New Zealand disarms police as terror threat level lowered

The man accused of shooting dead 50 Muslim worshippers in a Christchurch mosque sat impassively April 5 as a New Zealand judge ordered him to undergo tests to determine if he is mentally fit to stand trial for murder. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 April 2019

New Zealand disarms police as terror threat level lowered

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “there is no current specific threat”
  • Frontline New Zealand police have historically not carried firearms and many people were shocked to see them heavily armed after the Christchurch mosque attacks

WELLINGTON: New Zealand police on Wednesday ended the routine arming of frontline officers as the terrorism threat level was lowered a month after the Christchurch mosques massacre.
Police and security agencies reduced the threat level from high to medium, meaning authorities judge that another attack, violent criminal behavior, or violent protest remains “feasible” rather than “very likely.”
The level is still higher than it was before the March 15 attacks, when the threat was deemed to be “low.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “there is no current specific threat,” but the security agencies believed the medium level “accurately reflects our current status.”
Frontline New Zealand police have historically not carried firearms and many people were shocked to see them heavily armed after 50 Muslims were gunned down while at Friday prayers.
Police commissioner Mike Bush said with the easing of the security threat level, the police had reassessed their position on arming frontline staff and the carrying of weapons would now be decided on a case-by-case basis.
The decision was made after “significant consultation” with mosques and Islamic Centers in relation to ongoing security, although Bush said he would not release details.
“There was never any intention for the routine carriage of firearms to continue indefinitely,” Bush said.
“Generally this means frontline staff will transition back to our normal approach regarding carriage and access to firearms.
The police also released a timeline of the mosque attacks, showing it took 18 minutes from the time of the first emergency call to the apprehension of the alleged shooter.
A 28-year-old Australian, Brenton Tarrant, a self-avowed white supremacist, faces 50 murder charges and 39 of attempted murder over the attack.


New virus cases in China fall for 2nd day, deaths top 2,000

In this picture taken on February 14, 2020, a Malaysia Airlines hostess (R) wearing a protective face mask checks the temperature of a Chinese passenger before she boards a flight to Beijing at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Kuala Lumpur. (AFP)
Updated 25 min 16 sec ago

New virus cases in China fall for 2nd day, deaths top 2,000

  • China may postpone its biggest political meeting of the year, the annual congress due to start in March, to avoid having people travel to Beijing while the virus is still spreading

BEIJING: New virus cases in China continued to fall Wednesday, with 1,749 new infections and 136 new deaths announced after China’s leader said disease prevention and control was at “a critical time.”
The much-criticized quarantine of a cruise ship in Japan to avoid spreading the virus ends later in the day. The 542 cases on the ship were the most in any place outside of China and medical experts have called the quarantine a failure.
The updated figures on the COVID-19 illness for mainland China bring the total for cases to 74,185 and deaths to 2,004. New cases have fallen to under 2,000 daily for the past two days.
Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke about the efforts to control the outbreak in a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described in state media.
Separately, the UN secretary-general told The Associated Press that the virus outbreak “is not out of control but it is a very dangerous situation.” Antonio Guterres said in an interview in Lahore, Pakistan, that “the risks are enormous and we need to be prepared worldwide for that.”
China has locked down several cities in central Hubei province where the outbreak hit hardest, halting nearly all transportation and movement except for the quarantine efforts, medical care and delivery of food and basic necessities.
China also may postpone its biggest political meeting of the year, the annual congress due to start in March, to avoid having people travel to Beijing while the virus is still spreading. One of the automotive industry’s biggest events, China’s biannual auto show, was postponed, and many sports and entertainment events have been delayed or canceled.
Many countries set up border screenings and airlines canceled flights to and from China to prevent further spread of the disease, which has been detected in around two dozen countries and caused almost 1,000 confirmed cases outside mainland China. Five deaths have been reported outside the mainland, in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and France.
The largest number of cases outside China is the 542 on the Diamond Princess at a port near Tokyo.
South Korea evacuated six South Koreans and a Japanese family member from the ship, and they began an additional 14-day quarantine Wednesday. More than 300 American passengers were evacuated earlier and are quarantined in the United States, including at least 14 who had tested positive for the virus.
On Tuesday, the US government said the more than 100 American passengers who stayed on the ship or were hospitalized in Japan would have to wait for another two weeks before they could return to the US
The US also upgraded its travel advisory for China to Level 4, telling its citizens not to travel to anywhere in the country and advising those currently in China to attempt to depart by commercial means.
“In the event that the situation further deteriorates, the ability of the US Embassy and Consulates to provide assistance to US nationals within China may be limited. The United States is not offering chartered evacuation flights from China,” the notice said.
“We strongly urge US citizens remaining in China to stay home as much as possible and limit contact with others, including large gatherings. Consider stocking up on food and other supplies to limit movement outside the home,” the notice said. The US previously flew out scores of its citizens on charter flights from Wuhan but does not have any further plans to do so, it said.
Despite, such warnings, the capital Beijing was showing signs of coming back to life this week, with road traffic at around a quarter of usual up from virtually nothing a week ago. While most restaurants, stores and office buildings remained closed, others had reopened. People entering were required to have their temperatures taken and register their contact information.