Australia’s biggest state to ease coronavirus lockdown from May 15

Anti-lockdown protesters hold placards on the steps of Victoria’s state parliament in Melbourne on May 10, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 10 May 2020

Australia’s biggest state to ease coronavirus lockdown from May 15

  • New South Wales has been worst hit by the coronavirus in Australia
  • ‘Just because we’re easing restrictions doesn’t mean the virus is less deadly or less of a threat’

MELBOURNE: Australia’s most populous state, home to Sydney, will allow restaurants, playgrounds and outdoor pools to reopen on Friday as extensive testing has shown the spread of the coronavirus has slowed sharply, New South Wales state’s premier said on Sunday.
The state has been worst hit by the coronavirus in Australia, with about 45 percent of the country’s confirmed cases and deaths. However, it recorded just two new cases on Saturday out of nearly 10,000 people tested, clearing the way for a cautious loosening of lockdown measures.
“Just because we’re easing restrictions doesn’t mean the virus is less deadly or less of a threat. All it means is we have done well to date,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Sunday.
From May 15, New South Wales will allow cafes and restaurants to seat 10 patrons at a time, permit outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, and visits of up to five people to a household.
Playgrounds and outdoor pools will also be allowed to reopen with strict limits.
The moves are in line with a three-step plan to relax lockdown measures outlined by the Australian government on Friday, which would see nearly 1 million people return to work by July.
Places of worship in New South Wales (NSW) will be permitted to open to up to 10 people from Friday. Weddings, which had been restricted to two guests, will be able to host up to 10, and indoor funerals will be allowed to have 20 mourners.
Schools in NSW are set to reopen from Monday, but only allowing students to attend one day a week on a staggered basis.
Berejiklian gave no time frame for any further reopening of the economy, saying that would depend on infection rates.
“We continue to take a cautious approach in New South Wales, but also one which has a focus on jobs and the economy, because we can’t continue to live like this for the next year or until there is a vaccine,” Berejiklian said.
NSW and Victoria, which has had the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country, have maintained their tight restrictions longer than other states.
Victoria’s premier said he would announce plans for easing lockdown measures in the state on Monday.
Dozens of people protested against the lockdown measures outside Victoria’s state parliament in Melbourne on Sunday, leading police to arrest 10 people for breaching coronavirus restrictions on large gatherings.
“It’s incredibly disappointing that people would be protesting or seeking to suggest we don’t have a pandemic,” Victoria Health Minister Jenny Mikakos told reporters.
Meanwhile Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, told reporters in Canberra that state and federal officials will meet on Monday to discuss ways of dealing with the risks of crowds on public transport as businesses start to reopen.
Western Australia (WA), which shut its borders to combat the spread of the virus and has had only 1 new COVID-19 case in the past 11 days, has moved faster than other states in easing restrictions.
On Sunday, WA Premier Mark McGowan said from May 18 the state would allow indoor and outdoor gatherings of up to 20 people, including at cafes and restaurants.
Queensland state will allow restaurants, pubs and cafes to reopen with up to 10 people at a time from next Saturday, and said it would increase that to 20 people from June 12.
In South Australia, from Monday, holiday travel will be allowed within the state, in a push to revive tourism that has been devastated this year by bush fires and the coronavirus.


Britain’s Iraq war crimes probe dismisses thousands of complaints

Updated 02 June 2020

Britain’s Iraq war crimes probe dismisses thousands of complaints

  • Former lawyer Phil Shiner and a team in Berlin drew on the accounts of more than 400 Iraqis who allegedly witnessed or experienced crimes

LONDON: An independent British investigator looking into allegations that UK soldiers committed war crimes in Iraq between 2003 and 2009 said Tuesday that all but one of the thousands of complaints have been dropped.
The Service Prosecuting Authority director Andrew Cayley told BBC radio that it was “quite possible” that none of the original allegations will lead to a prosecution.
Cayley did not provide details of the allegation in the last remaining case.
British combat troops fought alongside other coalition forces in an effort to quell an Islamic insurgency that followed the 2003 US invasion and subsequent fall and execution of dictator Saddam Hussein.
Former lawyer Phil Shiner and a team in Berlin drew on the accounts of more than 400 Iraqis who allegedly witnessed or experienced crimes ranging from rape and torture to mock executions and other atrocities.
A UK tribunal struck off Shiner after finding him guilty of misconduct and dishonesty in connection with the allegations in 2017.
Cayley told the BBC that it was likely that no action would be taken in a separate International Criminal Court (ICC) probe.
“My sense is these matters are coming to a conclusion,” he said.
A lawyer representing some of the soldiers accused by Shiner called for a public apology over the “vile war crime slurs.”
“At long last, this witch hunt is coming to an end,” lawyer Hilary Meredith said.
The UK Defense Ministry said in 2012 that it had paid £15.1 million ($19 million, 17 million euros) to more than 200 Iraqis who had accused British troops of illegal detention and torture.