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 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 Anthony Fauci addressing WISH 2020 Wednesday
Vaccine, health measures will end Covid: Dr Fauci

*Renowned US researcher addresses WISH 2020 Pullquote "It will take a year or two. You have got to roll out the vaccine together with public health measures until the overall umbrella of protection essentially is all over the world" The pandemic of Covid-19 will end with an effective and safe vaccine along with public health measures, a world renowned researcher told the virtual World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) 2020 Wednesday. “It will take a year or two. You have got to roll out the vaccine together with public health measures until the overall umbrella of protection essentially is all over the world,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, US. A member of the White House coronavirus task force, and also a world-renowned HIV/AIDS researcher, Dr Fauci was in conversation with Fiona Godlee, editor in chief, The BMJ, at virtual WISH 2020. According to the expert, asymptomatic infection should not be ignored as it leads to community spread of the disease. “We cannot ignore asymptomatic infection because that is a major component of the outbreak. And that is the reason we saw community spread and the insidious thing is it becomes difficult to do identification, isolation, and contact tracing.” In comparing the Covid-19 pandemic to the HIV/AIDs epidemic outbreak in the 1980s, he said, “Whenever you have pressure, you've got to make sure you act in a very measured way based on evidence and science, but at the same time being sensitive to the needs of people. There are certain things about science that need to be immutable.” Discussing the reasons why the Covid-19 pandemic has reached current proportions in the US, Dr Fauci said, “The US is a very large country, and heterogeneous in so many ways; demographically, geographically, but particularly in the level of infection that we have in different places. It's a federalist society where an awful lot of responsibility can and is given to the states. What we had was not a uniform approach when we had the shutdown. “When we decided to open up the economy, some states did it in a way that was not appropriate … jumping over stage one or disregarding it completely,” he said. “We have done well in some respects, but it is patchy and not uniformly well as a country… I think the lesson for countries like the UK is to try and have a unified approach that's centrally mandated.” Turning to the vaccine, he said, “A lot of things are politicised but I think people across the world and in the US should realise that there are a lot of failsafe checks. We have assurances from the FDA commissioner that science itself and not political considerations will dictate the decisions about the regulatory components of the vaccine trial.” Dr Fauci also addressed racial disparities in health. “It’s a very unfortunate situation not only with Covid-19 but with other diseases. African Americans are about 13% of the US population but account for over 40-45% of new cases. This population is also doubly hit. The jobs they do as a broad demographic group puts them on the front line of interacting with people, so they have a greater chance to get infected to begin with. It is also clear that African Americans have a disparately larger percentage of the underlying conditions that lead to a serious outcome, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity.” Commenting on ‘long Covid’, he said, “We're starting to see emerging information. That's why we need to take this disease with a degree of humility and commit to preventing infection, through universal wearing of masks, avoiding crowds, distance, outdoor-better-than-indoor, washing hands, and doing everything we can to get a vaccine because it is not to be taken in a trivial way at all.”

Eva Longoria taking part in WISH 2020.
Eva Longoria highlights global healthcare inequalities for women at WISH 2020

Eva Longoria, award-winning American actor, producer, director, entrepreneur and philanthropist, voiced her concerns and suggestions on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as global health inequalities experienced by women and girls of colour. Longoria was a keynote speaker at the virtual World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) 2020 Tuesday. Addressing the global community of healthcare experts and policy makers, she said: “WISH enables the kind of global co-operation on pressing health issues that we desperately need right now, as we confront a pandemic and a changing climate that have disproportionately impacted women and people of colour.” “The virus has left people to die, families to mourn and it has turned the basic social interactions into political statements. This invisible threat has left visible scars on our societies,” she highlighted. Longoria, who has been at the forefront of the fight for the rights of Latinas and women of colour, said: “The pandemic has been able to capitialise on the large amount of inequalities that were prevalent in our society for long and for the marginalised people all over the world." “The pandemic has not just created a medical crisis but also an economic crisis, an educational crisis and a social crisis. In this time of uncertainties, our children are absorbing the stress of going through these difficult times. It has a great impact on our children and their mental health that might linger for long,” she added. During her career, Longoria has devoted extensive time and energy to prioritising mental health among young Latina women, speaking out on such issues as self-harm, anxiety and depression. Recently, she highlighted the importance of nurturing women’s mental health in the current climate and has voiced her concern that the coronavirus pandemic has been harder for women, who tend to have multiple responsibilities. “Every one of us has a role to play in response to Covid-19. Covid-19 has posed and increased interpersonal challenges for Latina women and women of colour. We have to meet the exhaustive needs of the global family as we live in a global community. We have to emerge from this pandemic stronger,” she urged. Highlighting the need for better mental health support, the actor said even before the pandemic, one in four among the marginalised people was found having some sort of mental agony. "Mental health support must be made a priority. Failing to act on these concerns puts us on a way that fails in mental health and antipoverty efforts.” "The need of the hour is collaboration in facing the pandemic as well as climate change. This can only be done by being united. In our commitment to fight against Covid-19, the commitment to stand with those who fight for their voices to be heard and the commitment to tackle the greatest challenges that our world faces today, we need to stay united,” she added.

u201cOne silver lining of 2020 is that it has reminded us of our connection to one another. Not as citizens of any tribe or country but as human beings. We are all in this together,u201d Freeman said
Freeman calls for universal access to health and education

Acclaimed American actor Morgan Freeman highlighted the need for equal access to health and education for all in an inspiring address on the second day of the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) 2020. “Early childhood education is linked to health and that is why I am speaking to a global gathering of health experts. One thing I have learned and one thing we all have learned is, health is education. Education is health and you can’t untangle the two and can’t solve one without the other,” said Freeman in his keynote speech. Freeman focused on the importance of equal access to health and education for all, especially by solving the connected challenges of early childhood education, climate change, and conflict. “No matter your background, no matter your start in life, no matter whether you grew up on the Tallahatchie River or the River Ganges, you deserve access to good education and access to quality healthcare. That’s why I’m so honoured to be part of WISH 2020 – an event that promotes that belief,” noted, Freeman. Freeman said, “One silver lining of 2020 is that it has reminded us of our connection to one another. Not as citizens of any tribe or country but as human beings. We are all in this together.” He emphasised the fact that climate change is real. “Kids are missing schools in various parts of the world because the world has not reckoned yet with the Mother Nature’s warnings. The earth is gasping for breath and so too are the children who are affected by poor air quality. No child should grow up destined to lifelong ill health on a sick planet. “We have more children today living in refugee camps or living in conflict areas or post conflict zones than any time since the end of World War II,” he lamented. The renowned actor highlighted that early childhood education programmes can improve children’s chances of success and even their ability to fight diseases. Quoting Nelson Mandela, he said, “health can’t be a matter of income, it is a fundamental right. You deserve access to good education and access to quality healthcare. We are seeing threats to our health alongside existential threat to our planet.” “Scientists tell us that living under such conditions can create toxic stress among children and it can lead to lifelong problems in learning. It can lead to diabetes, heart diseases and depression in adulthood. How we face all these challenges of education, health, climate change matters. Today’s children should not grow up unsure of the world tomorrow. We should have the resources to sustain them. They shouldn’t be absorbing the anxieties of a world battling a cruel pandemic,” he continued. Freeman said there was still a chance to set things right. “By reducing the consumption of the resources on our planet, we can reduce the climate change impacts and there is still hope to save the planet. If we give the children the right foundation to live healthy, they can live and thrive in this world. This will make sure that their children will live healthy life. This has been a year of great difficulty but right across the world we have seen acts of great courage, compassion and collaboration. If we keep working together, we will heal the one word, our health,” concluded Freeman.

atar Foundation chairperson Her Highness Sheikha Moza addressing the opening session of the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) 2020. PICTURE: AR al-Baker.
Sheikha Moza opens WISH 2020 summit, salutes health workers

*Participants call for greater international collaboration to combat Covid-19 Saluting healthcare workers in Qatar and all over the world for their outstanding efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, Qatar Foundation (QF) chairperson Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, opened on Sunday the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) 2020, held under the theme ‘One World, Our Health’. The 2020 summit of QF’s global healthcare initiative got off to a great start with a socially distanced opening ceremony. Along with HH Sheikha Moza, QF vice chairperson and CEO HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad al-Thani, HE the Minister of Public Health Dr Hanan Mohamed al-Kuwari, WISH executive chair Prof the Lord Darzi of Denham as well as several other dignitaries took part in the event. “In the midst of these trying times brought on by the pandemic, WISH is convening this year to elevate our sense of collective responsibility and unite the world as one – to work together, to share knowledge, to contain this pandemic and to minimise the damage until it is possible for scientists and researchers to restore health security for people everywhere,” said Sheikha Moza in her opening speech. “And so, I salute healthcare workers in Qatar, and globally, for their tremendous efforts in fighting this pandemic, protecting lives, and tirelessly striving to create a better, healthier world,” she added. Highlighting the importance of international healthcare collaboration in the context of Covid-19 Prof the Lord Darzi noted, “The virus has taught us that there can be no security without health security. That’s why I believe it’s time to build a ‘global pathogen shield’ to protect us from novel diseases: a new, global capability to rapidly develop diagnostics, therapies, and vaccines. The only way to do that is through greater international collaboration – which is exactly what WISH is all about. “The virus may have stopped WISH participants from meeting in person in Doha, but it has not stopped WISH. In so many ways, the pandemic has revealed the best of us,” he added. Giving an overview of Qatar’s fight against Covid-19 and highlighting Qatar’s national response to Covid-19, which has seen the pandemic stabilise in the country, Dr al-Kuwari noted, “Every death is a tragedy, but we are thankful that our cases, in global terms, remain low. This stands as testimony to the talent and commitment of our doctors and nurses and the entire healthcare workforce.” “A key factor in our success is our system of universal health coverage. All costs of treatment were covered by the government, irrespective of nationality or social conditions. All patients received the same high standard of care. Our low mortality is attributable to a variety of factors, including the young average age of the population, but particularly to the high quality of medical care, provided equally to everyone. Throughout we strived to keep our healthcare workforce safe and protected and our hospital acquired infections as close to zero as possible,” she explained. Expressing optimism and determination, Dr al-Kuwari said: “We know we will win this battle only if everyone wins it. In solidarity, Qatar has so far helped more than 70 countries and international organisations with equipment and resources. “Covid-19 is not beaten yet. Our strategy remains one of vigilance and focused action tempered by a controlled return to normality, while keeping our people safe. We await, with the rest of the world, the development of a safe, effective vaccine. In the meantime, we must rely on the public health measures with which we are all familiar and the dedication and professionalism of the global health workforce to keep us safe.” The summit attendees also received a special message from Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), as he stressed the importance of harnessing the power of innovation in the face of once-in-a-century-crisis that is this pandemic. “Over 200 vaccines are being developed in several countries around the world. Some of them have completed different stages of human trial and waiting for the approvals. This really gives great hope for all,” he highlighted. As part of the WISH 2020 opening ceremony, broadcaster Mishal Husain moderated a high-level panel, The Global Response to Covid-19: What Have We Learned and Where Are We Headed, which heard from international and national leaders including Dr David Nabarro, WHO Special Envoy on Covid-19; Prof Dame Sally Davies, England’s former chief medical officer; and Dr Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist. WISH 2020 continues until November 19 with the participation of a record number of policymakers, health experts, and frontline healthcare workers.

The panel discussion in progress.
Qatar’s leadership in field of precision medicine lauded

Qatar is in a position to translate the efforts in precision medicine for the last five years into clinical implementation, noted experts at a panel discussion on *Precision Medicine – One size doesn’t fit all, on the first day of WISH 2020. “Qatar’s leadership has taken several measures for the last five years to set and create data for precision medicine through various programmes and research,” said Dr Said Ismail, director of the Qatar Genome Programme, at the panel discussion. “We spent a lot of time and efforts to introduce data for researchers and for programmes for universities to pave the way for precision medicine,” he said. “Now it is the right time to harness on what we have achieved and produced over the last five years. It is the time to shift from producing data to implement the outcomes at the clinical side.” “This will basically show the patients that this can impact their life or the healthcare they are receiving,” he explained. “You also have to choose your models where you want to start to show the impact. “The Qchip we are producing is another example as it consists of summary of variants that we have studied in the Qatari population and they are related to wide array of diseases.” The panel discussion was also accompanied by the launch of a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), titled *Doing Well? Fulfilling the Promise of Precision Medicine. The report, sponsored by Qatar Foundation, discusses the promise of precision medicine, what it is currently delivering, and challenges associated with its wider application in large health systems. The report notes that precision medicine, while still work-in-progress, has shown promising potential, particularly in areas like oncology and rare diseases. It has allowed better understanding of tumour genetics resulting in more effective treatments – particularly for lung and breast cancer. For rare diseases, genomic sequencing has drastically reduced diagnosis times from years to a matter of months, sometimes even weeks. David Humphreys, global head of Health Policy at EIU, said: “Our focus with the study was really looking at that long talked about promise of better, more targeted care for patients and ongoing basis. “It really focused on two critical aspects that we consider to be important. “The first is integration into the patient centricity movement, and the second is the concept of return on investment and value demonstration. “Much has been said about precision medicine generating savings, and there is also evidence.” The report hints that perhaps the biggest challenge will be developing a workforce capable of delivering precision medicine, including integration of specialists – notably geneticists, genetic counsellors, and data into the existing healthcare system. “When we look at the policy briefs we have drafted, we wanted to make sure that it addresses strategy as well as policies, and one aspect of that is to harmonise the activities among the different players,” said Walid Qoronfleh, director of Healthcare Research and Policy at WISH. “Another important aspect is the integration of precision medicine into primary healthcare. So, what we see is to provide pragmatic and practical key recommendations that are not only applicable to Qatar, but also applicable internationally.” The panel also included Dr Victor Dzau, president of the US National Academy of Medicine, and Dr Lotfi Chouchane, professor at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar. Precision Medicine’s end-goal is to move away from medicine’s current one-size-fits-all approach to more personalised care that is formulated based on the person’s genetics – right care at the right time. This will help cut down diagnosis time and avoid the risks of incorrect treatment, allowing healthcare to deliver better patient outcomes improved population health.

Dr M Walid Qoronflehrnrn
QF-sponsored report on precision medicine to be launched Sunday at WISH 2020

* WISH 2020 begins Sunday virtually * Report to provide possible pathways for diagnosis, treatment and drug development for several diseases A white paper on precision medicine by Economist Intelligence Unit on various pathways of diagnosis, treatment and drugs development and sponsored by Qatar Foundation (QF) will be launched Sunday during the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) 2020, Gulf Times has learnt. The biennial WISH summit, which is being held virtually this year, begins Sunday with the participation of a large number of global healthcare experts and lasting until November 19. “The report looks at the promise of precision medicine, what it is currently delivering and challenges associated with its wider application in large health systems. The key findings of the report provide new pathways for treatment and drugs development with potential outcomes using four interwoven, data-related enablers,” said Dr M Walid Qoronfleh, director of Research & Policy, WISH, QF’s global healthcare initiative. Dr Qoronfleh, who was one of the international healthcare experts who provided a professional perspective to the report, explained: “The four enablers are the large volume of data available to health systems, the vast growth in the kinds of data for health systems, the increasing popularity of data storage systems, permitting easier access to relevant information, and the quantum leaps in analytic technology to get greater insights out of this information. All these provide greater ability to understand the bodies of individual humans in finer details and provide solutions using precision medicine taking into account the common characteristics.” According to Dr Qoronfleh, “Precision medicine, or personalised medicine as it is known in some parts of the world, is healthcare customisation or tailoring, healthcare delivery in a distinctly and well-defined patient-centric way. It is a holistic approach to be more precise, predictive and personalised leading to 'better care, better value, better health and better social outcomes'." The healthcare expert noted that precision medicine has the potential to transform the diagnosis and treatment of several diseases in a big way, especially various types of cancers. “The biggest advances in precision medicine are made in cancer, rare diseases and pharmacogenomics using genomic data to indicate how a given drug will affect an individual. For cancer, in 2018 and 2019 the US Food and Drug Administration approved 103 new molecular entities, 36 of which could be described as personalised medicines. Of these, 14 are for some form of cancer. Key advances have been in biomarkers for diagnosis and immunotherapy,” he pointed out. “Precision medicine is expected to improve healthcare in a number of different ways at the patient, health system and population health levels. At patient level, the medical approach is more precise, predictive and personalised such as avoiding harm by protecting patients from adverse effects of therapies. At the healthcare system level, evidence-based research, cost-effectiveness and efficiency and better decisions lead to better patient outcome, while at the population level it can be incorporated into health strategies or national policies, leading to improved healthcare promotion, prevention, surveillance and public health management,” the official said. However, he admitted that there are certain key challenges for precision medicine to be integrated into public healthcare systems. “These include factors that are societal in nature, such as creating an appropriate regulatory, ethical and suitable cultural framework for precision medicine as well as enhancing precision medicine awareness, community engagement and applicable education programmes. Health system-related challenges include securing stakeholder commitments, proving value and building the necessary infrastructure. Other challenge are scalability and integration issues such as sustainable resources, developing a workforce capable of precision medicine, relevant expertise, training and incorporation into primary care,” he said. Dr Qoronfleh also stressed that patient centricity is key to precision medicine's implementation and success. “Rather than viewing patients as objects of solicitous care, or even as empowered consumers, they are seen as full and active partners with clinicians. This partnership includes decision-making about an individual’s treatment and the co-creation of health research activities and patient input into the management of healthcare systems. That is 'a conversation of equals'," he emphasised. The expert added that precision medicine tools are playing a key role in the fight against Covid-19 by involving the genomics of the pathogen as well as searching for a vaccine.

Dr Adnan Abu-Dayya
Qmic supercharges services to support World Cup and beyond

To support the country for the successful conduct of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and beyond, Qatar Innovations Mobility Centre (Qmic) is supercharging its services and products, starting with the relaunch of its intelligent mobility platform, Wain, next month. “We are going to re-release our Wain platform in a completely different look and feel. It will be launched with lot more data and capabilities. It will be a super Wain, a super application by enhancing it with four or five more key capabilities. It will be launched in early December,” Dr Adnan Abu-Dayya, executive director and CEO of Qmic told Gulf Times. Qmic, the first startup in Qatar, has significant assets and expertise of services to be made use to support FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and beyond, he noted. “We have a roadmap to provide our services for the World Cup in 2022 and beyond. Our expertise is in intelligent mobility and Smart Cities and we are focusing more on them to provide better services. For this we have developed a new strategy named ECO (Enhance, Customise and Optimise). With this, we are planning to make use of our services to support the World Cup and thereby benefitting the country,” said Dr Abu-Dayya. With two years to go for the World Cup to be played in Qatar, Dr Abu-Dayya feels that Qmic has significant assets and time to enhance the services and customise them further. He hopes that by the time of the World Cup, the organisation will be able to optimise them to the most, giving the best user experience and efficient services. “We are not interested to start anything new now as we have significant assets and expertise already. All the core applications will be enabled further. We need to deliver a richer experience so that people can use it more and more. As for Wain, we have a big strategy to take it to the second generation and to the third and fourth within a year or two and the first step will be done by early December. It will have several new features and we have been working on it for the last five to six months,” said the Qmic CEO. Regarding the traffic management in the country, he said that Qmic has a platform all across the country to collect data. “We have the only traffic platform in the country and currently, we collect about 20mn data records and process them. We plan to double or triple it in the next two to three months. The more data we get, we will be able to provide better quality as well as more accuracy about the whole system. We have a plan to supercharge the traffic platform with more data collection capability using artificial intelligence,” he said. Dr Abu-Dayya also highlighted Qmic’s cloud management system and its capabilities will undergo changes in the coming months. “We have our own road sensors and we are evolving these sensors from second generation to third and transforming it to fourth generation next year. We are in the piloting stage for the fourth generation sensors,” he said. According to the official, the connected and automated mobility is another expertise area of Qmic that will look into autonomous mobility by digitising the infrastructure. “This is an area, we are working hard on for some time and we have already completed a good part of it. We have significant assets and experience in these areas and we will supercharge them to take them to the next level,” he said. As for the Smart Cities initiative, Dr Abu-Dayya said that the programme is progressing well. “We have deployed the third generation programme and employed it in several companies in the oil and gas sector. We are in discussion with entities in the key strategic sector in the country. Another programme is the Smart Intersections that helps to understand what is happening in the intersections with more images, videos and other supporting factors,” he added. Qmic, located in Qatar Science and Technology Park, is the first independent innovations centre in the region with a focus on developing and deploying smart mobility systems.

Dr Muna al-Maslamani, medical director, Communicable Diseases Center, Hamad Medical Corporation ( HMC)
HMC official cautions of laxity against Covid-19

A top healthcare official has warned against laxity in adherence to the precautionary measures against Covid-19, noting that it can lead to more cases. “Some sections of people believe that the virus has become less dangerous. They think that the number of infected people announced daily is low. Therefore they feel negligent in adhering to the Covid-19 protocols. This must be avoided,” cautioned Dr Muna al-Maslamani, medical director, Communicable Diseases Center, Hamad Medical Corporation ( HMC). Dr al-Maslamani noted that the risk of a second wave of the virus is a concern, especially with the increasing number of infections in many countries and several of them going back to lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus. “Everyone should wear a mask in public places and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. This can help us prevent the spread of the virus,” said Dr al-Maslamani. She said that community members have an important role to play in curbing the spread of the Covid-19 by ensuring social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands constantly with water and soap or sanitiser. “The virus will remain a health concern for some time in the future, and we are fully aware that lifting restrictions and imposed measures cannot guarantee that Covid-19 will not be transmitted. Therefore it is necessary to continue applying preventive measures to prevent an outbreak the virus,” explained Dr al-Maslamani. Dr al-Maslamani who is also the assistant head of Infectious Disease Division, HMC, pointed out that international studies have found masks contribute to reducing the transmission of infection between people in gatherings, especially if people wear them in public transportation and crowded places. She said that wearing a mask contributes to preventing 95% of infection from an infected person and if the individual and those around him wear masks, the infection rates drop to their lowest level. She also highlighted the importance of wearing masks in public places due to the fact that between 6 and 18% of those infected may not show any symptoms of the disease and they are able to spread the infection. If everyone, especially the asymptomatic wear masks, the chances of infection would be reduced. She maintained that before wearing the mask, hands must be washed and people must make sure that the mask covers the nose and mouth and that it is firmly fixed under the chin, over the bridge of the nose and on both sides of the face. She also advised not to touch the front part of the mask while wearing it or removing it, and in the event of touching it, hands must be washed and sterilised immediately. She explained that so far there is no vaccine or treatment for Covid-19 virus. “We must work together to consider the risks carefully and do not neglect the importance of preventive measures. These are life-saving practices and are necessary to protect members of society especially the most vulnerable sections of the society. Prevention is a responsibility that everyone should comply with. Parents should encourage their young children in particular to exercise caution to ensure they adhere to infection prevention practices,” added Dr al-Maslamani.

Qatari women's worker welfare initiative wins huge appreciation A snack packet is handed over to a worker.
Qatari women's worker welfare initiative wins huge appreciation

*'Etaam', founded by Sheikha Alnawar al-Thani, provides snack packets to expat workers A humanitarian initiative, founded by a Qatari lady to express gratitude to the workers involved in developing the country, is winning praise and appreciation among the community. “Etaam is a personal initiative started in June this year in the midst of the pandemic to provide snack boxes to the workers as a form of appreciation and thanks to those who spend hours toiling in the sun and building the country," the founder Sheikha Alnawar al-Thani told Gulf Times. "We have seen construction workers and cleaners among others who work hard to make Qatar what it is now and this is our way of thanking them. The idea is to build a culture of giving back,” she explained. Etaam, means ‘to feed or to nourish.' Sheikha Alnawar feels that the initiative is an opportunity to put social and cultural divisions aside and meet the people who help make Qatar what it is now. Now there are four of them engaged in the initiative. “As the government and construction companies provide the workers with adequate food, shelter and healthcare, we distribute snacks on construction sites or in the streets to labourers across Qatar from gardeners to waste collectors, construction workers and car cleaners. I started it by myself and we are now four ladies and from this month, we will open our doors to volunteers following all the Covid-19 protocols,” explained Sheikha Alnawar. "Our snack bags are an addition to the meals already provided to the workers.We make sure that the food we distribute is of good quality, healthy and nutritious. The team seems really happy about the rare opportunity to talk to the workers while we are handing out the snack bags,” she continued. The team distributes a minimum of 60 snack packets on any distribution day and they visit the workers weekly and sometimes twice a week. The team members bear all the expenses for the project and they do not accept any monetary support. “All the money for the project is funded by us and we do not accept monetary donations from others. Although so many people reached out asking us if they can send or transfer money, we have politely refused. Many people including teachers have reached out to us offering support. What we ask for is participation to help pack and distribute the bags. I would like to build the culture of participation, giving and empathy and those are our values at Etaam,” she highlighted. “We will be starting a new package which we call ‘family box’. This will go to families that have been affected by the pandemic. We will provide them with basic needs and we are trying to get hold of coupons to provide them. Restaurant owners and chefs are willing to cook meals if we can do the packaging. This shows how much people are willing to help,” she noted. Etaam already has over 40 volunteer requests and is asking more people to turn up in their cars so the snack bags can be loaded on the vehicles and can cover more areas. “For families, we are creating a database with the number of people in the families in need. We will plan a membership for a bi-weekly arrangement to receive the package. But this has not been implemented yet. We now write the words “thank you” in three languages on the bags given to the men for the work they do every day. Highlighting the environmental responsibility, Etaam is trying to minimise the carbon footprint by avoiding plastic waste and using paper bags. “It has been difficult because almost everything is wrapped in plastic. Now, we are looking for reusable alternatives at least for our family boxes. While shopping for Etaam products, I have my own reusable bags,” added Sheikha Alnawar.

Nasser al-Khater
New sustainable public transport system to be in place before World Cup

A new public transport system consisting of buses using the most sustainable fuel as well as electric power will be introduced before the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, noted a top official of the tournament. “Since transportation is one of the major sources of carbon emission in any mega event, the proposed public transport system will use the most sustainable fuel or the green diesel while 30% use electric power,” explained, Nasser al-Khater, CEO, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. He was speaking at a webinar yesterday organised by Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC), part of Qatar Foundation on sustainability as QGBC is marking Qatar Sustainability Week 2020 until November 7. Al-Khater said that Doha Metro will be the main transportation provider for the fans during the World Cup. “We expect over 1.5mn fans to visit Qatar during the World Cup. Doha Metro which has been delivered and fully operational, will be the main mode of transportation during the World Cup for all the fans,” he noted. The official said that sustainability is at the core of the planning of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 since the very beginning. “We have really focused on sustainability in terms of our constructions. We have adopted the highest standards available in Qatar in terms of sustainable building through the GSAS (Global Sustainability Assessment System) standards. Our stadiums are four or five star rated in GSAS standards. We have strived from the very beginning in 2010 to achieve one core objective of sustainability in all areas,” explained, al-Khater. He pointed out that as the tournament is just two years away, the approach is now focused on making the operational part more sustainable. “We have done great work to improve the livelihood of the workers and the World Cup has been a catalyst in improving the lives of the workers as we have worked with Josoor Institute to build human capital,” he said. “We have collaborated with Qatar Petroleum and Kahramaa for the creation of solar power generation plants which will be providing up to 800mw by 2022. We hope and work for a carbon neutral World Cup and we are sure that we will be achieving a very sustainable one and most likely the most sustainable World Cup so far,” he highlighted. The official maintained that the cooling technology of the stadiums also has a sustainability element to it. “The stadiums will be used all seasons and most part of the technology will run on solar power,” he maintained. Al-Khater noted that there is already a sustainable procurement methodology for the World Cup and all the vendors will be providing the services adhering to certain environmental standards. “In the next two years, environmental waste management is an area we are focusing especially on our official sites. We are also working with our stakeholders on better waste management plans. We want to make the World Cup as a catalyst to take waste management to the next level in Qatar,” al-Khater added.

QF-supported initiative to help face challenges of new motherhoodrnrn
QF-supported initiative to help face challenges of new motherhood

Two Qatari women have come up with a new app, which will go live soon and is supported by Qatar Foundation (QF), providing online access to psychological counselling through video sessions, messaging and calls to face the challenges of new motherhood and the pressures of child rearing. Najla AlKuwari and Noof Almahmoud have come up with the new app, Therappy, finding themselves in the midst of new motherhood and facing the pressures of child rearing and postpartum issues. They were looking to mental health resources for support but found out that not much was tailored to their specific needs. Thus began their journey to developing Therappy. Therappy is a recent winner of the Product Development Fund – a funding opportunity offered by Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), part of Qatar Foundation Research, Development and Innovation. Connecting users directly to counsellors, it aims to eliminate the additional inconvenience of long waiting times and appointments associated with traditional psychologists’ visits. The app will host everything - from booking to sessions and payment - securely to ensure confidentiality and a better user experience. Alkuwari, co-founder of the app, said Therappy will help curtail some of the hesitation around seeking help for mental health in Qatar and the region. “There is definitely a stigma associated with seeking help in some cultures, and with limited counselling resources available, people often find themselves running into those they know while feeling vulnerable. Being recognised or confronted about matters they may wish to keep private often hinders people from pursuing the help they need,” she explained. Emphasising complete privacy for users, Alkuwari hopes that the privacy and comfort offered by Therappy will encourage more members of the community to seek help and receive it unencumbered. Navigating the challenges of early motherhood can be overwhelming and may greatly impact one’s mental health. There is often a lack of understanding about the struggles of a new mother intending to seek help – finding a mental health resource is only the first step. Recovering physically, managing housework and taking care of toddlers and older children are only some of the reasons women delay addressing mental health issues of postpartum. While Therappy had been in the works before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the drastic global shift in lifestyle only strengthened the need for a service like it in Qatar. “Unexpectedly for us, the pandemic began to require people to stay home, which affects even those already accessing counselling, and makes a service like ours all the more a necessity – it can be accessed any time and from anywhere," noted Alkuwari. The app currently aims to enlist psychologists and counsellors from across the Middle East, tailored to a variety of people, issues and their needs. It will also be available for use across the Middle East. The goal is to ensure that users are connected to counsellors they feel comfortable speaking to, whether in regard to their gender, background or experience. It also hopes to help mental health professionals expand their client base through the platform. “Of course, the added anxieties of the entire situation – be it working from home, schooling children at home or the many precautions being taken have caused more people to face mental health challenges and seek help. This has really pushed us to accelerate our development efforts and make it available to users as soon as possible,” added Alkuwari.

Preparing schools and kindergartens for the rotating attendance system. (Grabs taken from GCO video)
Attendance compulsory in schools from Sunday

Attendance is compulsory in the country's schools on a rotation basis from Sunday, in line with a decision announced by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) recently. The ministry had taken the decision after evaluating the available data, which showed the general situation regarding Covid-19 in schools as "very reassuring". The MoEHE had also decided to raise the average attendance rate in all government and private schools and kindergartens to 42% of their capacity, in accordance with the weekly rotating attendance schedule. The rotating attendance system cancels the earlier decision to let students choose between actual attendance and distance (online) learning. Now, the blended education system will be applied according to the weekly rotating attendance schedule. Students with chronic diseases and who have medical certificates are excluded from physical attendance in schools during the first semester. All schools have made necessary arrangements accordingly and issued necessary instructions to students and parents regarding the days of attendances as well as the mode of reaching classrooms and collecting students after the school hours. Saturday, the Government Communications Office (GCO) released a video stressing how schools in Qatar have taken all precautionary measures in preparation for the students' return. Several schools have made specific and designated areas for students to reach the school as well as to pick them up after the school hours. Some schools have made the facility of contacting the teachers through WhatsApp or SMS before collecting the children so that any commotion can be avoided. Most schools also have appealed the parents to drop and collect their wards as school transport may not be made available in many schools. Students have been divided into different groups and they are expected to attend schools twice a week with the number of students not to exceed the allotted capacity. Birla Public School, in a circular, said students have been divided into groups and arrangements have been made for the smooth conduct of the classes. “School timing is 7am to 1.30pm and parents are advised to pick and drop the students at the school gate. Parents should avoid crowding near the gates as it raises health and safety concerns,” the circular states. “As soon as you reach the school to pick your ward, message (through WhatsApp/SMS) to the concerned class teacher that you have reached, so that the student can be sent down. Class-wise car parking will be allotted and parents are expected to remain seated in the vehicle. Older siblings are expected to exit through the gate allotted for the youngest. Therefore parents may park the vehicle in the parking lot allotted for the youngest child,” the circular adds. Doha Modern Indian School (DMIS), in a similar circular, said students in KG and Grades 1-11 will physically attend classes twice a week, while those in Grade 12 will report to school three days a week. All classes have been divided into groups with the exception of KG and Grades 1, 2 and 12. Lessons will be delivered through Zoom on other days in line with the blended learning system. DMIS is also providing the school bus facility, said the parent of a student . Some other schools also have made similar arrangements, assuring that all precautionary measures have been put in place to ensure that students are ferried safely. However, parents of students in schools not offering any bus service as of now feel that schools need to provide transportation as it is inconvenient for many of them to drop and pick up children due to their work schedule.

SC report highlights key achievements in 2019.
SC achieves disbursement of QR100mn to workers in 2019

The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) has achieved the disbursement of QR100mn ($27mn) for workers in 2019 through its Universal Reimbursement Scheme, notes a report recently published by the organisation. “220 contractors and other contracting parties agreed to pay to the workers back towards costs illegally charged by intermediary agents during their recruitment and relocation to Qatar,” says the first FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Sustainability Progress Report. The report also highlights several other key achievements that would enable the conduct of a smooth and splendid tournament in 2022. The report aims to provide an update to all stakeholders on how tournament organisers are progressing with the delivery of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Sustainability Strategy1 commitments and highlights the five sustainability commitments, including human rights, diversity and environmental protection as well as other sustainability-related objectives. According to the report, SC has secured two chartered cruise ships for the tournament. “With a combined capacity of 4,000 cabins, they will serve as floating hotels during the tournament. They represent one of several adaptable accommodation solutions in place to address the short term spike in demand for accommodation during the staging of the tournament, while avoiding overdevelopment of sectors that may struggle after the tournament,” notes, the report. The report points out that an online open course on Sustainability & Major Sport Events, inspired by the FIFA World Cup 2022 Sustainability Strategy was launched in partnership with the Josoor Institute and Hamad Bin Khalifa University. Over 900 people have enroled across more than 80 countries for the programme. Moreover, Tamreen, an online educational programme featuring FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022-themed lessons, has been launched and made available to all schools in Qatar. FIFA’s Tobacco Free Policy was implemented at the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 to protect the health of thousands of attendees, participants, workers and volunteers from exposure to second-hand smoke, maintains the report. Moreover, a total of 225 police commanders and 2,200 police officers received human rights and safety training last year while FIFA’s Anti-Discrimination Monitoring System was applied to all 168 FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying matches in 2019. SC has also mobilised more than 4,000 volunteers across 20 events in 2019 building capacity to support future events. As per the report, SC’s Generation Amazing programme celebrated its tenth year, reaching more than 500,000 people across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Americas since its inception and through its football-for-development programmes. The FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 also helped in assessing and improving the tournament experience for disabled people and people with limited mobility including enhancements in infrastructure, staff and volunteer training, ticketing procedures, and transportation systems for disabled people and people with limited mobility. Another key achievement, pointed out in the report is that the Al Janoub Stadium became fully operational, achieved its targeted sustainable building certification for design and build, and exceeded its targeted sustainable construction management certification.

Padmanabhan Nair with the certificates.
Six-year old Doha kid sets records with Jurassic era giants

A Doha based, child prodigy has set a record of a different nature by identifying various types of one of the oldest forms of living beings on earth: dinosaurs. The six-year-old Padmanabhan Nair recently set a series of records by identifying maximum number of dinosaurs in the least time and has entered into the World Records of UK, Limca Book of Records, The India Book of Records and The Asia Book of Records. Padmanabhan achieved this feat by identifying 41 types of dinosaurs in one minute as well as 97 in five minutes and this young genius is also slated to appear in the Guinness Book of World Records, according to his father, Jayaprakash. The record setting feat took place in Doha on September 2 at Indian Cultural Centre in the presence of scientists and researchers from Qatar who officiated as witnesses and time keepers. His record setting attempt can be watched here: For this Grade 1 student of Birla Public School, dinosaurs have been a subject of curiosity and fascination and he has spared no efforts in mastering them. For him, it was not just a hobby watching these enormous reptiles on screen or books, but he has delved deep into their origin and started learning more about them. Padmanabhan, just 125cms tall, is a master in dealing with the biggest reptiles and can easily identify more than 130 types of dinosaurs without a flaw. “Padmanabhan took a fancy for this extinct species when he chanced upon a story book that featured dinosaurs. Ever since he has been pestering his father for more and more resources, which he happily provided and literally fanned the spark of curiosity and knowledge. By looking at the picture of a dinosaur, this youngster can tell, whether it is a ‘reptile’ or a ‘bird’ and other features,” explained Jayaprakash. Teachers, family friends and parents of Padmanabhan keep encouraging him to continue to learn more about the dinosaurs and provide him with various books and materials about special species of animals, references from various websites, YouTube, consultation with biology teachers and department heads of schools. The Principal and the faculty at Birla Public School are a great support in his continued journey into knowledge and Padmanabhan’s feat is sure to inspire other children in a big way. Everyone is hopeful about more such wonderful feats from this little master. Padmanabhan’s father Jayaprakash, works with Teyseer Services Company and his mother, Jyothilakshmi is a mathematics teacher. The family hails from Alappuzha in Kerala, India.

HE Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari along with the recipients of the awards at the online event.
QNL announces winners of inaugural Open Access awards

Qatar National Library (QNL) on Sunday announced its inaugural Open Initiative Awards, with the Best Institutional Award going to 'Bait Al-Mashura Journal' while the Best Individual Award was won by Dr Julie Decock, a scientist at Cancer Research Centre, Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI), part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) . Open access is the practice of sharing knowledge openly and making research outcomes visible and accessible to all. The movement includes open access to research papers, open data, open education resources, open licences and other applications of openness in scholarly and research environments. Rewarding the best contributions to the advancement of open scholarship in Qatar at a virtual ceremony, HE Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari, Minister of State and President of QNL, said: “We believe that open scholarship and open access to information allows QNL to achieve its mission to preserve the nation's and region's heritage and enable the people of Qatar to positively influence society by creating an exceptional environment for learning and discovery. Qatar’s research output is part of our heritage, and open research and scholarship will allow us to preserve it for future generations.” An esteemed panel of judges from QNL deliberated over dozens of applications received after the call went out to Qatar’s research community in August for nominations. Dr Decock, also an assistant professor at the College of Health and Life Sciences, HBKU, was awarded for promoting open scholarship in Qatar through student mentorship and open access research at QBRI. Dr Decock exhibited strong support of open scholarship and personally promoted open access through research tools, research data, software code and research manuscripts. She has been involved in QBRI's summer research programme for undergraduate students programme, offering laboratory-based hands-on experience, and has given several workshops on open scholarship. “Having free and unrestricted access to research will also allow for communities in Qatar to better benefit from that nation’s research efforts. Qatar’s leadership has wisely invested a great deal in research, and openness in scholarship can provide immediate returns on that investment. This is even more important in times like these, where pandemics can change the course of our lives. Open access to medical data and research is critical to mitigating the effects of these events,” explained Dr al-Kawari. 'Bait Al-Mashura Journal' is an open access, semi-annual refereed international scientific journal publishing research in the fields of Islamic economics. The journal is published by Bait Al-Mashura Finance Consultations, established in 2007 as the first Qatari firm to provide Shari’ah finance consultations. Both award recipients gave presentations at the virtual ceremony, outlining the importance of working with organisations such as QNL to spread research findings as widely as possible. “These awards will become a key annual fixture for QNL as the movement grows in importance to researchers in Qatar and beyond. We are proud to support Qatar’s research through this key initiative at QNL. Indeed, QNL is committed to universal access to information and removing barriers to knowledge. One of our core values is the free, open, unrestricted access to our collections and services, and our dedication to open access supports that," added Dr al-Kawari. The awards ceremony coincided with the Open Access Week, a global event now entering its 10th year. The Week offers the academic and research community the chance to continue to learn about the potential benefits of open access, share what they’ve learned with colleagues and help inspire wider participation in helping to make open access the new normal in scholarship and research.

Hugely successful S'hail hunting and falcons expo concludes at Katara on Saturday
QMJ argues against Covid reinfection possibilities

The reinfection or reactivation of Sars-Cov2 which causes Covid-19, as reported in some parts of the world, is actually a result of prolonged shedding of the virus complemented with occasional false positives or negatives and lab errors, argues an editorial published on Qatar Medical Journal. The article, ‘Cases and etiologies of suspected Covid-19 reactivation', featured on and written by Abdullah Ghali, Juan Simon Rico-Mesa, Mouhamed Nashawi and Jose Cadena from the Department of Medicine, Division of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Health San Antonio, San Antonio states, “the study outlines a perspective on Covid-19 reactivation with considerations of implored commentary on behalf of the medical community regarding open discourse about this subject.” According to the researchers, “The article was written with the perspective of informing in addition to engage discussions that distill salient, evidence-based characterisation of Covid-19. We hope to recruit fellow academics in medicine who see trends in their own respective communities about people who retest, and to explore their clinical outcomes.” The article notes that preliminary findings about viral dynamics have been alarming in countries such as South Korea and China, which experienced some of the earliest interactions with Covid-19. These countries have implemented sweeping societal changes based on limited contact procedures to mitigate viral spread. However, reinfections, with rate as high as 14%, have been reported in these countries. “The period where patients have negative to positive test results ranged from 4 to 17 days, suggesting that recovered patients may need further isolation and viral detection. Considering the effects of loosening contact precautions or instituting more strict guidelines, it is necessary to consider the possibility that several patients considered to experience Covid-19 reactivation are likely to have false-positive test results,” highlights the article. As per the study, the prolonged shedding of Sars-Cov2 observed in several recorded patients may explain why certain patients have positive test results during retest. “Although some patients with a previous history of Sars-Cov2 infection may present with similar earlier symptoms, they may be incorrectly diagnosed with Covid-19 reactivation. These late symptoms can be a manifestation of a cytokine storm (a physiological reaction in humans) rather than a viral reactivation. Such findings have prompted the World Health Organisation to begin systematic investigations on the nature of long-term viral dynamics, including the half-life of Sars-Cov2,” explains the study. The study also maintains that the presence of Covid-19 reactivation or reinfection in patients who initially had RT-PCR negative test results and subsequently positive test results remains unclear. With viral load use and insufficient viral culture, available information used to formulate a conclusion is considered insufficient. The researchers of the study feel that although Sars-Cov-2 displays active replication concurrently with upper respiratory tract symptoms, viral shedding is prolonged, outlasting the resolution of symptoms, where viral load did not rapidly decline as would have been expected. It also points out that shedding reaches its maximum values in the first week of symptom onset, peaking on day four. The period where a test result changes from negative to positive ranged from 4 to 17 days, suggesting that recovered patients may need further isolation and viral detection. “Furthermore, based on the existing evidence, false-negative test results may also be observed with RT-PCR while displaying positive findings on CT scan. Although the evidence regarding the subsequent Covid-19 reactivation seems unlikely, the potential risks are significantly high to cast this differential aside. Although the potential consequences of viral reactivation may warrant further scientific studies, countries with first reports of perceived recurrence of Covid-19 positive test results, namely, South Korea and China, have yet to support these data with valid scientific evidence,” concludes the study.

Mohamed Yasin in a screen grab from the video.
talabat rider's act of kindness evokes praise and appreciation

A talabat rider, Mohamed Yasin, whose act of kindness in helping a differently abled person cross a busy street, has been well appreciated and the Ministry of Interior honoured him recently. Pictures of a rider helping a person in a wheelchair had gone viral on the social media. talabat released a video explaining what happened on the road and afterwards, as described by Yasin in the video. “I do not know where the man came from. I was delivering an order from McDonald's. The traffic was fast-moving and he couldn't see anything from the back,” says, Yasin in the video. “When I saw it, I had no doubt that I should help him. I parked my motorbike and asked him where he wanted to go. He pointed towards the end of the road and I helped him cross the road. "He then thanked me with all the sincerity,” Yasin explained. It seems that some motorist had taken pictures of the incident and posted it on the social media but the identity of the rider was unknown until talabat came out with the video. Yasin said in the video that he felt very happy in helping the person.“I felt happy because I helped someone in need and he was very happy about it. "My father used to tell me, 'If you help someone, somebody else will help you back.'" Yasin said he received a call from the Ministry of Interior following the incident. “They appreciated and thanked me for what I have done. They also presented me with a helmet, a jacket and shoes as a token of appreciation of my act,” he added. After the incident, talabat has promoted Yasin from a rider to a rider captain and he will manage a fleet of riders now. Mary Haji, communication manager at talabat said that the company was very proud of Yasir and his act of kindness. “Yasin has shown the values, talabat stands for and his act should be an inspiration for all the staff and encourage them to emulate and act with kindness at all situations possible," the official added.

The artists with the officials at the exhibition yesterday. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam.
Qatar Al Fann exhibition gets underway at Doha Fire Station

Qatar Al Fann, an exhibition featuring functional art and highlighting Qatari art and culture by local artists, got underway at Doha Fire Station Art Gallery 4 on Tuesday and will run until October 27. The opening ceremony was attended by Dr Deepak Mittal, Indian ambassador; Khalifa al-Obaidly, director of Fire Station, Artist in Residence; Fahad al-Jahram, chief project delivery officer, Qatar, Qatari Diar; Mohamed Arqoub al-Khaldi, chairman, Supervisory Committee of Beautification of Roads and Public Places, Public Works Authority; Andrew Humphries, acting chief executive officer of Katara Hospitality and Nishad Azeem, CEO, Coastal Qatar, as well as members of the artist fraternity. Qatar Al Fann aims at transforming products like street furniture, carpets, smart lighting poles among others to functional art. The artworks selected from the competition, are now displayed at the Qatar Al Fann exhibition flaunting Qatar’s art and its heritage to the global audience. At the opening event, al-Obaidly said: “Qatar Museums supports such initiatives to engage the local artists with the art scene in Doha. The collaboration with private sector has contributed to the organisation of the event in a big way. We have been keen to encourage the role of artists in the community to explore new sectors and spaces in co-operation with local companies that provided practical opportunity for Qatari artists and residents to express their creativity through an intuitive project such as Qatar Al Fann.” “It is a very unique project with so many artists coming together. The artists have portrayed various facets of Qatar and as an expatriate, I can understand Qatar better though these art forms,” noted Indian envoy Dr Mittal. “Qatar Al Fann commenced with a contest to gather the best of artistic expressions from the local artists in Qatar. This is an effort at highlighting the art and culture of Qatar and engage the local artists in a big way. We had arranged a workshop for the artists and thereafter selected the best of the works for the exhibition through a jury. We also have plans to export these art works highlighting Qatari culture to other countries,” explained Azeem, the organiser of the exhibition. The selected products are to be utilised in public spaces, hotels, offices, parks, mosques among others both locally and on projects across the world. “Qatar Al Fann stands distinct for various reasons; the foremost of all is that the products represent Qatari heritage and are made in Qatar,” sated al-Khaldi. Coastal Qatar will organise the production of the selected products in Qatar through technology partnership with experts or manufacture them through selected sources. “Coastal Qatar feels extremely privileged to have the opportunity to promote Qatari art and heritage while providing the much deserved exposure to our artist community and support local manufacturing. Qatar Al Fann focuses to unveil the potential of our local artists by exhibiting and utilising their exquisite creations in public spaces,” added Azeem.