Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan, 77, tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday and was admitted to hospital in Mumbai, with his actor son Abhishek—who also announced he had the virus—saying both cases were mild. “I have tested CoviD positive .. shifted to Hospital,” Amitabh Bachchan told his 43 million Twitter followers. “All that have been in close proximity to me in the last 10 days are requested to please get themselves tested!” His son Abhishek added “both of us having mild symptoms have been admitted to hospital… I request all to stay calm and not panic.”
Millions of Indians revere Amitabh Bachchan, hanging on his every word, seeking his blessings and congregating outside his Mumbai bungalow every year on October 11, his birthday. Affectionately known as “Big B”, he shot to stardom in the early 1970s in huge hit movies such as “Zanjeer” and “Sholay”. His films still open to packed cinemas across India, but his new movie—comedy-drama “Gulabo Sitabo”—was released online due to coronavirus restrictions closing cinemas. Abhishek Bachchan, 44, is also a successful Bollywood actor and producer, and is married to actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai.
India’s rising death toll
India’s nationwide coronavirus toll rose on Saturday to 820,916 cases—the third highest in the world—with 22,123 deaths. Health workers have complained about stretched facilities and severe staff shortages. Critics say the vast country is not testing enough and many infections are undiagnosed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has eased lockdown restrictions despite a surge in cases, but he has warned the nation to be more cautious. Bollywood recently resumed film shoots after a months-long hiatus due to the nationwide lockdown since late March.
Amitabh Bachchan is the doyen of India’s movie industry, and his career has branched into television presenting, business and politics, as well as countless commercial endorsements. Early in his acting life, he earned his reputation as India’s “angry young man” for portraying violent heroes fighting an unjust system and injecting a new aggressive element into Bollywood movies, which had previously consisted of polite romances.
After some lean years, Bachchan bounced back spectacularly, largely due to his stint as host for the Indian version of the TV game show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”, which revived his artistic and financial fortunes. According to local media, he was being treated at Mumbai’s Nanavati hospital. As best wishes poured in on Saturday, former Indian cricket star Sachin Tendulkar tweeted “praying for your good health and quick recovery.” The Mumbai region, which accounts for about a quarter of India’s virus deaths, has suffered a new surge in infections, forcing authorities to build makeshift hospitals and quarantine facilities. —AFP
In one Montreal restaurant, patrons are getting a fashion-food two-for-one: Mannequins placed at tables not only ensure social distancing but also sport chic outfits that can be purchased to benefit charity. With Quebec province at the forefront of Canada’s coronavirus pandemic, businesses have been reopening cautiously. Le Monarque, a fashionable restaurant in Old Montreal, reopened its doors just a few days ago—but not without putting some creative safety measures in place first. “We wanted to give customers more space,” chef and owner Jeremie Bastien told AFP. “But we didn’t want to remove tables or put up Plexiglas panels.”
Bringing worlds together
So when Le Monarque fired up its ovens a few days ago, it took several steps to ensure social distancing. The idea of filling some seats with mannequins, thus providing separation between human clients, came from the team behind the Sarah Pacini clothing line, including prominent Quebec menswear designer Philippe Dubuc. “We wanted to make a stylish, high-end installation because we are bringing two worlds together, those of fashion and gastronomy,” said Dubuc, adding, “I think these two worlds have always been close.” The restaurant’s 29 mannequins all sport Sarah Pacini and Philippe Dubuc designs. They are meant to be “visually beautiful,” both inspired by and fitting in with their elegant surroundings. “We are there, of course, to create and market our clothing,” Dubuc said. “But we are also there because our job is to make people dream.”
Nassim Habashi, who was enjoying lunch at Le Monarque, approved, saying, “I think it’s a wonderful idea both to mark the separation between tables and to make the atmosphere much more pleasant, given the current situation.” At the end of each meal clients are given a gift certificate redeemable in Sarah Pacini and Philippe Dubuc outlets. Chef Bastien says the partnership has been “very advantageous” for both sides. But he stresses that it is about more than just “creating distance or dressing up the space.”
The idea, he said, was to “go a bit deeper (and) figure out what we can do to help the people around us who have suffered during the pandemic.” The mannequins’ clothes are not yet for sale. But restaurant patrons will eventually have a chance to take part in a “silent auction” and purchase the clothing they see—with all profits going to charities. —AFP
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Kamaru Usman put on a ‘Fight Island’ masterclass Sunday to retain his Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight world title by grinding down a brave Jorge Masvidal in Abu Dhabi. “I’m at the top of the mountain and everyone’s looking at me,” declared the 33-year-old Usman after scoring a unanimous points decision 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46 on the three judges’ cards.
The Nigerian-American Usman (17-1) looked the fresher with Masvidal (35-14) having taken the UFC 251 headline bout at just six days’ notice when Brazil’s Gilbert Burns (19-3) tested positive for COVID-19 and was unable to travel. The Las Vegas-based UFC pulled off a power-packed schedule with three world title fights to kick off a series of mixed martial arts cards.
It helped fulfil supremo Dana White’s vision of a coronavirus-free ‘Fight Island’, something he first floated when the pandemic caused a global shutdown of sport in March. UFC has decamped to Abu Dhabi’s locked down Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates until the end of July to isolate fighters from the threat of the COVID-19 and ensure the shows roll on.
Strict protocols mean athletes and staff are tested twice before leaving for the UAE, and twice again on arrival, before spending 48 hours in quarantine — measures that caught out Usman’s original opponent Burns (19-3).
Usman never gave the 35-year-old replacement Masvidal the space to land the combinations for which he is noted, and he monstered Cuban-American when the action hit the cage, and the canvas. “Gamebred (Masvidal) is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now and I had to take him,” said Usman.
“I know a lot of noise was made about him preparing on short notice but all these guys are preparing for one guy and that’s me. “I’m just at a level better. I have more tools in the tool box and when I need to I can pull them out and use them.”
The pair had exchanged heated words via social media in the lead-up to the event — Masvidal claiming his opponent had “crossed lines” – and they were chipping away at each other in between rounds. But there were smiles at the end when the judges ruled overwhelmingly in favour of Usman with Masvidal, who was without his coach Mike Brown who had also tested positive for COVID-19, applauding his opponent.
Usman’s 12-0 UFC welterweight record is equalled only by future Hall of Famer Georges St-Pierre (26-2). The headline fight and the two other title fights delivered on the hype that had been built around the “Fight Island” showpiece.
Australian featherweight world champion Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) edged the tightest of split decisions 48-47, 47-48, 48-47 in a thrilling rematch against former champion from Hawaii, Max Holloway (21-6).
Brazil’s former three-time world champion Jose Aldo (28-7) was stopped in the fifth by relentless Russian Petr Yan (15-1) who claimed the vacant bantamweight crown. The 27-year-old Yan rained in blows on his 33-year-old opponent for three minutes before the referee stepped in to save the veteran. “Aldo is a legend. I have only respect for him,” said Yan. “It was a good knockout. I liked it.”
Before those title fights came a brutal women’s strawweight rematch between America’s Rose Namajunas (10-4) and the Brazilian Jessica Andrade (20-8). Andrade had stripped the title from Namajunas in May 2019 by pile-driving her to the canvas for a knockout.
This time the pair traded blows before the 28-year-old Namajunas, her face bloodied, edged a split decision 28-29, 29-28, 29-28. The 38-year-old Namajunas will now likely get a world title shot against champion Zhang Weili (21-1) from China, who took the title from Andrade 11 months ago. — AFP
MADRID: Lionel Messi made it 20 assists for the season in Barcelona’s stodgy 1-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday, even as his team’s La Liga challenge appears almost over. Messi teed up Arturo Vidal’s winner at Jose Zorilla to become the first player to provide 20 assists in Spain’s top flight since Xavi Hernandez in 2009.
Victory for Barca means Real Madrid cannot clinch the title today by beating Granada but only an incredible collapse will prevent them putting their name on the trophy later in the week. If they beat Granada, Madrid will win La Liga by prevailing at home to Villarreal on Thursday, regardless of Barcelona’s results. Overall, Madrid need only five points from their remaining three matches to secure their third La Liga title in eight years. “We are doing things that deserve more than where we are,” said Barca coach Quique Setien.
“To win La Liga, I don’t know, because our rival is winning everything.” Yet even as Barca’s turbulent domestic campaign draws to a close, Messi continues to shine. His delightful pass for Vidal in the 15th minute, a scoop between two Valladolid defenders, triggered more remarkable milestones. As well as matching the best La Liga total for assists by one player in the last 11 years, Messi extends his own career-best number of assists in a single league season.
‘NOT ROCKET SCIENCE’
He also becomes only the second player in the 21st century from the five major European leagues to hit 20 goals and 20 assists in the same campaign, after Thierry Henry in 2002-03. Messi has halted negotiations to extend his current contract, which expires in 2021, perhaps to express frustration with the running of the club.
As Barcelona’s title challenge has wilted, Setien’s position has come under scrutiny too, despite him only taking over in January. But he was bold against Valladolid, deploying a 3-5-2 formation, with Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba as wing-backs and the versatile Sergi Roberto dropping into the back three. Luis Suarez started on the bench but replaced Antoine Griezmann at half-time, the Frenchman enduring one of his quieter displays before having to go off injured. “He came off because he had a problem,” Setien said. “It was him who asked for the change.”
After playing Messi behind Suarez and Griezmann against Villarreal on Sunday, Setien appears to be experimenting, perhaps with an eye on the Champions League’s resumption next month. Or he may be making the best of a stretched squad that appears to be feeling the effects of fatigue. Setien only named five outfield players on the bench. “We’ve had a lot of games, a lot of wear and a lot of players playing a lot of minutes. It’s not rocket science,” he said.
“When you’re tired, you lose more balls, make bad decisions. It’s normal.” The system worked well in the first half but Barca’s problem of converting possession into chances remained and Valladolid grew in confidence late on.
Defeat leaves Valladolid 14th but survival looks all-but secured, with seven points between them and the bottom three. Griezmann snatched at an early finish inside the box before Vidal showed him how it was done. Messi recovered the ball on the edge of the area and after receiving it back from Semedo, scooped it through to Vidal, who gathered and unleashed all in one movement to find the far corner. Valladolid’s Kike Perez raced clear of Gerard Pique but lost his footing at the crucial moment before Messi weaved through but drove wide.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to make two saves in the second half as Valladolid pushed, the first from an Enes Unal header and the second in injury-time, after Sandro Ramirez was allowed space at the back post. Third-placed Atletico Madrid made sure of their place in the Champions League next season with a 1-0 win over Real Betis despite playing more than half an hour with 10 men. Diego Costa grabbed the only goal from a Yannick Carrasco free-kick in the 73rd minute after VAR had earlier ruled out two goals.
Atletico full-back Mario Hermoso had been red-carded in the 57th minute. Earlier, Celta Vigo surrendered a valuable point in the relegation battle by conceding in the 91st-minute to Osasuna, Jose Arnaiz sealing a 2-1 win. Defeat means Celta stay four points clear of the bottom three but having played a game more than those below them. —AFP
SOUTHAMPTON: West Indies captain Jason Holder removed opposing skipper Ben Stokes to trigger an England collapse that saw a late flurry of wickets fall on the fourth day of the first Test at Southampton on Saturday. England were 284-8 in their second innings at stumps, a lead of 170 runs in a match that marks international cricket’s return from lockdown. England fought back during a fourth-wicket partnership of 98 between Zak Crawley and Stokes.
But their 249-4 was soon transformed into 279-8 as five wickets fell for just 30 runs inside the final hour. No sooner had stand-in England skipper Stokes (46) fallen to rival all-rounder Holder for the second time in the match then Crawley was caught and bowled by paceman Alzarri Joseph for a Test-best 76.
Jos Buttler then fell for nine when bowled through a huge gap between bat and pad by Joseph, who had stumps figures of 2-40. And there was still time for Windies spearhead Shannon Gabriel (3-62) to bowl Dom Bess and Ollie Pope.
West Indies hold the Wisden Trophy but they have not won a Test series in England for 32 years. Victory today, however, would put them 1-0 up with two to play. “All you can do is get the two remaining wickets and bat normally,” West Indies coach Phil Simmons told reporters.
“If we bat for five hours tomorrow to chase 180-190 it’s a normal batting day, not a chase where you have to go at it.” But teams have faltered before facing seemingly modest fourth-innings chases and Crawley told Sky Sports: “It should be tight if we bowl well tomorrow. “We’ve definitely got the bowlers to take 10 wickets on there.” England were still one run behind West Indies’ first innings 318 when Crawley came to the crease.
But the 22-year-old, in his fifth Test, completed a well-made fifty when he reverse-swept off-spinner Roston Chase for four before surpassing his previous best of 66 against South Africa at Johannesburg in January. Stokes, skippering the side in the absence of Joe Root, had already top-scored with 43 in England’s meagre first-innings 204 before leading their attack with 4-49.
But towering paceman Holder, number one ahead of Stokes in the ICC’s Test all-rounder rankings, squared up the England talisman and had him caught by Shai Hope, cleverly positioned as the finer of two gulleys for the left-handed batsman.
It was a tactical as well as personal triumph for Holder, with Simmons saying: “It’s what he does. He comes back and puts in the big spells for the team — that’s how he leads. I didn’t expect anything different.” —AFP
There was more joy for the Windies when Crawley, aiming legside, was caught and bowled by Joseph. England resumed on 15-0 in the first of a three-match behind closed doors series. Chase, who took a Test-best 8-60 against England at his Barbados home ground last year, achieved the initial breakthrough Saturday when Rory Burns (42) carelessly cut him to backward point.
Dom Sibley, Burns’ opening partner, made a painstaking fifty. The very next ball saw Sibley play on to Gabriel only for the bowler to be denied by third umpire Michael Gough’s tight no-ball call. But, two balls later, Sibley – still on 50 — glanced Gabriel to Dowrich as he was yet again caught down the legside in his fledgling Test career.
Joe Denly, competing for a place with Sibley when Root returns following the birth of his daughter for next week’s second Test at Old Trafford, needed a big score to bolster a lowly Test average of under 30.
But instead he fell tamely for 29 when chipping Chase to Holder at short midwicket. The West Indies have made the running in this match, with Holder taking a Test-best 6-42 after losing the toss. Kraigg Brathwaite then made 65, the opener’s first Test fifty in 22 innings, and Dowrich 61 as the tourists established a valuable first-innings lead of 114. – AFP
NEW YORK: Investors will watch next week’s earnings from BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, for a snapshot of how the industry performed during the second quarter’s dramatic rebound in global financial markets. Most expect numbers from industry bellwether BlackRock and other asset managers to reflect the sharp stock market rebound. The S&P 500 rose 20 percent in the second quarter after falling as much in the first three months of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic slammed the economy.
Since the performance of asset managers tends to be tied to how markets fare, investors see a range of risks ahead, including further acceleration of US coronavirus cases and potential market volatility around the Nov 3 presidential election. Still, “just on a market level, the asset managers are in much better shape coming out of the second quarter than they were coming out of the first quarter,” said Macrae Sykes, global financial services sector analyst at Gabelli Funds. BlackRock is scheduled to report on July 17, with T. Rowe Price, WisdomTree Investments and Invesco among asset managers reporting in the following weeks.
Analysts expect a strong recovery in the sector’s assets under management (AUM) in the second quarter, driven by rising financial markets and improving risk appetite. Higher levels of AUM mean more fees and stronger margins and earnings, analysts said. BlackRock’s assets fell to $6.47 trillion at the end of the first-quarter, from $7.43 trillion at the end of 2019.
Improving fund flows are also likely to help second-quarter earnings for the group, analysts said. Fixed income flows reversed back into positive territory in April and stayed that way throughout the quarter while equity flows improved from March lows, according to Jefferies. Analysts at Morgan Stanley recently raised their estimate for second-quarter earnings-per-share for traditional asset managers by 19 percent. Most analysts expect BlackRock to show robust flows into its $2 trillion exchange-traded funds business, with strength in the fixed income and alternatives ETFs offsetting outflows from equities.
Investors will also look for details on BlackRock’s role in the Federal Reserve’s debt-buying efforts as the central bank sought to stabilize a corporate bond market roiled by economic fallout of the pandemic. The firm’s own ETFs accounted for a large share of corporate bond ETFs it bought on behalf of the Fed as part of the central bank’s relief program. BlackRock waived asset management fees on ETFs purchased on behalf of the Fed.
BlackRock’s shares are up about 9 percent year-to-date, outperforming a 3 percent decline in the S&P 500. The broader sector has not fared as well, with the Refinitiv US Investment Management & Fund Operators Price Return Index is down about 13 percent for the year. Some investors worry asset managers could take a hit if a resurgent pandemic forces parts of the United States to halt or reverse the reopening of their economies.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs last week said the US economy would shrink by 4.6 percent in 2020, from an earlier forecast of a 4.2 percent contraction. “We remain cautious with equity markets nearing post Covid-outbreak highs amid risk of a market correction should a second coronavirus wave impede the pace of the global economic recovery,” analysts at Deutsche Bank said in a note to clients about the sector. The US presidential election could also heighten market volatility.
A victory by Democratic challenger Joe Biden could threaten Republican policies championed by President Donald Trump and generally favored by Wall Street, including lower corporate tax rates and fewer regulations, analysts said. A separate indication of the financial industry’s health may come next week from several big Wall Street banks set to report earnings, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Morgan Stanley. —Reuters
BEIJNG: China returned to growth in the second quarter after the coronavirus pandemic handed the world’s second largest economy its first contraction in decades, according to an AFP poll of analysts. The survey of analysts from 11 institutions pegged China’s growth at 1.3 percent-a far cry from the 6.1 percent expansion posted last year but in better shape than other countries still grappling with the contagion.
The coronavirus, which first emerged in China’s industrial central province of Hubei late last year, has shut businesses worldwide and destroyed hundreds of millions of jobs. But analysts forecast China will be the only major economy to experience positive growth this year-partly because it was first to be hit by COVID-19 and therefore first to recover. China is expected to post 1.7 percent growth for the full year, according to the economists surveyed by AFP, compared with IMF forecasts of a global contraction. Growth data for the April to June period will be published on Thursday.
The government essentially shut down the country for months to bring the virus under control, halting factory work, keeping workers at home and limiting travel. But activity has resumed as China largely brought the epidemic under control and ended the lockdown of Hubei and its capital Wuhan in April. Authorities were able to rein in an outbreak in Beijing last month with very limited restrictions. Xu Xiaochun of Moody’s Analytics said mass testing and targeted lockdowns in the capital limited economic disruption, giving investors “quiet confidence that China stands ready to prevent a full-blown second wave of infections as the country continues to reopen”.
After the economy sank by 6.8 percent in the first three months of the year-the first contraction since China began logging quarterly data in the early 1990s-the government has turned its focus to stabilizing employment and ensuring living standards. It raised its budget deficit target and set aside one trillion yuan ($140 billion) of government bonds for COVID-19 control, working to prop up businesses hit by the virus fallout. Oxford Economics’ lead economist Tommy Wu expects China to continue recovering from the second quarter onwards “as it is no longer being held back by supply-side disruptions”, with factories back to life.
Gene Ma, head of China research at the Institute of International Finance, said another factor behind recovery is China’s more industrial-based economy. “Industrial sectors can recover faster than service sectors in the wake of the COVID-19 shock,” Ma said. But Xu said there is high uncertainty ahead: “It remains to be seen how the slowdown in external demand will dampen the recovery.”
External demand has been cooling with the manufacturing powerhouse’s key trading partners hit by COVID-19, renewing officials’ calls for businesses to turn towards the domestic market instead.
Other risks include US-China tensions over issues such as cybersecurity, trade and Hong Kong’s national security law, which threaten to reignite the bruising trade war, said Xu. HSBC chief China economist Qu Hongbin expects recovery to be “uneven”, with a pick-up in infrastructure and other public investment but the revival of private sector investment to “remain slow”.
Qu added that consumer spending-a vital engine of China’s economic growth-is expected to lag behind the recovery, impacted “in the absence of a sizeable fiscal rescue package for the affected workers and families.” —AFP
NEW YORK: Tech stocks were going strong even before COVID-19, but behavioral shifts during the pandemic have lifted the sector further into the stratosphere, leaving the broader stock market far behind. The tech-dominated Nasdaq Composite Index has closed at records in six of the last seven sessions, reflecting investors’ confidence that tech companies benefit from the so-called “stay-at-home” trade even as the market has pummeled airlines, hotels and brick-and-mortar retailers.
“There’s clear winners and losers right now in the market,” said Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, who thinks the biggest tech giants could still gain another 30 percent this year. “From a winner perspective, the clear spotlight [is on] tech names.” Technology companies are a “pocket of certainty” in a time of economic weakness, said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial.
The latest surge means that just five companies, the so-called “FAANG” group — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google-now account for more than 20 percent of the value of the S&P 500. With spiking coronavirus cases in the US expected to bolster the dynamics behind the recent surge, the industry’s biggest worry is probably politics, analysts said.
The CEOs of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon are scheduled to appear on July 27 at a Capitol Hill hearing on antitrust issues, possibly raising concerns that the government’s interest will move beyond political noise. “July 27th is an important day to see if it’s more of a political grandstanding event or the beginning of something much broader in terms of going after the breakup of these companies,” Ives said. Krosby agreed that politics remains a wildcard, and if former Vice President Joe Biden wins the battle for the White House in November that could make aggressive action by Washington more likely.
Large tech companies are expected to be a bright spot in the upcoming earnings period, which kicks off this week. While airlines and cruise companies saw revenue drops of 90 percent or more during parts of the second quarter, tech giants such as Amazon and Netflix are projected to see gains of more than 20 percent, according to Wall Street analysts.
The Nasdaq surge also reflects gains by biotech companies working on vaccines and drugs to treat COVID-19, said David Kotok, co-founder of Cumberland Advisors. The sector “is a bargain today,” he said. “Healthcare companies are spending today and the revenue will come tomorrow.”
“I don’t think it’s a bubble,” Kotok added.
While the success of the Nasdaq is the most obvious sign of the tech surge, the broad-based S&P 500 also shows the increased weight of the sector. As the COVID-19 crisis spread, the index removed motorcycle company Harley-Davidson and department stores Nordstrom and Macy’s, replacing them with less familiar names like Tyler Technologies and Bio-Rad Laboratories.
Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said the pace of change could accelerate as fallout from the coronavirus crisis continues to mount. “In turbulent times, you get higher turnover,” Silverblatt said. “The index at some point needs to react to the market and to the economy.”
The information technology group currently accounts for around 28 percent of the S&P 500, up from 16 percent in 2010. Silverblatt declined to comment on speculation that Tesla will soon be added to the S&P 500, but one of the criteria is to post profits over four consecutive quarters, a requirement Tesla could meet when it reports results on July 22.
Shares of the electric car maker have enjoyed a meteoric rise of late, eclipsing even other tech companies, and they now trade at more than four times their level in mid-March. Though Tesla initially struggled to attain profitability, the surge has made it the world’s biggest car company in terms of market value, well above Toyota, General Motors and other traditional auto giants that sell many times the number of vehicles. But some think Tesla’s surge has gotten out of hand, including analysts at JPMorgan Chase, who see “lofty valuation coupled with high investor expectations and high execution risk.” —AFP
KUWAIT: Kuwait’s Ministry of Health said Sunday 836 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the past 24 hours to raise registered cases to 54,894. Ministry spokesman Dr Abdullah Al-Sanad, in a statement to the press, said four people died because of the virus to increase fatalities to 390. He added the new cases were of people who came into close contact with infected persons.
Dr Sanad said 549 of the new cases were Kuwaiti citizens, or 65.67 percent, and 287 non-Kuwaitis, or 34.33 percent. Dr Sanad said the cases were recorded in health districts as follows: 227 in Al-Ahmadi, 195 in Al-Jahra, 175 in Farwaniya, 131 in Hawally and 108 in the Capital. The number of cases undergoing treatment at intensive care units reached 151, with the total count of cases that continued to get medical care amounting to 9,494.
Up to 29 patients were discharged from quarantines, however they would sequester themselves at their houses for 14 days. Dr Sanad revealed that more than 3,835 swab tests for the virus were conducted during the past 24 hours, thus the tally of these examinations exceeded 433,336 since breakout of the contagion in the country.
He appealed, anew, upon citizens and expatriates to continue taking necessary precautions against the infectious disease, be keen on maintaining social distancing and examining online accounts of relevant authorities to remain acquainted with latest directions in this respect. The Ministry of Health announced earlier that 649 persons recovered from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, with the overall count of the recuperated amounting to 44,610. –KUNA
By Nawara Fattahova
KUWAIT: Thousands of customers may have been victims of overcharging by some shipping and delivery companies. During the pandemic, online shopping skyrocketed, but people have complained about paying extra amounts described as customs fees and other unclear charges. Also some customers didn’t receive an invoice or receipt for the fees charged or the invoices were fake.
An inspector with the customer protection department of the ministry of commerce explained to Kuwait Times that the department has experienced a significant increase in complaints from customers regarding shipping fees. “When a consumer complained of being asked to pay excessive fees just to receive his shipment, our inspectors received the complaint and went to the company, which said that these invoices were not issued by the company, blaming the delivery personnel for stealing the money,” the inspector, Abdullah, said.
Consumers have also complained of not being given invoices for their payment, as the deliverymen told them they do not issue receipts. According to ministry decree no. 216/2014, a company or its employees are obliged to give a receipt for any payment they receive. Some shipping companies issue invoices with unclear or wrong fee descriptions, and only in English. According to the abovementioned decree, issuing the invoice only in English is a violation, as it should also be issued in Arabic, which is the official language of Kuwait.
Regarding the fees, some are inflated or overcharged. Customs fee is set at KD 1 by the General Administration of Customs. This was confirmed by an official statement by its General Director Jamal Al-Jalawi during a live TV show on KTV broadcasted in January, during which he said the customs fee is KD 1 only, and any additional fee can be reported to the general prosecution.
Also, many companies demand fees for shipping and handling from the consumer. These may be double-charged fees since the shipper has in most cases already paid for the package to be shipped and handled. Basically, the shipping company is charging twice for the same service, irrespective of whether customers have already paid in advance or whether the sellers paid it by offering free shipping.
Due to the high number of customer complaints, a Kuwaiti online shopper outraged by the excessive charges by shipping companies launched a campaign to combat such practices. This campaign was launched on social media through the hashtag #ExemptingPersonalShipments. “We launched this campaign to get the support of the ministry of commerce and customs administration, which are not performing their duties,” said Mubarak Al-Ajmi, who is behind the initiative.
According to Ajmi, many shipping companies refer to some charges as customs fees, but customs fees should only be KD 1 – any further fees are not set by the customs department. “A source at the customs told me that some companies receive around 6,000 shipments a day, and they charge each customer the fee separately, although they pay once for each shipment consisting of 50 parcels,” he stressed.
The campaign became very popular over the past weeks and even reached the parliament. MP Riyadh Al-Adasani wrote on his Twitter account that increased customs fees on personal shipments should be canceled, assuring he will take action in the future sessions of the parliament. Also, MP Mohammad Al-Huwailah demanded relieving personal shipments under KD 500 of customs fees.
KUWAIT: Sports activities in Kuwait have just passed the first phase of resumption, the body overlooking the sector said on Saturday, citing athletes were subjected to rigorous testing to ensure they were free of the novel coronavirus. Athletes who have not been examined are “strictly prohibited” from resuming training, Kuwait’s Public Authority for Sports’ (PAS) deputy director general Saqer Al-Mulla said in a statement, urging all sports clubs to abide by guidelines and safety precautions outlined by the country’s health ministry.
Sports activities were allowed to restart under rigid health protocols in light of the coronavirus pandemic, amid strict surveillance measures put in place by a tripartite committee comprising PAS, the health ministry and Kuwait’s Olympic Committee, the official added.
To ensure their safety, the athletes will have to respect social distancing guidelines and be mindful of the risks when they carry on individual or group performance training, he explained. After more than three months of shutdown, competitive sport in Kuwait was given the green light to resume last month provided strict conditions are met. — KUNA
KUWAIT: ECMO department at Kuwait’s Adan Hospital has won the Gold Level Center of Excellence Award, provided by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO), in recognition of its life support application. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is one of the top new technologies in ICU units, said Minister of Health Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah in a statement on Saturday, after receiving members of the ECMO department at his office.
He added that this technology is aimed at improving the condition of patients suffering heart and respiratory system failure, by providing sufficient levels of oxygen in the bloodstream. The ECMO committee had been preparing for this award for three years, the minister noted.
Kuwait’s center is one of five similar centers out of 44 that won the award in the West Asia and Africa region. The award also considered Adan’s ECMO as one of the best 150 centers out of 1000 worldwide providing such services. — KUNA
KUWAIT: Kuwait Municipality said on Saturday it recently carried out its largest shop closures under phase two of coronavirus lockdown easing, with a total of 122 forced shut due to a lack of health standards and commitment to social distancing. Some nine closures included the “Friday Market, a large supermarket in Mirqab and a famous furniture company at a mall,” Municipality Director Ahmad Al-Manfouhi said in a statement.
They come after 113 shops were sealed off before the June 30 phase two of lockdown easing. The Municipality will not hesitate to shut down any shop or market found not complying with health and safety precautions issued by the Cabinet and the Ministry of Health, he said. The official added that after being granted approval for the reopening, health authority precautions and social distancing rules at the Friday Market were not observed, therefore the decision was taken to close the outdoor venue.
Meanwhile, Manfouhi led a Municipality team that went on an inspection tour at Mubarakiya Market yesterday to check on shops’ compliance with precautions set by authorities to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). — KUNA
KUWAIT: Firefighters managed to put out a blaze that erupted in a 2,000-square-metre store of blankets and bags in Jahra governorate’s district of Amghara, Kuwait Fire Service Directorate (KFSD) said on Saturday.
The firefighters, which were dispatched from five different fire stations, cordoned off the area and controlled the fire despite the active wind, the directorate’s media and public relations department added in a statement.
No human injuries were reported, but there were some material losses, it said. An investigation team is working on uncovering the causes behind the incident, it noted. — KUNA