.   HE Akbar al-baker speaking to the media “Qatar Airways is delighted to launch this historic flight, the world’s first fully Covid-19 vaccinated flight. All the passengers are given a certificate stating that they were in the first international airline carrying fully Covid-19 vaccinated passengers. “We want to convey the message that air travel is safe and you can travel without the fear of getting infected with Covid-19 if you are vaccinated against the virus. Some people still feel that air travel can result in Covid-19 infection. However, people have to be responsible in their behaviour and follow all the Covid-19 protocols. Until and unless a robust anti-viral drug is available for the diseases, it will be an up and down cycle of the disease,” continued the CEO. Qatar Airways also showcased several measures the airline has put in place to ensure the highest standards of safety and hygiene on board, including its latest innovation, the world’s first ‘Zero-Touch’ in-flight entertainment technology. The passengers included people from various walks of life including some leading entrepreneurs. One of the passengers on board, Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, told Gulf Times that it was a great experience travelling in a fully vaccinated flight. “During the pre-Covid era, I used to travel a minimum of 28 to 30 weeks a year. But, now, it is just a fond memory and I believe that with more and more people getting vaccinated,   The route of the fully vaccinated flight there will be more travel opportunities. So I am really delighted at the invitation to travel in the world’s first fully vaccinated flight,” noted, Althaf. “ Moreover, this initiative by Qatar Airways also sends out a strong message that air travel is safe especially if you are fully vaccinated. There is a kind of fear among some sections of people that air travel leads to increased infections of Covid-19. I hope the travel and hospitality sector picks up soon in a big way,” Dr Althaf added. Cabin crew on the world’s first fully vaccinated flight Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, on board the flight Qatar Airways to add more frequencies: al-Baker Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive and Qatar National Tourism Council secretary general HE Akbar al-Baker told that the airline will add more frequencies as the number of passengers grow, especially in the summer months. He also said that the airline is waiting for the Indian authorities to open the airports to carry more passengers to various destinations in the country. Al-Baker was speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the media interaction at the launch of the world’s first fully Covid-19 vaccinated flight. “We are a scheduled carrier and we are going to continue our schedule. We will keep adding more frequencies as the number of passengers grow. As far as the Indian sector is concerned, we are waiting for the Indian authorities to open up their airports so that we can carry the passengers,” added al-Baker.

Laith Abu-Raddad.rnrn
Qatar
'Vaccine efficacy likely to last for a year or more'

An infectious disease expert at Qatar Foundation (QF) says that Covid-19 vaccine immunity could last for a year or more, provided there are no new variants that may escape this immunity. ‘In Qatar, we have been following natural immunity developed by a cohort over 40,000 people that previously contracted Covid-19 for more than seven months now. We have not seen any waning of immunity in the cohort so far. This is encouraging and potentially means that the vaccines will be able to give us strong immunity against the virus. I would say, a year if not more, provided we do not have new variants that may escape this immunity,” said Dr Laith Abu-Raddad, professor, Infectious Disease Epidemiology at QF partner university, Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar. “While we don’t have sufficient data on how long immunity from the vaccines will last, we can draw an analogy with natural immunity because we think it is similar to vaccine immunity. It is also possible that vaccine-derived immunity may be better and last longer than immunity derived from virus infection. As variants increase, we will need to have booster doses. Vaccine developers are already working on potential boosters for emerging variants of concern,” explained Dr Abu-Raddad. The expert recommended that even if the virus keeps evolving, people should go for vaccination. “ It is the best and only tool to stop the virus from evolving and leading to more mutant variants. The more the virus replicates, the more the chances of a mutant. The only way out of this vicious cycle is if more and more people get vaccinated, which in turn, would mean fewer opportunities for the virus to replicate and mutate,” he noted. This, according to Dr Abu-Raddad, would require high vaccination rates across the world. “The trouble is the vast majority of the global population has limited to no access to these vaccines. In countries that don’t yet have access to the vaccine, new variants will keep popping up, and sooner or later will spread to other countries. To stop the generation and spread of new variants, the vaccine uptake must be global,” he remarked. The expert also clarified some of the concerns such as getting contracted with the virus even after taking the second dose of the vaccine. “You are not 100% protected, but you are a lot more protected – up to 95% more than unvaccinated individuals. And even if you do catch Covid-19 after, the vaccination will prevent you from getting very sick or ending up in the hospital,” he pointed. Dr Abu-Raddad also highlighted that getting vaccinated will offer protection possibly in the future. He said: “It is possible that the efficacy of these vaccines against new variants could be lower but this is not necessarily the case for the severity of the infection. This basically means, even if in the future you get infected with a new variant, the severity of the infection will be low. “Moreover, vaccinated individuals can still be asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19 and potentially spread it to others, which is why it's so important that those vaccinated should continue wearing masks and practice all social distancing measures.” Regarding the second vaccine dose causing more side effects, Dr Abu-Raddad said that the first dose basically nudges the immune system to inform it that there is a virus and that an immune response is needed. “With the first dose, the body starts to build the facilities that will generate the antibodies to target this virus; this takes a couple of weeks. When the second dose is administered, the body already has the facilities up and running but is awaiting a signal to start mass production of antibodies," he said. “The second dose is this signal. Once it’s administered, right away the body produces massive amounts of antibodies, mounting a very strong immune response which is why more symptoms appear after the second dose,” added the expert.  

Dr Moune Jabrernrn
Qatar
'Pregnant women can discuss vaccination with their doctors'

A Qatar Foundation researcher has recommended that a pregnant woman can make a decision to get vaccinated for Covid-19 on two aspects: exposure to the virus or certain underlying medical conditions. “First, what's your risk of exposure to Covid-19? Are you a nurse dealing with Covid-19 patients? Is your husband or another member of the household in a profession that puts them at high risk of exposure? Either of these will significantly increase your risk of exposure,” said Dr Moune Jabre, assistant professor, Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar. “The second thing to consider is, do you suffer from any underlying medical conditions like chronic lung, kidney or heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure or sickle cell disease? All of which could worsen the effects of Covid-19, if contracted,” noted Dr Jabre. According to Dr Jabre, if the answer to either of those questions is yes, then the individual should seriously consider getting the vaccine, as “the risk of getting infected, and getting seriously ill is much higher than the theoretical risk of adverse effects from the Covid-19 vaccine” . The official pointed out that the vaccine rollout has been a source of anxiety for many pregnant and breastfeeding women as clinical trials of the Covid-19 vaccines excluded pregnant women and there is not enough data to clearly say if the vaccine is effective for pregnant or breastfeeding women or there are any unique side effects on them and the babies. “It is very important to understand that this lack of a definite answer is only because of an absence of data; it's not based on any evidence there is a risk,” said Dr Jabre. The guideline from the Ministry of Public Health is that pregnant and breastfeeding women should discuss their case with their respective gynaecologists and follow their advice. This is in line with other national organisations which recommend that the Covid-19 vaccine not be withheld from pregnant women. “It is important to clarify that although the actual risk of severe illness and death among pregnant individuals is very low, it is higher when compared to non-pregnant individuals from the same age group. Catching Covid-19 while pregnant puts women at increased risk of requiring intensive care, including breathing support,” explained Dr Jabre. However, she maintains that if a woman is young and healthy, and is self-isolating at home with minimal risk of exposure, then it's debatable whether this individual should get the vaccine now. “In this case, there is not a pressing need for you to take it right now. However, pregnancy does predispose you to a higher risk of severe disease, so you would not be wrong in choosing to take it now,” argues Dr Jabre. She highlighted that the consensus among the medical community is that the vaccine is highly unlikely to have any detrimental effects on the mother or the foetus. She also felt that if breastfeeding mothers choose to take the vaccine, they would be able to protect their babies from Covid-19. “Antibodies against the virus have been detected in the milk of mothers who have been infected with Covid-19. So, if antibodies triggered by the vaccine also pass into breast milk, getting vaccinated while you’re breastfeeding may even help to protect your baby. But, this would depend on when you get vaccinated because it takes time to build immunity, and for the body to produce antibodies in large enough numbers for them to get secreted into breast milk.” “There is not enough data to clearly indicate whether the number of antibodies in breast milk is enough to ensure the baby is protected, but we do know from other vaccines that a protected mom is the best way to protect a baby from infection because there is less chance of mom getting infected and then transmitting it to her baby,” she added.    

Dr Marc Owen Jones
Qatar
HBKU professor reflects on Covid-19 impact after a year of lockdowns

A year has passed since countries around the world began issuing nationwide lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19 and a professor at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) has reflected on the long-term consequences of the same, especially the social impacts of the pandemic. “I think the pandemic has reminded us that we are social beings, and it involves a certain amount of physical interaction that simply cannot be replicated online. There is emerging evidence to suggest the long-term consequences may mirror those in natural disaster areas, such as post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Dr Marc Owen Jones, assistant professor of Middle East Studies and Digital Humanities at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, HBKU. Dr Jones feels that children have been particularly vulnerable due to school closures, with a worldwide increase in domestic violence reported, suggesting that the long-term fallout of Covid-19 could have far-ranging social impacts. He also said misinformation about the pandemic has caused a number of problems from a public health perspective. “Conspiracies about the pandemic being fake have caused a burgeoning distrust in medical science and healthcare, and increased the likelihood that some may forego vaccination and social distancing measures. These will all delay the effectiveness of a response by increasing the transmission of the disease and holding back possible recovery,” he explained. Dr Jones also noted that there have been different problems facing different regions regarding vaccination, from the problems the European Union had with trying to procure vaccines from AstraZeneca to disparities in the speed of vaccination across countries. “A trend has been public figures publicly taking the vaccine to increase confidence, something we have seen broadcast in many countries. Generally, most official coverage tends to promote the effectiveness of the vaccine, and conspiracies exist mostly on the Internet or fringe news channels,” he explained. The academic also noted that the impacts of Covid-19 have been gendered across the Mena region, prolonging conflicts by re-shifting policymakers’ focus on health issues as opposed to internally displaced persons and refugees. “It will also disproportionately impact young women’s access to education, as families in already difficult situations compounded by the pandemic may be forced to choose who to send to school. Often, industries that predominantly employ women will be the hardest hit, such as entertainment and retail.” “I think many of us have learned, despite the digital turn, that we still are social animals that crave interaction. We have learned to value our freedoms, even if that is the freedom to leave our homes. It’s also a reminder not to take the planet for granted, and how much privilege is embedded in the ability to travel or get on a plane. Fundamentally, I think it has given us a perspective on the fragility of the human condition, how we both need each other, and should not take our place on the planet for granted,” he added.

Dr Asmaa al-Fadala.
Qatar
Education investment spurs diversified economic growth: QF official

Qatar has started to witness the impact of its investment in education, leading to diversified economic growth in the country, a senior Qatar Foundation (QF) official has said. “There is an increase in the number of recent graduates working in the private sector or who have become involved in the field of entrepreneurship by establishing small and medium enterprises. This directly reflects on the strength and diversification of the economy, which makes it more sustainable and reduces its primary reliance on oil and gas revenues,” said Dr Asmaa al-Fadala, director of Research and Content Development at the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), QF’s global education initiative. According to Dr al-Fadala, this is evident in the number of students currently enroled in Qatar Foundation’s partner universities and Hamad Bin Khalifa University as well as other institutes. “University enrolment in Qatar has increased dramatically over the last five years, even as the admission and studying requirements in these universities have become more difficult. There has also been a significant increase in the number of graduates, confirming a qualitative change in the school educational system that paved the way for this outcome,” she said. “And what I have seen recently is the growing interest of young people, both male and female, in fields like arts, sports, literature and the environment. These represent strengths in a diversified economy that include human and social aspects, as well as practical and professional aspects, and these fields provide investment opportunities and jobs,” she added. The official noted that the educational system in Qatar has many positive aspects and, as with other educational systems across the world, is currently facing challenges that need to be addressed, especially after the outbreak of Covid-19. “The educational system in Qatar is very focused on promoting the importance of identity, the Arabic language and Qatari heritage. It also has strong infrastructure, reflected in modern school facilities, equipment, and resources, utilises technology in many aspects of the educational process, and is committed to developing the capabilities of teachers,” she said. She also pointed out that the educational system needs to develop professionals in schools to support the educational process at the school level, based on research, scientific evidence and experimental studies. “It also needs to enhance student motivation and increase the involvement of parents in the educational process and the way they follow up on their children’s development,” she added. Dr al-Fadala said specialised schools for students can help them take the right decision about their future by aligning them with labour market requirements. “In Qatar, this is evident in the establishment of specialised schools such as the Qatar Independent Secondary School of Banking Sciences and Business Administration, which provides an educational curriculum that prepares students to work in the banking sector after graduation; in addition to schools that focus on medical sciences and also STEM education, such as Qatar Foundation’s Qatar Academy for Science and Technology,” she noted. The official stressed that education and the economy are closely linked, and education is currently one of the important areas of investment because it brings a return for society as a whole. “We have all seen changes in curricula, moving from traditional methods to focusing on teaching 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork, in addition to paying special attention to teaching foreign languages and entrepreneurship education. We have also come to see huge diversity in schools, and society’s view of this diversified education has rapidly become more positive,” added al-Fadala.    

Williams acted in several roles in various short films and cinema.
Community
Tributes paid to multifaceted Indian community member

Residents paid rich tributes to late Dr George Julius Williams, a very versatile and multifaceted persona who died recently. Dr Williams arrived in Qatar in June 1978 and was part of Gulf Times in various capacities for a long time. He is survived by his wife and two daughters and three grandchildren. “Julius was a fine humanitarian. His untimely passing is indeed an irreparable loss to his family and friends like me. Over the years, he has shown himself to be an extraordinary gentleman, a hardcore professional who earned his respect in journalism and personally, I valued his friendship,” Doha Bank CEO Dr Seetharaman said. “He was a dear friend since the day he landed in Doha. Not just to me personally, but all staff of our office have good memories of him as he was a very pleasant person, always smiling and a good family man,” said A K Usman, managing director, Al Muftah Rent-A-Car. Besides Gulf Times, Williams also worked with other establishments such as Qatar Director’s HSSE magazine, Qatar Media City, Primedia, Icon Media and Qatar Day. ‘Long time PTA member of MES Indian School, Williams was a very responsible parent who would attend every parent teacher meeting. He was a very caring and loving father to his children. He had an excellent rapport with all staff of our school,” recollected Hameeda Kadar, principal, MES Indian School. Williams was also very passionate about theatre and acting. Before coming to Qatar, he was involved with the Prithvi Theatre Mumbai. He carried on this passion for theatre, by directing and acting in several productions at the Doha Players since 1980. He was also involved with the Doha Tribecca Film Festival. “I met Williams during our production of 'Mughal-e-Azam' grand musical play. Since then, I knew he was an acclaimed actor. He embodied the values of a trailblazing journalist and actor. He was a bon vivant, a raconteur and a pleasure to spend time with,” recalled, Dr Tejendar Singh, founder of BPO+ and Qatar Day. Williams acted in several roles in various short films and cinema over the years with major production houses such as Doha Film Institute, Warner Brothers, Balaji Telefilms, Katara Studios, Qatar Museum Authority, North Western University in Qatar. Some movies he has acted in have been nominated for the Oscars Academy Award for Students and at the Cannes Film Festival in the short film category. “Every time I saw Julius around town, or on a film shoot, it was always such a positive, friendly, fun time. There are very few people in the world who just radiate so much positive energy and enthusiasm. Always passionate about life and art. He was, and is, a unique and wonderful gift,” pointed, Benito Robinsoni, producer, Doha Film Institute. “Williams has silently closed the door of life and departed from us. I have known him for over a decade and in all this time I have known him to be a gentle soul. He was a devoted husband to his wife, a loving father to his children and a good friend and colleague to the people who knew him,” said Felix Lobo, Mangalore Community Association. Williams was also actively involved with many Indian Associations affiliated under ICC such as the Mangalorean Cricket Club, Maharashtra Mandal, Goan Overseas Association . He has compered several of their events as well as the Indian Independence and Republic Day celebrations. Besides, he has conducted workshops at Kalabhavan and has been a member of Qatar Toastmasters. “ We miss in our hearts forever a great friend, a brilliant journalist, actor and a socio-cultural event lover. I admire the warm, funny and genuine person he was.It is a great loss for the Goan and Mangalorean Community. May the Almighty God bless his soul and grant him eternal peace,” added Simon D’Silva, president, Goan Welfare Association, Qatar.    

Dr Asmaa al-Fadala.rnrn
Qatar
WISE official advocates concept of 'Education Economics'

Education economics is concerned with maximising the return on investment in education by optimising the use of resources in the educational system to produce the greatest possible benefit for the society A top official of World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) has advocated the idea of ‘Education Economics’ to maximise the returns from investment in education. “It means looking at education from an economic perspective, by studying the economics of human resources, analysing the return from education in terms of cost and educational productivity, and measuring outputs against inputs,” said Dr Asmaa al-Fadala, director of research and content development, WISE, part of Qatar Foundation. According to al-Fadala, education economics is concerned with maximising the return on investment in education by optimising the use of resources in the educational system to produce the greatest possible benefit for the society. “The relationship between education and the economy is very close and integral; in fact, I would argue that quality education is a necessary precursor to a healthy economy and the two live in synergy with one another. Universal quality education provides a society with a skilled workforce, which is necessary for a thriving economy and also to supporting all aspects of social infrastructure,” explained al-Fadala. “At the same time, a strong economy provides a society with the material resources necessary for enabling and developing a healthy and thriving education system. This makes it necessary to consider the economics of education when designing or developing policies for any educational system,” she continued. Al-Fadala told that investing in education and developing the human wealth and human capital of any society is considered to be one of the best and most rewarding types of investments. “Providing high-quality education in schools, especially in early childhood, leads to students building human skills and capabilities that grow and evolve with them through the different stages of education. Good education with strong foundations cultivates a generation of professional graduates in different fields who can actively participate in the growth of the economy and in boosting economic production,” she highlighted. The research head noted that developed countries rely on the development of their national human resources to inform their economic growth in a diversity of disciplines, by providing a cadre of specialists in all fields. “Among them, of course, is the social field, such as education and family services, and this is what contributes to enhancing social welfare,” she maintained. The official also stressed on the role of education in preparing specialised professionals and providing state institutions and the private sector with resources that accelerate the pace of development. She remarked, “This comes from investing in the quality of education at all stages and diversifying and developing curricula. Lifelong learning, which is both a mindset and a process, is reflected in practice by investing time and resources in adult-learning programmes that serve to continuously develop individuals at different points in their lives and careers. This type of ongoing or continuous learning and professional development plays a major role in increasing motivation, interest, and efficiency in the labour market, which, in turn, leads to economic growth.” Al-Fadala emphasised that entrepreneurship and technological skills are the some of the most important skills for 21st century and they can diversify sources of income to achieve comprehensive development. “Most educational systems currently incorporate a focus on teaching students entrepreneurship and technological skills, which are skills that characterise the 21st century. They also focus on strengthening the role of global citizenship, scientific research skills, and other skills that help people obtain the jobs of the future as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or start personal entrepreneurship projects where they apply what they have learned,” she described. “Entrepreneurship is characterised by the fact that it opens an opportunity for young people to start small and medium enterprises that contribute significantly to providing themselves with income, and providing job opportunities for other youth. This supports the diversification of the economy, and a shift from youth working primarily in the governmental and semi-governmental sectors to working in the private sector,” added al-Fadala.      

Dr Souhaila al-Khodor (Front, right) along with her team.
Qatar
QF researcher develops first salivary microbiome composition of Qatari population

A top researcher from Sidra Medicine, part of Qatar Foundation (QF), has developed the first salivary microbiome composition of the Qatari population which could be “a stepping stone to precision medicine.” “Saliva acts as a mirror for the body's health,” said, Dr Souhaila al-Khodor, director of the Maternal and Child Health Programme in the Research Department at Sidra Medicine. Dr al-Khodor’s group has successfully reported the first-ever salivary microbiome composition in the Qatari population, using data from 1,000 individuals participating in the Qatar Genome Programme, a QF initiative. “Saliva is composed of RNA, DNA, proteins, electrolytes, metabolites, and microbiota. Variation in either of these components can indicate a change in the health of an individual. The salivary microbiome not only differs from disease to disease, but it also changes based on ethnicity. This is partly due to differences in genetics, diet and environmental factors,” explained, Dr al-Khodor. The shift towards personalised, or precision medicine can be propelled by advances in diagnostic tools. One of these is saliva diagnostics. Utilising saliva to identify and measure biomarkers has the potential to enable highly individualised diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. The degree of variation in the salivary biome at a population level has not been studied extensively and the few studies that do exist do not take into account the Arab population or Qatari population. “If data representing Arabs is missing, the first responsibility to fill that gap lies with us as Arab scientists. We hope this first-ever characterisation of the Qatari salivary microbiome will pave the way for future salivary diagnostic studies.” To advance the field of saliva diagnostics, it is vital to create a comprehensive database of biomarkers that signal the presence of a disorder in saliva. Once fully catalogued, changes in biomarker levels can play a key role in maintaining well-being and early detection of diseases. “The success of salivary diagnostics depends on the identification of clinically validated biomarkers that can be reliably linked to a specific disease and provide reliable targets for therapy,” said Dr al-Khodor. In an ongoing project funded by QF’s Qatar National Research Fund, Dr al-Khodor is researching whether changes in the salivary microbiome and proteome can predict diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD), among others. “The oral cavity is host to many microbes, and the question I am trying to answer is: can I, by analysing the biomarkers in a saliva sample know whether a patient is diabetic or is prone to CVD?” noted, Dr al- Khodor. Another aspect the research aims to address how specific microbes contribute towards an individual developing a disease. For example: how is a particular bacterium putting a person at a high risk of CVD? Is it causing more fat assimilation? Is it contributing to an increase in blood pressure? Bodily fluids like blood and urine have been used in diagnostics for decades, but there are reasons why scientists are now turning to saliva as well. “Saliva is one of the most ideal diagnostic tools,” says Dr al-Khodor. “It is inexpensive, noninvasive, and easy to handle. More importantly, minimal patient discomfort makes it a favourable choice over other bodily fluids. “Given their speed and cost effectiveness, salivary-based diagnostic techniques can potentially allow screening of an entire population for a specific disease in a timely fashion. Validated salivary biomarkers combined with powerful detection tools have the potential to open a new innovative frontier in personalised healthcare,” maintained, Dr al-Khodor. “In the future, salivary tests may pave the way for chair-side diagnosis of multiple diseases, allowing real-time health monitoring, leading to personalised preventative medicine,” she added.    

Gulf Times
Qatar
People who got Covid-19 vaccine second dose can travel immediately

The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Friday announced that those who have received the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine from Qatar can travel out of the country immediately and return without being quarantined, provided they arrive after 14 days. A statement explained that it does not matter whether the person spends the 14-day period outside Qatar. The ministry has affirmed that exemption from quarantine arrangements apply as long as the return date from travel is 14 days after the second dose, irrespective of the destination they travelled to. Qatar had announced in February that fully vaccinated people are exempted from quarantine requirements following travel abroad or any exposure to a Covid-19 positive case. “The quarantine exemption is valid for a period of three months, starting 14 days after the second dose, and this may be extended in the future with the availability of more clinical evidence. The exemption does not currently apply to people vaccinated in other countries,” Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of the National Health Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation had said on the occasion. Taking part in the Education City Speaker series held in the last week of February, Dr al-Khal had said that the period of exemption from quarantine will be extended as and when more data is available. He had noted that the present period of exemption of three months from quarantine was made from the available data about the duration of protective level of antibodies in the blood following the second dose. “What we have done is a starting point of quarantine exemption for three months and we are reviewing the literature and the data as it emerges regularly on a daily and weekly basis. And we are ready to extend the quarantine exemption as soon as there is information to do that,” he said. With the vaccination campaign continuing in full swing in the country, a large number of people are daily receiving the vaccine and the latest MoPH announcement would help the residents and the citizens plan their travel schedule flexibly.    

Shaheen research team.
Qatar
QCRI’s machine translation system achieves milestone of 1bn words

A machine translation system, 'Shaheen', developed by the Arabic Language Team at Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) has achieved a significant milestone of 1bn translated words. “While statistical approaches were more dominant in the beginning, in the last few years, technology advancements have shifted toward Deep Learning methods, and we sought to apply that as we created Shaheen,” said Dr Hassan Sajjad, a senior scientist at QCRI, part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University. Initially the team developed a state-of-the-art machine translation system for the conversion of Modern Standard Arabic to and from English. “With the advent of social media, dialectal Arabic became a de facto language for communication and especially for informal conversations, such as those we see on Twitter and Facebook. Translation systems that are optimised for Modern Standard Arabic cannot work well with dialects. In the current phase of the project, we have achieved a major milestone by developing an Arabic translation system that can translate most of the dialects, as well as standard Arabic, to English, effectively,” Dr Sajjad said. Shaheen uses a transformer-based sequence-to-sequence model with hierarchical fine-tuning to adapt Modern Standard Arabic-English translation system towards dialectal Arabic translation. “This hierarchical fine-tuning enables the successful adaptation of a general translation system towards learning various variations of a language in a single system which are different varieties of dialects and their genre in our case,” Dr Sajjad said. “Shaheen provides a one-size-fits-all solution that works for a large number of Arabic dialects and genres, an aspect seldom seen with competing translation platforms. In an extensive human evaluation of four dialects — Nile, Gulf, Levantine and Maghrebi — Shaheen outperformed popular online systems in terms of the Nile, Gulf and Levantine dialects. Work remains to be under progress with the Maghrebi dialect, which requires large-scale pooling of dialectical data,” he said. Dr Sajjad said that automated translation enables many other technologies and facilitates tasks that are related to information extraction, analysis and understanding. “It eases communication by bridging the language barrier. It can also directly impact the economy, healthcare system, political sphere, and more. For example, the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be attracting people from all parts of the world. A translation tool that can effectively translate between dialectal Arabic and English can be regarded as an essential tool of communication,” he said. Dr Sajjad that Shaheen can be deployed to the backend of multi-genre, multi-dialectal speech translation while other potential usage areas include being able to translate Arabic content on social media into English for better dissemination of information by narrowing down the language gap. The scientist also remarked that competition in the field is fierce given that technology giants such as Google have an enormous amount of data and computation power. “Shaheen, on the other hand, specialises on handling the linguistic intricacies of Arabic specifically and is now adaptable to dialects, and that is where we have our edge compared to other translation companies. We want to ensure the best performance, and we have been proactively creating data for a large variety of Arabic dialects and are continuously exploring newly emerging methods that can be integrated into Shaheen to boost translation quality," he added. Other members of the Shaheen project from QCRI are: Dr Nadir Durrani, scientist; Dr Ahmed Abdelali and Hamdy Mubarak, senior software engineers and Fahim Dalvi software engineer.    

Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, Chair of the National Health Strategic Group on Covid-19 and Head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation
Qatar
Qatar to vaccinate 90% of eligible population before year-end

Qatar aims to vaccinate up to 90% of the eligible population against Covid-19 before the end of this year, disclosed a top official Wednesday. Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of the National Health Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation, was addressing a virtual panel discussion at the Education City Speaker Series, held in collaboration with the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH).  Quarantine exemption period to be extended    The period of exemption from quarantine for those who have completed both doses of Covid-19 vaccine will be extended as and when more data is available.   This was announced by Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of the National Health Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation. He was addressing a virtual panel discussion at the Education City Speaker Series, held in collaboration with the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH). “The three months exemption from quarantine was made from the available data about the duration of protective level of antibodies in the blood following the second dose. But there is more available information that the duration is probably longer. It could be a year or even longer,” he pointed out. “What we have done is a starting point of quarantine exemption for three months and we are reviewing the literature and the data as it emerges regularly on a daily and weekly basis. And we are ready to extend it to six months as soon as there is information to do that. Then we will review the data and probably extend the validity. The present one is only the starting point,” he highlighted. The event titled ‘An Injection of Hope: Do Vaccines Mean an End to the Pandemic Is in Sight?’ featured healthcare experts and practitioners to discuss vaccine development and questions surrounding the new variants of Covid-19, among other issues. He explained that the vaccination campaign is implemented in adherence to effective public health measures, such as screening and isolating people suspected to have or exposed to Covid-19. “We have taken very effective steps to combat Covid-19. So we approached pharmaceutical companies that were in advanced stages of clinical trials for vaccines. We are also a member of the Covax facility where we get a percentage of our vaccines from.” continued, Dr al-Khal. Covax facility was formed last year to ensure fair and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for every country. “One of the challenges that we had to face with the rolling out of the vaccine campaign is the global shortage of vaccine as in the case of other countries. Current production of vaccines is a tiny fraction of what the world needs. Another issue is if we need to do it annually we have to work on a strategy for our future supplies,” explained the official. According to Dr al-Khal, 27 health centres in the country provide vaccine to people seven days a week from 7am to 11pm. “In addition we recently opened the vaccination centre at Qatar National Convention Centre, which can deliver 8,000 doses a day. This has boosted our ability. We also trained nurses at different ministries and entities such as Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defence, oil and gas sector, Qatar Airways to administer vaccine. Now they are vaccinating their frontline workers at their own facilities,” he described. “Today the Ministry of Health has started an initiative for the elderly. For the elderly who cannot make it to the health centres, vaccine will be provided at their homes as well as to their close family members,” he told. “One of the major challenges that we faced initially was the widespread misinformation about vaccine safety. This was circulated widely through the social media and made a significant portion of people reluctant to take the vaccine. We established a group to spread evidence-based information and community figures to get the message across,” added, Dr al-Khal.

Group president and chief executive Alfardan: We do not see education as a privilege, but rather as a universal aspiration.
Qatar
Alfardan Group empowers youth through Tariqi

*Alfardan Group's Tariqi scholarship programme has been helping students achieve their dreams since 2006 With the aim of empowering youth in the country, the Alfardan Group's scholarship programme Tariqi provides financial support to students who demonstrate a commitment to academic excellence. “Launched in 2006, the Tariqi programme – meaning ‘my path’ – is the manifestation of Alfardan Group’s philosophy of investing in the education, career opportunities, and dreams of the next generation,” Omar Hussain Alfardan, president and chief executive of Alfardan Group, told *Gulf Times. “There are currently 15 students active in the Tariqi programme, and we are looking forward to supporting more students this year and beyond, to help the development and growth of Qatar’s future generations,” he said. The programme has so far supported 40 students, with many of these currently employed at Alfardan Group. The Tariqi programme provides funding to undergraduate students specialising in certain fields related to the Group’s subsidiaries, and offers them a chance to work in one of the region’s largest and most successful family conglomerates. “Initially, Alfardan Group began to offer financial support to students who demonstrated a commitment to academic excellence, in order to help them complete their education,” Alfardan said. “This soon transformed into a full-fledged programme, designed to support the country’s 2030 vision.” “Funding covers full tuition fees for the duration of the student's undergraduate career, paid directly to the student's institution of choice,” he said. “Students are eligible for the programme funding as long as they maintain the required GPA (grade point average)." “At Alfardan Group, we understand that investing in the education of future generations is the most fruitful endeavor,” Alfardan added. “Now, more than ever, we are focused on investing our efforts and resources into equipping, up-skilling and, most importantly, capitalising on talents that will shape our country’s future.” “Education is our springboard, and our mission is to develop a human capital that is ready, willing and able to not only absorb, but also take charge of constant change,” he said. The president and chief executive pointed out that Alfardan Group, having prospered in Qatar and grown internationally, feels a strong responsibility towards the advancement of the community. “We believe in using the strength of our legacy to advocate for broader positive change, inspire other businesses and make a difference in our communities. Through the Tariqi programme, we are supporting the future leaders of Qatar,” he said. To be selected for the scholarship programme, students must be currently enrolled in an accredited programme that will lead to an undergraduate degree in a field of study designed to prepare them for a successful professional career. The field of study must be relevant to one of the many Alfardan Group subsidiaries, which cover a large variety of sectors and industries. From jewellery and property to hospitality, healthcare, automotive, marine and the financial services sector, Alfardan Group manages an unrivalled brand portfolio. After meeting a minimum GPA requirement, applicants will be invited to an interview at Alfardan Group, prior to being selected to join the programme. “Only a few promising achievers are selected each year,” Alfardan said. Following the success of the Tariqi programme, Alfardan Group has extended the education funding support to employees undertaking postgraduate studies while working at the Group. This comes as part of the Group’s commitment to achieve the best in all that it offers and continuously improve and raise the bar to deliver an exceptional and exclusive service. The Tariqi programme is open to both citizens and residents, and Alfardan Group is committed to supporting students achieve their life goals through education. “We do not see education as a privilege, but rather as a universal aspiration. That is why we are offering it to all nationalities,” Alfardan said. “The programme is open to applicants from any nationality as long as they have an acceptance letter from any university of choice in Qatar and have maintained a specific GPA requirement at their current academic institute.” Currently, the Tariqi programme is open to students applying for undergraduate studies in Qatar. “We believe that Qatar offers students world-class education from some of the world’s top universities as well as our country’s homegrown universities. “The education system in Qatar prepares students to tackle tomorrow’s biggest challenges, to guarantee the prosperity of our nation, and ensure that students have the ability to develop, adapt and innovate. “The programme covers all registered and accredited higher institutes of learning in Qatar,” he added. Alfardan Group introduces recipients of the scholarship to the professional world through internships and job opportunities within the Group and its many subsidiaries. “The students’ employment opportunity will match the same duration of the scholarship, providing students with the chance to spend three to four years working and gaining experience with one of the region’s largest and most successful family conglomerates,” he said. According to the Group president and chief executive, Alfardan Group has endorsed several projects and initiatives in line with the vision of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Qatar National Vision 2030 to promote the highest standards of living among the citizens and residents of Qatar. As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, Alfardan Group has collaborated with and supported charitable causes, such as programmes led by the Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) and Qatar Charity. Additionally, the Group supports sustainability causes such as Earth Hour. Since 2019, Alfardan Group has also partnered with the Qatar Green Building Council to highlight the sustainability-driven activities run by its subsidiaries. The group also supports Hamad Medical Corporation’s blood donation drive, which aims to encourage its employees and residents to become regular blood donors. “At Alfardan Group, we support and initiate various humanitarian activities in partnership with leading charitable organisations at the regional and global levels,” Alfardan said. “We have cultivated strong relations with a number of charitable and non-profit organisations and pledged our support to socially relevant programmes.”  

The u2018Qatar Foundation Gifted Enrichment Programmesu2019 was recently launched to identify and support the needs of bright, young students in Qatar and is supported by the Johns Hopkins Centre for Talented Youth.
Qatar
Qatar Foundation to host World Math Team Championship in November

To nurture and encourage the bright learners in the country, the Pre University Education (PUE) at Qatar Foundation (QF) will be hosting the World Math Team Championship towards the end of this year with the participation of over 1500 students. “We continue to develop specialty opportunities, enrichment programmes and focused courses with gifted students in mind. Our upcoming big project will be the World Math Team Championship event.” said Cynthia Lynn Bolton, head, Gifted Education, PUE Academic Affairs. “We will be hosting the mega event in November this year with an expected attendance of over 1500 students coming to Qatar from all over the world. At Qatar Foundation, gifted education is a primary focus,” continued Bolton. The ‘Qatar Foundation Gifted Enrichment Programmes’ was recently launched to identify and support the needs of bright, young students in Qatar and is supported by the Johns Hopkins Centre for Talented Youth. Bolton said that PUE is always looking for new partners to support the gifted students in all the possible ways. “We have already signed the cooperative agreement with Johns Hopkins Centre for Talented Youth. It is our hope that this cooperation will lead to the development of many future opportunities for our gifted students both locally and internationally. Our partnership with the World Math Team Championships is another example of an exciting premier event that fosters and promotes the development of our bright students in Qatar,” she explained. Currently a total of 260 students are identified as academically gifted in QF Schools which is approximately 6% of the total school population for grades K-12. About 75% of identified gifted students in QF Schools are Qataris. According to Bolton, enhanced educational experiences should include opportunities to move at a faster pace through the curriculum, skip or condense topics that the student already knows and explore, at a deeper level, those topics that are of a high interest to the student. “Teachers should make pre-testing part of their regular instructional routine and be prepared to offer alternatives for those gifted students who show mastery in the subject that will be taught. Gifted students should not be required to repeat curriculum they already know and should never be given busy work to keep them occupied while they wait for other students to catch up,” she pointed. The official highlighted that identification of the gifted children is the most important part of the programme. She noted that gifted child, like all children, need teachers who can understand giftedness and a tailored educational experience that helps them grow in the most optimum way. “For some students this may mean access to an accelerated curriculum; for others it’s the opportunity to dive deeper into a subject and learn at a more in-depth level. QF gifted students need time to work with other gifted children. This opportunity to learn with their intellectual peers and be challenged through a healthy level of competition, is the key to the success of gifted children,” she maintained. "Our goal is to provide gifted students with a place to learn and engage with like-minded peers and engage in high-interest enrichment opportunities under the guidance of teachers trained to encourage, motivate, and support gifted students. Gifted students, like all students, deserve to grow academically at the pace they feel most comfortable,” added, Bolton.    

Artist Faisal Kuppayi, top centre, and his art pieces.
Community
Painting the town with portraits

An Indian artist is attracting the attention in town for his sheer ability and versatility in painting portraits. Faisal Kuppayi, a Doha-based Indian creative artist can be seen in his studio in B-Ring Road painting portraits of people- that too in minutes. He has painted the portraits of hundreds of nationals and expatriates since the last two years of his stint in Doha. Kuppayi’s passion for fine arts originated at a very young age, in his hometown of Nilambur in Malappuram district of south India. He began his artistic journey as a hobby and later realised the potential of portraits, photography and adopted it as his profession. Hyder Chungathara, a Doha-based community leader was responsible for bringing him to Qatar. On the very second day of his arrival in Qatar, Kuppayi entertained a gathering with a melodious song at a gathering of an expatriate association. Seeing his immense talent in singing and drawing, Abdurahiman, an art lover and a jeweller, helped him set up an independent studio and since then there was no looking back for Kuppayi who is now busy drawing portraits and conducting musical programmes. Kuppayi’s primary passion is in painting portraits of people. He enjoys the challenge of capturing the personality of a person in a single painting, sketch or a frame. Since his early years, he has had great fascination with faces. It is easily evident in his works, the depth and uniqueness of the expressions his subjects carry. He aspires to excel in capturing people's emotion into his paintings and continues painting things that are close to his heart. Gestural Abstraction- also known as Action Painting is another area of his interest. He believes that action painting in which paint is spontaneously dribbled or splashed or smeared on to the canvas can make wonderful impressions and effects. With great support and overwhelming patronage he has received from the community for his paintings and portraits, he is now exploring opportunities to enter the vast world of Arabian art. His painting work on the Qatar National Sport Day was a commendable piece of artwork which was appreciated by nationals and expatriates.    

Dr Soha al-Bayat, head of vaccination at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH)
Qatar
More than 100,000 vaccinated in Qatar so far, says MoPH

*Vaccine is safe, provides protection 2 weeks after 2nd dose   More than 100,000 people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in Qatar so far, disclosed a top health official on Wednesday. “There is great demand for the vaccine among the public. So far, we have administered Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for over 100,000 people in the country,” said, Dr Soha al-Bayat, head of Vaccination, Ministry of Public Health ( MoPH) while answering questions about Covid-19 vaccine on an Instagram question and answer session on Wednesday. During the session, Dr al-Bayat, urged everyone to register online for vaccination so that they can be contacted when eligible. According to the official, it will take one to two weeks after the second dose of the vaccine to get full immunity against the virus. “To reach the maximum level of antibodies, you need two weeks after the second dose of the vaccine. After you take the first dose, your body starts developing antibodies and it will increase day by day. When people take the second dose, it will help with more immunity as more antibodies are developed. So two weeks after the second dose, you will have sufficient protection,” she explained. However, Dr al-Bayat reminded that the vaccine is up to 95 % effective, which is a great level of immunity and there is still 5% who may not develop sufficient antibodies. “This is why we say at this time, you have to follow all the Covid-19 protocols such as social distancing, wearing mask and using sanitiser. You will have to continue same measures until certain percentage of people in the country are vaccinated, which make the virus very difficult to transit from one person to another,” she explained. Dr al-Bayat remarked that Qatar has made agreements with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to get enough vaccine for the entire population of the country. “While at present we have received only Pfizer vaccine, we expect Moderna vaccine to reach the country soon,” she noted. She also noted that the vaccine is not allergic to any food particles. “However, if you are allergic to one of the components of the vaccine, it is important that when you go to your healthcare provider to take the vaccine, mention your allergy and they would let you know if you are eligible or not,” she added.