Saudi seals off Shiite region, halts travel over coronavirus


first_imgExcept for essential services such as pharmacies and gas stations, work will stop in all government and private institutions in Qatif, the statement added.Although the ministry said the lockdown was temporary, it risks fuelling resentment in the flashpoint region whose residents have long accused the Sunni-dominated government of discrimination, a charge Riyadh denies.The government also decided to temporarily suspend “the travel of citizens and residents to the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, South Korea, Egypt, Italy and Iraq, as well as suspend the entry of those coming from those countries,” SPA reported.”The kingdom also decided to stop air and sea travel between the kingdom and the mentioned countries,” it added. The decision is expected to leave expat workers from those countries as well as Saudi travellers stranded.Saudi Arabia also announced it was closing all public and private universities and schools across the country from Monday until further notice, SPA reported. Pilgrimage suspended Saudi Arabia has blamed arch-rival Iran for its spike in coronavirus cases, while condemning Tehran for allowing its citizens entry without stamping their passports.The Saudi government has reminded its nationals of a standing ban on travel to Iran, as the two countries are locked in a battle for regional supremacy.Iran is home to key shrines and pilgrimage sites for Shiites, who make up between 10 and 15 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population of 32 million.The kingdom has also suspended the “umrah” year-round pilgrimage over fears of the disease spreading to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in the west.The unprecedented suspension of the umrah has raised uncertainty over the annual hajj pilgrimage, scheduled for the end of July.The pilgrimages, a major source of revenue, could also be a source of contagion and the move mirrors a precautionary approach across the Gulf to cancel mass gatherings — from concerts to sporting events.Bahrain’s Formula 1 Grand Prix scheduled for March 20-22 will be held without spectators, the organisers said Sunday, the latest sporting event to be affected by measures to contain the disease.Saudi Arabia is also grappling with a coronavirus-led slump in oil prices just as it seeks to raise funds to finance Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious economic transformation plan.Topics : Saudi Arabia on Sunday cordoned off an oil-rich Shiite stronghold, suspended air and sea travel to nine countries and closed schools and universities, in a series of measures to contain the fast-spreading coronavirus.The lockdown on Qatif, an eastern area that is home to around 500,000 people, is the first action of its kind across the Gulf region, which has confirmed more than 230 coronavirus cases — most of them people returning from religious pilgrimages to Shiite-majority Iran.Given the kingdom’s 11 recorded cases of the new coronavirus are from Qatif, “it has been decided to temporarily suspend entry and exit” from the area, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).last_img read more

Bank Indonesia makes push to bring street vendors to world of cashless payments


first_img“It takes time to convince small merchants to install the QRIS at their stores, and to inform them that a standardized QR code can simplify their transactions,” Hamid said, adding that he hoped  National QRIS Week would promote awareness among small business on the advantages of cashless transactions.“It would be great if street vendors and wet market sellers used the QRIS for their transactions so they wouldn’t have to be troubled with looking for spare change,” he said.The central bank has set a target of 15 million merchants using e-wallet services in 2020. The bank imposes a fixed fee of 0.7 percent for almost every transaction that uses the QRIS system.Transactions in the education sector and at gas stations charge slightly smaller fees of 0.6 percent and 0.4 percent respectively, while QR code transactions for donations or social assistance will be free from any costs. (mpr) Topics : “Many micro businesses remain untouched by banks, because they won’t provide loans to businesses that don’t have transaction records. With the QRIS, they can use the recorded transactions to apply for loans and gain additional capital,” he told a press briefing on Tuesday.Besides giving micro businesses financial access, Luthor said that the e-wallet’s Rp 2 million (US$139) transaction cap made it more suitable for micro businesses that conducted small business transactions.As of February, the QRIS code had been used by about 2.7 million merchants across the country, according to the central bank’s data. In the same period, in Jakarta alone, the number of merchants using the QRIS code hit 618,337 people, a sharp increase from around 175,000 people in August last year.Despite its rapid expansion, BI Jakarta representative office chief Hamid Ponco said many small businesses and vendors were still reluctant to use the QRIS as they did not fully understand how QR codes worked.center_img Bank Indonesia (BI) is holding a National QRIS Week event across Indonesia to promote cashless transactions among small businesses using its Quick Response Indonesia Standard (QRIS) code system.During the one-week event, which ends March 15, the central bank will disseminate information on the technical details of the QRIS system and the registration process for small businesses that want to begin using a cashless payment system.BI Jakarta financial management director Luthor Tapiheru said he hoped that, in the future, street vendors would accept cashless payments through payment apps such as e-wallets. The use of the QRIS code could also provide transaction records for merchants, which they could use to apply for loans from banks, he added.last_img read more

Bavarian town is first in Germany to impose full lockdown


first_img‘Corona parties’ The state of Bavaria is one of the worst-hit in Germany, according to official figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) disease control centre.But the virus is spreading fast elsewhere too, prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel to appeal to citizens in a TV address on Wednesday evening to limit social interactions.Germany reported an overnight increase of more than 2,800 official cases on Thursday, bringing the total to more than 10,000.Borders have been shut to stem the contagion, while across the country shops have been closed, restaurants forced to operate restricted opening hours and people urged to work from home.But not everyone seemed to have got the message.In Berlin, reports of young people gathering in parks for so-called “corona parties” prompted city mayor Michael Mueller to promise a total lockdown if residents did not start behaving themselves.Bavarian premier Markus Soeder has threatened similar action, in line with lockdowns already seen in Italy, Spain, France and Belgium.”If large numbers of people are not restricting themselves voluntarily, then in the end the only instrument left to react to this is a Bavaria-wide curfew,” Soeder said.For the people of Mitterteich, the unprecedented situation will take some getting used to. “It’s strange, because our streets were never so empty,” said Andreas Degner. “It’s an unsettling feeling, I must say.”But he was determined to look on the bright side.”I’m going to watch films, read… I’ll find something to do. I’ll have enough time.” But they appeared to be taking it on the chin.”It’s good that we are the first town to have this curfew, and it’s also great that it’s being done so consistently,” resident Sandra Wedlich said.She said she worried about her mother and husband who were in the at-risk groups for the virus. “He wanted to go out today and I told him ‘no'”.The drastic measures come after Mitterteich emerged as a coronavirus hotspot, accounting for around half of the roughly 40 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Tirschenreuth.Officials believe many of the infections are linked to a recent beer festival. The streets are deserted and the church square empty in the small Bavarian town of Mitterteich, the first in Germany to go into total lockdown over the spiraling coronavirus outbreak.The 6,500 residents are forbidden from leaving their homes without a valid reason, giving a foretaste of what could lie ahead for the rest of the country where many have defied confinement measures.The people of Mitterteich, located in the district of Tirschenreuth in southern Bavaria, woke up to a different world on Thursday morning. The benches stood vacant outside the town’s picturesque 17th-century church. Apart from the odd delivery van and police car, the cobbled streets remained clear, filled only with the sound of birdsong.On the outskirts of town, police in high-visibility jackets stopped people in their cars as they attempted to drive in and out, granting entry only to residents.According to district administrator Wolfgang Lippert, residents could only leave home if they have to go to work, see a doctor or go grocery shopping. Topics :last_img read more

French national found dead on Bali sidewalk tests positive for COVID-19


first_imgBalinese authorities have confirmed that a French national who died on the resort island six days ago tested positive for COVID-19 post-mortem.His body was found on top of a motorcycle on a sidewalk on Jl. Imam Bonjol in Denpasar on Sunday.  “It was the foreign national who was found on Jl. Imam Bonjol,” Sanglah Hospital official I Ketut Sudartana told The Jakarta Post on Saturday . “It was confirmed after a PCR [polymerase chain reaction] test that he was coronavirus-positive.” It was initially thought that the 72-year-man had a seizure and died of a heart attack. His body was recovered by medical workers wearing hazmat suits. “We are now communicating with the [French] consulate general regarding his cremation,” the head of Bali’s COVID-19 taskforce, Dewa Made Indra, said, adding that the consulate would contact his family.Reports of the circumstances of the French national’s death came amid concerns that Bali has been underreporting COVID-19 cases. As of Friday, Bali reported only four confirmed cases, none of which were cases of local transmission, officials said. The first case was a British national who died at Sanglah Hospital. Like the French national, she was confirmed to have had the coronavirus after her death. The other two cases are Balinese residents who returned from Italy and Jakarta, two regions that are struggling to contain the virus. Experts have said that the low number of cases was “scientifically odd”.   Bali has been hit hard by the global pandemic, which has hurt global tourism. However, the resort island only decided to close its tourist sites yesterday after an instruction from the central government. It also decided to limit congregational rituals for Nyepi (Day of Silence). (mfp)Editor’s note: The article has been updated to correct the attribution of the first direct quote. Topics :last_img read more

Qatar makes wearing masks outside mandatory with violators fined up to $50,000


first_imgQatar reported 1,733 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours for a total of 28,272 cases and a total of 14 deaths. Qatar’s interior ministry announced on Thursday that wearing masks will be mandatory to go outside starting Sunday, and those who do not comply will be fined up to 200,000 riyals ($53,000).Violators could also be jailed up to three years, or either of those punishments, according to a statement on the ministry’s Twitter account.The statement added that the only exception will be if the person is alone driving in a vehicle. Topics :last_img

Sri Lanka lifts virus lockdown, says ‘no community spread’


first_img“The curfew has completely been lifted effective from today,” President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office said in a statement.Health officials said new infections reported since April 30 were from Sri Lankans stranded in the Middle East who were brought home on special flights and quarantined.A cluster in a navy camp was controlled with the facility still in lock down, they said.”There has been no community spread of the virus and the infections at the Welisara navy camp are now contained,” a health official told AFP. Air and sea borders remained closed, with international flights suspended.Authorities plan to reopen Sri Lanka’s borders on August 1, but the date could be reviewed due to the imported cases, the official added.Sri Lanka will also hold its parliamentary elections at the start of August after they were postponed due to the pandemic.Around 2,000 infections including 11 deaths have been recorded in the South Asian nation so far, according to government figures. Topics :center_img Sri Lanka’s nationwide lockdown was lifted Sunday after a selective curfew a month ago was reimposed during a surge in coronavirus infections, the country’s president said.The island nation imposed the lockdown on March 20 and lifted it gradually over the past two months, although a nighttime curfew remained in place.It reintroduced tighter restrictions in late May and early June to curb large gatherings for the funeral of a popular government minister and for a religious festival.last_img read more

Jakarta extends transition phase, postponing further relaxation by 14 days


first_img“[We] still need to improve the public’s discipline in three important aspects, [namely] using face masks, washing hands regularly and maintaining a [physical] distance,” Anies said during a press conference live-streamed on Wednesday.Jakarta had already extended for a third time its PSBB on June 4 until the end of last month, a period described as Jakarta’s “transitional” phase to loosening restrictions, after research data showed that the epidemiological trend of new COVID-19 cases and deaths had declined.On Wednesday, Anies claimed that Jakarta had achieved a score of 71 in the pandemic indicator designed by a team from the University of Indonesia’s (UI) Public Health department, slightly surpassing the advised minimum score of 70 for relaxing restrictions.Read also: Indonesia’s latest official COVID-19 figures Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan has announced that the capital is extending its transitional COVID-19 mobility restrictions by 14 days and tightening supervision of traditional markets and train services.The city administration had decided to keep its large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) in place until July 15 after reviewing the situation of the pandemic in the capital with the COVID-19 task force, Anies said.He highlighted the need for Jakarta to avoid a spike in infections once the administration started to relax curbs. The index takes into account epidemiological conditions, public health and health facilities.The capital had tested around 1,400 residents per 1 million population, exceeding the minimum of 1,000 tests per million people recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), Anies said.Anies said residents needed to be more disciplined in wearing face masks, washing their hands and maintaining a distance from one another to avoid a future spike in COVID-19 cases.The city administration would also deploy military, police and administration officers to supervise the implementation of health protocol at traditional markets and on commuter trains, as those places had become hotbeds of transmission.Officers would guard every entrance and exit of all 153 city-owned markets and 150 community markets in the capital and limit the number of visitors to 50 percent of the market’s capacity at any given time. In exchange, markets were allowed to return to their regular operating hours.Read also: Jakarta pedestrians allowed to exercise at 32 alternative CFD locationsFor the commuter trains, officers would cooperate with state-owned railway operator PT Kereta Commuter Indonesia (KCI) to supervise passenger limitations at stations.“Transmissions in other places, such as office buildings, shopping centers and other public transportation services is pretty much under control, but work remains to be done at traditional markets and commuter trains,” Anies said.Although the new school year is scheduled to start on July 13, Anies said Jakarta had no plans to reopen schools yet, with online learning expected to continue as the provincial health agency warned that children were more susceptible to infection. The governor said the majority of COVID-19 cases in the capital were active, and many of the cases were asymptomatic residents found to be positive through door-to-door tests conducted by community health centers (Puskesmas) rather than hospitalized patients.“[We will continue to] test, track and isolate [these patients],” he continued. “That way, we want Jakarta citizens to have confidence that the government is taking all steps to protect and guarantee the safety of its citizens.”Topics :last_img read more

Value of assets seized in Jiwasraya case exceed the Rp 16.81 trillion state losses


first_imgThe assets seized from the defendants range from cash, mutual funds, land to apartment units – all collected by investigators since the beginning of their probe on Dec. 17, assistant attorney general for general crimes Ali Mukartono said.Ali said the total value of the seized assets had exceeded the Rp 16.81 trillion in state losses incurred by Jiwasraya’s investment mismanagement as audited by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) from 2008 to 2018.“We are trying our best to restore state losses caused by the [investment] mismanagement,” Ali said during a hearing with the House of Representatives Commission III overseeing legal affairs on Thursday.Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker Trimedya Panjaitan applauded what he called progress in the AGO’s investigation. Topics : The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has seized Rp 18.5 trillion (US$ 1.32 million) in assets from six defendants standing trial in the PT Asuransi Jiwasraya corruption and money laundering case. The defendants include former Jiwasraya president director Hendrisman Rahim and two other former Jiwasraya executives – who are all accused of mismanaging premium revenue from the JS Saving Plan, one of Jiwasraya’s insurance products, by investing it in multiple assets. Three other defendants are executives of three different companies, including a publicly listed property firm, who are accused of manipulating Jiwasraya’s investment for personal gain.The alleged investment mismanagement resulted in the company’s failure to pay out Rp 16 trillion in matured policies due in February to its policyholders.center_img The AGO named last week 13 new suspects in the case — all investment management companies — for allegedly helping the six defendants launder the premium revenue collected by Jiwasraya from 2014 to 2018.It has also named a Financial Services Authority (OJK) official, identified as FH, a suspect in the case. He is suspected of abuse of power, which is believed to have paved the way for Jiwasraya’s investment mismanagement during FH’s tenure as OJK department head of capital market monitoring from 2014 to 2017.Trimedya, however, suggested that the AGO also examine the liquidity of the assets so that it could easily convert them into cash to restore state losses.“Imagine if some of the land has been used by the defendants as collateral to get loans from banks. It would be really hard to convert them into cash,” he said.NasDem Party lawmaker Taufik Basari said the AGO should not only try to restore the state losses but also find a way to return all premiums that had been paid by JS Saving Plan policyholders.last_img read more

Dutch police uncover ‘torture’ containers used by criminals


first_imgDutch police found an “underworld prison” with a torture chamber hidden inside seven shipping containers following a huge hack of a Europe-wide criminal phone system, officials said Tuesday.The torture cell was kitted out with a dentist’s chair along with gruesome equipment including pruning shears, a saw, scalpels and pliers, Dutch police said.Six suspects were arrested after armed police raided a warehouse with the containers using information from a Franco-Dutch operation to infiltrate the EncroChat encrypted phone system. One container, referred to as the “treatment room” by criminals in tapped conversations was kitted out “with a dentist’s chair and straps to the arm and feet rests,” police said.Police recovered pruning shears, loppers, a saw, scalpels, pliers, handcuffs, finger cuffs and masking tape, saying the implements were “to torture victims or in any case, to put them under pressure”.Dutch police chief Jannine van den Berg said the discovery of the cells came after French and Dutch police hacked the EncroChat network, which was announced last week along with the arrest of around 800 people around Europe.”We already announced then that there was more to come. The discovery of this underworld prison is an example of this,” she said.Topics : “Six served as prison cells in which people could have been tied up and one other container had the sole purpose of being a torture chamber,” said Andy Kraag, head of Dutch police’s central investigations division.A video supplied by police showed armed officers raiding the premises, situated near the southern Dutch city of Bergen op Zoom, south of Rotterdam.The containers were soundproof and covered inside with tin foil in what police believe was a bid to make them invisible to thermal imaging cameras. All had handcuffs installed to the floor and the ceiling.The kidnappings of the people destined for the cells were planned with “great precision”, police said, involving several teams, weapons, and fake police clothes, vans, stop signs and bullet proof vests.last_img read more

Indonesian businesses ramp up cybersecurity budget amid rampant attacks


first_imgIndonesian companies plan to increase their cybersecurity budget this year amid the high number of cyberattacks during the pandemic, signalling a growing awareness and commitment in digital safety, a survey by a cybersecurity company shows.US-based Palo Alto Networks stated that, based on the firm’s survey in February, around 84 percent of Indonesian companies planned to raise their IT budget this year, 44 percent of which would allocate more than half of their IT budget to cybersecurity investment.The number of companies in Indonesia committed to increasing the IT budget is higher than the ASEAN average of 73 percent. In May, three Indonesian e-commerce platforms, including Tokopedia, reportedly experienced data breaches in which their customers’ details were stolen, which were then sold on the dark web.A report by American tech company Microsoft, titled Security Endpoint Threat Report 2019, stated that developing countries, including Indonesia, were most vulnerable to malware and ransomware threats in 2019.Read also: IBM advises tighter cybersecurity in new remote work eraIn line with the finding, the survey revealed that most of the companies considered having antimalware and antivirus software as the most important cybersecurity tools.“Companies are overwhelmed by the complexity of multiple security tools. They need a single platform that can give them integrated protection from cyberattacks,” he said. “But as Indonesian companies increase their cybersecurity investment, there is a willingness to fix this and become more confident.”However, despite efforts to enhance their security, 44 percent of Indonesian companies still lack confidence in their cybersecurity investments.Surung said the reason for the lack of confidence was that companies were doubtful in their employees’ cybersecurity awareness, or the fact that their security infrastructure was outdated as well as a lack of end-to-end protection.Palo Alto Network’s survey also showed that companies considered digital payment and e-commerce platforms as the top window for attackers to take advantage of. The reason was both platforms contained much financial data that hackers could immediately use for personal gain, Surung added.According to Bank Indonesia, electronic transactions increased to Rp 15 trillion (US$1 billion) in May compared to Rp 12.8 trillion in the same period last year. Meanwhile, the central bank recorded e-commerce transactions growing 26 percent during the pandemic.Surung stated that 39 percent of companies were most concerned about losing their external data such as user information, while 37 percent were worried about internal data loss such as employees’ personal data.E-commerce platform senior manager of information security Ricky Setiadi told The Jakarta Post on July 17 that malware and phishing attacks were some of the main threats Blibli continuously took precautions for, as both were potential entrance points for further data breaches.“The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to cybersecurity risk profiles that diverge from those seen during normal conditions,” he said. “Therefore, we have adapted our budgets to conduct the necessary system and protocol upgrades to address the shift in risk profiles and maintain the integrity of our security systems.”Similarly, e-wallet provider LinkAja chief technology officer Arman Hazairin said in an e-mail on July 16 that the company also experienced increased transactions during the pandemic, which led to added supervising and preventive measures to increase cybersecurity.“This means allocating more resources, including funds, people and time, for cybersecurity,” he said.While e-wallet platform DANA refused to comment on its cybersecurity budget, the company’s communication vice president Steve Saerang said that it was already equipped with an artificial intelligence-based risk engine to analyze unusual transactions and biometric verification as fraud prevention measures.Topics : “Almost all companies in the country have put cybersecurity as their business enabler in this digital era,” said Palo Alto Networks Indonesia country manager Surung Sinamo in a press briefing on July 15. “This shows that we are moving on the right track in terms of digital safety awareness.”He went on to say that the top reasons these companies increased their budget were to tackle the growing number of sophisticated cyberattacks, upgrade their existing security framework and keep up with competitors.“Attackers are now using artificial intelligence, so it is important for businesses to start relying on automation such as machine learning for security,” he said, adding that one of Palo Alto Network’s banking clients had seen a 200 percent increase in cyberattacks during COVID-19 compared to usual.Indonesia recorded more than 88 million cyberattacks during the first four months of the year, with more than half of the cyberattacks being malware and phishing scams, according to the National Cyber and Encryption Agency (BSSN).last_img read more