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Coronavirus crisis changing public attitudes in the Middle East, polls suggest

DUBAI: Public opinion surveys conducted in Saudi Arabia and the UAE are revealing a mix of sharp changes in attitudes and an uptick in optimism that the coronavirus crisis will be resolved in the next three months. Nearly two months ago, as coronavirus was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), the…

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DUBAI: Public opinion surveys conducted in Saudi Arabia and the UAE are revealing a mix of sharp changes in attitudes and an uptick in optimism that the coronavirus crisis will be resolved in the next three months.

Nearly two months ago, as coronavirus was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), the online research firm YouGov began tracking attitudes and behaviors surrounding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), using their global research panel of more than 8 million respondents.

When YouGov published its first findings on March 18, 64 percent of Saudi residents said they were scared of catching the virus; the corresponding figure for the UAE was 61 percent.

On May 6, YouGov released the eighth wave of their tracker data, which suggests that the threat perception has only increased: 75 percent of Saudi respondents reported being fearful of contracting the infection while 73 percent of UAE residents felt the same way.

Just 7 percent described themselves as “Not at all scared that I will contract COVID-19,” while 12 out of the 2,002 people surveyed reported having already contracted the virus.

Globally, over 4 million people have been infected by COVID-19 and more than 276,000 of them have died.

In Saudi Arabia, the number of confirmed cases now exceeds 35,000 while the UAE has reported 16,793 confirmed cases.

A Saudi man, wearing a protective mask as a precaution against COVID-19 coronavirus disease, walks with his wife along Tahlia street in the centre of the capital Riyadh. (AFP/File Photo)

With widespread and persistent fear of the illness continuing to dominate daily life, it is unsurprising that 46 percent of Saudi and UAE residents strongly feel that the pandemic will permanently change the way we live and interact with each other.

Just 8 percent of respondents do not agree with the statement “The coronavirus pandemic will permanently change the way we live and interact with each other.”

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have managed to keep COVID-19 fatality cases to less than 1 percent of the total number of infections — among the lowest ratios in the world, going by available data.

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62% of KSA and UAE residents have increased socializing online.

66% of residents are spending more time social media browsing.

According to self-reported figures, just 0.66 percent of those contracting the virus in Saudi Arabia die from the disease where as In the UAE, the figure is 0.93 percent.

These figures are lower than the WHO’s latest estimated mortality rate of 3.4 percent (by comparison, seasonal flu globally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected).

The low mortality rates of Saudi Arabia and the UAE can perhaps be explained by their high testing rates, young populations and effective social distancing measures.

Volunteers distribute Iftar meals to migrant workers keeping distance from each other during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan within the initiative of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, to distribute 10 million meals. (AFP/File Photo)

YouGov data suggests that the practice of social distancing has been widely adopted in both countries.

Indeed, 98 percent of Saudi and UAE respondents said they have changed their daily behaviors and are now taking precautionary measures.

These include avoiding crowded places (78 percent), wearing a face mask (71 percent), improved personal hygiene (74 percent) and working from home (47 percent).

In the UAE, where wearing a face mask is now mandatory in public, 80 percent of respondents said they are complying with this measure.

The corresponding figure for Saudi Arabia is lower, at 63 percent.

By contrast, the percentage of people who said they are working from home in Saudi Arabia is higher (54 percent) than in the UAE (44 percent).

And as the Gulf countries enter the second week of the holy month of Ramadan, the YouGov data indicates that the coronavirus is not only changing residents’ daily habits, but also having an impact on some of their oldest traditions.

A security guard checks temperature of man arriving at a shopping mall, as a screening precaution against the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, in the Saudi capital Riyadh on May 4, 2020, as malls reopen after authorities began a partial lifting of the coronavirus lockdown. (AFP)

With more residents observing Ramadan at home, 50 percent of UAE and Saudi respondents reported spending more money on essential items such as groceries, 45 percent of residents said they are watching more TV than in previous years, and 49 percent said they are watching more online content.

With 68 percent reporting fewer in-person gatherings, many residents are looking online to maintain connections with friends and families.

The YouGov data suggests 62 percent of Saudi and UAE residents have increased the amount of time they are spending socializing online through messaging or video calling and 66 percent are spending more time social media browsing.

Data released by YouGov in early April suggests that an increasing number of people (51 percent) in Saudi Arabia and the UAE are concerned about losing their jobs.

Notably, UAE residents are much more worried about this outcome compared with those of Saudi Arabia (64 percent vs 38 percent).

People wearing masks for protection against the coronavirus, walk in the Mall of Dubai on April 28, 2020, after the shopping centre was reopened as part of moves in the Gulf emirate to ease lockdown restrictions. (AFP/File Photo)

Mindful of a challenging time ahead, 58 percent of Saudi respondents said they have decreased their spending on non-essential items since last year.

The proportion of UAE residents who expressed the same sentiment was higher, 61 percent.

At the same time, the streak of generosity remains strong as ever, with 39 percent of respondents saying that they have increased their charitable donations since last year.

In the two countries, 35 percent said their charitable giving is the same as last year, with just 20 percent saying this amount has decreased since last year.

The virus impact is being felt positively in other areas as well.

Going by the YouGov tracker data, a majority of residents in Saudi Arabia and the UAE feel that the coronavirus crisis will have a positive impact on life as they know it.

Only 10 per cent (most likely 18-24-year-olds) said they feel that nothing positive will emerge from the experience.

A Saudi man, wearing a protective mask as a precaution against COVID-19 coronavirus disease, walks along Tahlia street in the centre of the capital Riyadh on March 15, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

The vast majority of respondents (61 percent) agree that coronavirus pandemic will have a positive impact on the environment; 55 percent feel that it will lead to greater appreciation of family and social ties; and 34 percent believe it has the potential to drive transformation in technology.

The data suggests, however, that the two countries’ residents are divided on when and how the coronavirus crises is likely to be resolved.

In terms of numbers, 37 percent were optimistic that a global resolution would happen by the end of June; 53 percent said by the end of August; and 66 percent by the end of the year.

Whilst the majority are optimistic, 13 percent expect the crisis to continue into 2021 and a further 21 percent do not know or cannot say when the crises might end.

Many in the Kingdom and the UAE think waiting for a vaccine to materialize before resumption of normal activities might not be possible.

Just 9 percent said that they would need a vaccine to be ready before they feel comfortable visiting shopping malls.

One in five people feel that an effective coronavirus treatment is the key to getting life back to normal.

Overall, a mere 20 percent of Saudi and UAE respondents said they would feel comfortable visiting restaurants, cinemas, shopping malls and hotels even if a medicine to treat coronavirus was made widely available.

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American Voter: Matthew Pinna

US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States. Trump has been focusing on “law and order”, Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement, and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues…

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US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States.
Trump has been focusing on “law and order”, Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement, and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president.
As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why.
Matthew Pinna
[Courtesy of Matthew Pinna]Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Cook County, Illinois 
Voted in 2016 for: N/A
Will Vote in 2020 for: Donald Trump
Top Election Issue: The Economy 
Will you vote? Why or why not?
“Yes, I will be voting this upcoming election. I really don’t feel an overwhelming compulsion to vote, but I do believe voting should be something one does as a member of a democracy – it’s a civic duty. But I also wouldn’t feel bad if someone decided not to vote. It’s their choice.”
What is your number one issue?
“I would say the economy. As a senior in college, I would say the job market is one of the most pressing things on my mind as well as my fellow classmates’. And so, ensuring that there’s an economy out there after I graduate – as well as for my parents – it’s very important for me.”
Who will you be voting for?
“I’ll be voting for Donald Trump in the upcoming election.”

Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?
“Economically I would say that I favour his [policies]. I like what he’s done with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – I felt that was one of the crowning achievements of his four years, and I feel like four more years of Trump would bring in similar economic gains that we’ve seen under that act.”
Are you happy with the state of the country?
“I would say I’m happy, in terms of how it’s doing economically. I would say in terms of civility, certainly, our country seems to be a bit divided. But I would also note that a lot of that appears to be the work of the media or whatnot, because as a person who goes to school with a variety of people of all different walks of life, as a person who attended Marine Corps Officer Candidate School this summer, I got to see a bunch of people of all different backgrounds, and everyone does get along. It’s just those rare examples that are seen on the media that tend to be blown out of proportion and made to seem as if they’re indicative of our entire culture.”
What would you like to see change?
“I’ll speak towards Trump and say that I would like to see some more ‘presidential behaviour’. I would say [that] during the first four years … or especially as he entered office, I was a fan of his unorthodox methods. But now that he’s become a more established figure within politics, it would be nice to see some decorum and some measured calmness when it comes to handling issues, especially like the coronavirus epidemic.”
Do you think the election will change anything?
“I don’t think so, no. At the end of the day, we’re still America, and we’re still good people who still want to do right by our families. And at the end of the day, that’s still going to be there, regardless of who’s in office.”
What is your biggest concern for the US?
“I’d say [my] biggest concern for America would be foreign policy-wise when it comes to looking at China. I would say China’s growth as an economic power, as well as military power, is probably the most concerning thing for America to keep an eye on. And I think [China] and not Russia, should be the focus of our foreign policy efforts.
“Not entirely dissimilar to the Cold War, you have two competing ideologies here – one more, although communist in name, that appears to [have] elements [of a] significantly more authoritarian government – and especially when you compare that with our more civil rights, freedom-based system we have here. Those two ideologies certainly clash and we’re already seeing conflicts in the China Sea … So we’re coming to some sort of a head, it seems, and it’s only a matter of time I feel before something happens.”

Is there anything we haven’t asked about the election that you want to share?
“I would say an important aspect of the election is really looking at, less so much the Republican Party, but more so looking at what this implication means for the Democratic Party going forward. Especially in the primaries, [we] saw a significant split in ideology – on one hand, you have Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, you have Joe Biden, who essentially is the definition of establishment when it comes to his ties with the Obama administration and his long-lasting tenure with the party.
“Seeing what happens this election, whether he wins or loses, is going to have some pretty severe ramifications for the makeup of the party going forward. And I would just say to people to keep an eye out – in the nascent and progressive wing of the party – and see what happens with that. What I see is an ongoing power struggle between the establishment and the progressives.”

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USFK: 7 service members from US test positive for COVID-19

Seven more service members affiliated with U.S. Forces Korea have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those service members, four had taken government-chartered flights to Osan Air Base between Oct. 5 and Oct. 19, while another three headed into Incheon International Airport on a commercial flight on Oct. 18 and Oct. 19, according to the command.…

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Seven more service members affiliated with U.S. Forces Korea have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those service members, four had taken government-chartered flights to Osan Air Base between Oct. 5 and Oct. 19, while another three headed into Incheon International Airport on a commercial flight on Oct. 18 and Oct. 19, according to the command. USFK policy dictates that all service members arriving in South Korea must undergo a COVID-19 test and then remain quarantined for at least 14 days. Service members will receive a subsequent COVID-19 test after the two-week period, to ensure they test negative before their release or can be isolated if they test positive. Four of the seven service members tested positive during the initial test and three tested positive during the second test, USFK said. All who have tested positive are currently at Camp Humphreys in isolation. More than a dozen service members affiliated with USFK have tested positive for COVID-19 this month either after initially arriving in South Korea from the U.S., or after a mandatory two week quarantine. Last week, USFK announced that is was lowering its Health Protection Condition to Bravo across the entire peninsula and cited “low numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases within the greater Seoul metropolitan area.” The new order took effect on Monday. Per Department of Defense guidance, HPCON Bravo means that the risk is moderate and there has been an increase in community transmissions. Sign up for the Early Bird Brief Get the military’s most comprehensive news and information every morning (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Early Bird Brief. “USFK’s #1 priority remains the protection of the force,” USFK Commander Army Gen. Robert Abrams said in a statement. “We must balance the overall health, safety and protection of the force with mission accomplishment.” Abrams announced Friday that he is currently in quarantine in South Korea, after returning from the U.S. Day #7 quarantine update:SOT and thanks @mac_tremblay and Team Humphreys for a delicious lima bean lunch. Yum-yum! .cc @broadcastmike @PatDonahoeArmy pic.twitter.com/sm8oSeGl5X— Robert Abrams (@DogFaceSoldier) October 22, 2020 A USFK soldier stationed at Camp Carroll was the first U.S. service member to test positive for COVID-19 back in February. The 23-year-old soldier was declared virus-free after 49 days in isolation in April. The Pentagon has reported more than 52,300 COVID-19 cases among military personnel, 12,000 cases among DoD civilians, 7,200 cases among dependents, and 4,880 cases among contractors. There have been a total of eight deaths among military personnel, per the Pentagon.

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4 best uses for Amazon Echo in your living room – CNET

Place your Echo somewhere in the living room. Chris Monroe/CNET If you’ve got a living room, you probably spend a lot of time there, which makes it the perfect home for your Amazon Echo (at least better than putting it one of these places). And while you may use Alexa to drop in on other…

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Place your Echo somewhere in the living room.
Chris Monroe/CNET
If you’ve got a living room, you probably spend a lot of time there, which makes it the perfect home for your Amazon Echo (at least better than putting it one of these places). And while you may use Alexa to drop in on other speakers in the house or play music, there are other benefits to keeping an Echo device in the living room.  For example, Alexa can turn your living room into a home theater, and can even let you control all your smart home devices from your couch. We suggest keeping Echo devices away from windows to prevent outsiders from having access to your household Alexa — while a rare occurrence, it is a possibility. Here are the best uses for an Amazon Echo in your living room.

Our weekly newsletter puts the best Amazon smart speaker tips right in your inbox.

Your Echo can provide surround sound If you’ve got an Amazon Echo, you can turn your living room into a home theater for when you’re watching movies. Note that you do need to have compatible hardware. This works best if you have multiple Echo speakers in your living room or an Alexa-compatible soundbar. To get started, open the Alexa app and select Devices, tap the Plus icon and select Set Up Audio System. For the best results, you’ll need an Alexa-compatible smart TV or Fire TV to help prevent any lag issues. This also determines whether you’ll select Stereo Pair (connect multiple speakers) or Home Theater (connect speakers to Fire TV) to continue setting up your devices. Follow the onscreen instructions to finish pairing your speakers with your TV.

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Alexa can control your lights Whether it’s plugging your lamp into a smart plug, installing a smart switch or simply using a smart bulb, Alexa can help you turn your lights on and off. This is especially useful when it’s dark and you can’t seem to find the light switch in the middle of the night. For whichever smart device you have, you’ll need to connect it to your Amazon Echo using the Alexa app. To get started, open the app and tap Devices, then select the Plus icon and tap Add Device. Select the device you’re setting up and follow the onscreen instructions. Alexa can control your lights with a smart switch, plug or bulb.
Chris Monroe/CNET
Lock and unlock your front door from your couch If you like to keep your doors locked, even when you’re at home, smart locks can be useful for locking and unlocking your door with just your voice. Even better, you can connect it to your Echo speaker so you can ask Alexa to control your lock without moving from the couch. For example, you’d say, “Alexa. Lock the front door.” For security reasons, typically a smart lock twill lock the door in response to voice commands, but will only unlock it with a PIN code. Family game nights Playing the same board games over and over can get boring. Fortunately, your Echo device is chock-full of fun games you can play, from trivia to investigation games. Some of the games are already integrated into the Echo speaker, but many are Alexa skills that you can enable in the Alexa app. The games are great for family nights when you’re staying home — especially with the temperature cooling down. For some starting ideas, here’s a list of Alexa games we like best. For more tips, here are the best uses for Amazon Echo in your bedroom, the best things you can do with two or more Echo devices and the five best ways to use Amazon Echo in the kitchen.

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