Australia records 10th day of no local COVID-19 cases

Australia records 10th day of no local COVID-19 cases
Australia’s international borders will likely remain shut to non-citizens this year although there may be exclusive travel arrangements with its South Pacific neighbors. (AFP)
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Updated 27 January 2021

Australia records 10th day of no local COVID-19 cases

Australia records 10th day of no local COVID-19 cases
  • Victoria state, which is hosting the Australia Open tennis tournament, has gone three weeks without a local case

SYDNEY: Australia recorded a 10th straight day of no new local COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, allowing its most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) to relax coronavirus restrictions after controlling a fast-spreading cluster.
NSW has recorded no local cases for 10 days after low single digit numbers earlier in January. Victoria state, which is hosting the Australia Open tennis tournament, has gone three weeks without a local case.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt tweeted Wednesday marked the 10th day of no community transmission of COVID-19 Australia wide, adding the country’s success comes at a time when global coronavirus cases have crossed 100 million with the death toll surpassing 2 million.
Australia has recorded more than 22,000 local cases since the pandemic began and 909 deaths.
The COVID-free run allowed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklien to ease coronavirus restrictions from Friday, including relaxing rules around mask wearing and increasing numbers in house parties, weddings, funerals and places of worship.
The restrictions had kicked in late last year to successfully curb virus clusters in Sydney’s northern beaches and western suburbs. The outbreaks saw other states and territories close borders or restrict travel from NSW.
Berejiklien hinted that restrictions would be eased further in two weeks if there were no further cases, adding she was “striking the right balance” between economic growth and virus control.
“They both go hand in hand, you can’t have an open economy unless you make sure you get the health settings right,” she said, while urging Sydneysiders to come out and get tested for COVID-19 even for the “mildest of symptoms.”
Despite its relative success in handling the pandemic, Australia’s international borders will likely remain shut to non-citizens this year although there may be exclusive travel arrangements called “bubbles” with its South Pacific neighbors.
Australia suspended a one-way “travel bubble” which allowed New Zealanders entry after a highly infectious coronavirus strain was found in New Zealand.
New Zealand on Wednesday reported two more cases of the South African variant, both returned travelers in hotel quarantine who had previously returned negative test following their 14-day isolation. New Zealand has reported zero community transmission cases in the past three days.
Australia would make a decision on whether or not to lift the ‘trans-Tasman bubble’ suspension on Thursday.


Queen Elizabeth II back at castle following hospital visit

Queen Elizabeth II back at castle following hospital visit
Updated 26 sec ago

Queen Elizabeth II back at castle following hospital visit

Queen Elizabeth II back at castle following hospital visit
LONDON: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was back at Windsor Castle on Friday and in good spirits after revelations that she spent the night in a London hospital earlier this week.
Buckingham Palace said the 95-year-old British monarch went to the private King Edward VII’s Hospital in London on Wednesday for “preliminary investigations.” She returned to her Windsor Castle home at lunchtime on Thursday and was understood to be back at her desk by afternoon, undertaking light duties.
The queen underwent the tests after she canceled a scheduled trip to mark 100 years since the creation of Northern Ireland, and the palace said she had “reluctantly” accepted medical advice to rest for a few days. The matter was not related to COVID-19.
The palace does not normally offer a running account of the monarch’s health, citing her privacy. However, in this case it confirmed the queen’s hospital stay after The Sun newspaper reported the news.
On the whole, there is a rule of thumb is that if a senior member of the royal family undergoes a procedure or an operation, there is a medical bulletin, royal expert Robert Hardman told the BBC. But that doesn’t apply to tests.
The attention paid to the development merely reflects the great affection the global community has for the monarch, said Hardman, author of “Queen of the World,” which chronicles the monarch’s influence and stature around the globe.
“She hates people making a fuss of her in general but particularly to do with health,” he told the BBC. “And I think there’s a concern to sort of maintain the dignity of the office, and I know that one reason why nothing was said about yesterday’s trip to hospital was that they sort of didn’t suddenly want sort of huge banks of cameras and 24-hour news setting up outside the hospital.”
There has been some disquiet this week about Elizabeth’s health. Only days ago, she was seen using a walking stick at a Westminster Abbey service marking the centenary of the Royal British Legion, an armed forces charity. Though she had used a cane in 2003, it was after she underwent knee surgery.
Focus then turned to her hectic schedule, which has in recent days included audiences with diplomats, a reception at Windsor Castle for global business leaders, and attending the horse race at Ascot Racecourse.
In less than two weeks she is due to host world leaders at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland — a big engagement cited as one reason why she might want to rest up in advance.
Though Elizabeth has enjoyed robust health throughout her life, she is Britain’s longest-lived and longest-reigning monarch. She is due to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee — 70 years on the throne — next year.
Elizabeth has ruled since 1952 and was widowed this year when Prince Philip died at age 99 in April. She has cut back on her workload in recent years but still keeps a busy schedule of royal duties.
She recently declined the honor of being named “Oldie of the Year” by The Oldie magazine. Her office said that “Her Majesty believes you are as old as you feel, as such The Queen does not believe she meets the relevant criteria to be able to accept.”

New airstrikes hit capital of Ethiopia's Tigray region

New airstrikes hit capital of Ethiopia's Tigray region
Updated 42 min 14 sec ago

New airstrikes hit capital of Ethiopia's Tigray region

New airstrikes hit capital of Ethiopia's Tigray region
NAIROBI: Ethiopia's government says it has again carried out airstrikes in the capital of the country's Tigray region. It's the fourth time this week as a nearly year-long war intensifies.
Government spokesman Legesse Tulu tells The Associated Press that Friday's strikes targeted a former military training center near Mekele that's now serving as a “battle network hub” for the rival Tigray forces.
Residents in Mekele confirmed the strikes. One said they occurred near Mekele University. There was no immediate information on any casualties.
Spokesmen for the Tigray forces have denied that sites targeted earlier this week were used in relation to the fighting. Health workers and other residents have said at least three children have been killed and more than a dozen people injured.
Thousands of people have been killed since November, when a political falling-out between the Tigray forces who long dominated the national government and the current administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed erupted in fighting.
Tigray's 6 million people are now under a government blockade, while Tigray forces in recent months have taken the fighting into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions. The United Nations says more than 2 million people are now displaced.
On Thursday, Ethiopia's government claimed to a successful strike against another military base used by the Tigray forces near Mekele, but Tigray forces spokesman Getachew Reda asserted that air defenses prevented the plane from hitting targets in the city.
An airstrike on Wednesday hit an industrial compound the government said was used by the Tigray forces to repair weapons. A Tigray spokesman denied the site had military significance and said it was used to produce cars and tractors.
Two other airstrikes hit the city on Monday.
Tigray remains under a communications blackout, making it difficult to verify claims.
The strikes came amid reports of renewed heavy fighting in Amhara, despite repeated international calls for a cease-fire in the war. On Wednesday, spokesman Getachew claimed advances had put the government-held towns of Dessie and Kombolcha “within artillery range,” prompting alarm.
Dessie hosts a large number of displaced people who have fled fighting further north.

Somalia’s president, prime minister agree to speed up election

Somalia’s president, prime minister agree to speed up election
Updated 22 October 2021

Somalia’s president, prime minister agree to speed up election

Somalia’s president, prime minister agree to speed up election
  • Somalia was meant to choose a new president this month
  • Somalia has had only limited central rule since a dictator was toppled 30 years ago

MOGADISHU: Somalia’s president and prime minister resolved a dispute over appointments to security bodies, allowing a stalled process to elect a new parliament and president to go ahead, the government spokesman said late on Thursday.
Somalia was meant to choose a new president this month, culminating a complicated indirect election process that would also select a parliament.
But that was halted during a dispute between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble over who would head the National Intelligence Service Agency.
The president and the prime minister had each appointed a different candidate to replace the head of the agency, who was suspended last month after an agent went missing.
Under the agreement, the president’s appointee will now take up the post in an acting capacity, while the man chosen by the prime minister will be given a different role as a state minister. A separate disagreement over who would head the internal security ministry was also resolved, the spokesman said.
Somalia has had only limited central rule since a dictator was toppled 30 years ago, and has never conducted a free election.
Under the indirect electoral process, regional councils are meant to choose a senate, which could be completed this week. Clan elders will then pick members of a lower house of parliament, now set to take place next month. The parliament will pick a new president at a date that has not yet been set.
Roble and Mohamed clashed in April when the president unilaterally extended his four-year term by two years, prompting army factions loyal to each man to seize rival positions in the capital, Mogadishu.
The confrontation was resolved when the president put Roble in charge of security and organizing the delayed elections. 


Mumbai cinemas reopen after 18 months as life swings back

Mumbai cinemas reopen after 18 months as life swings back
Updated 22 October 2021

Mumbai cinemas reopen after 18 months as life swings back

Mumbai cinemas reopen after 18 months as life swings back
  • Theaters opened to half capacity, following the guidelines released last month
  • Mumbai city has been one of the country’s worst-affected by the pandemic

MUMBAI, India: Movie theaters in India’s entertainment capital Mumbai reopened on Friday after more than 18 months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, the last of the many virus restrictions to go amid a decline in infections.
Theaters opened to half capacity, following the guidelines released last month, but struggled to lure the public back and mostly re-released earlier hits. Many shows were running with fewer audiences, movie ticketing portal BookMyShow showed.
To minimize the danger of the virus, only those with COVID-19 vaccination certificates or with a “safe status” on the state-run health app will be allowed to enter the theaters. Masks and temperature checks are mandatory and no food or beverages will be allowed inside.
Theaters elsewhere in the country are already running shows.
Mumbai city has been one of the country’s worst-affected by the pandemic but has gradually reopened following a decline in both COVID-19 cases and deaths. Cinemas there, however, are among the last public places to reopen — a hugely symbolic move in the country’s financial capital also known for its Bollywood film industry.
Every year, the $2.8 billion industry produces more than 2,000 films. Bollywood’s success over the years has embedded moviegoing into India’s contemporary culture and been a boon for the economy.
The restrictions imposed on movie theaters to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have hurt operators. But the industry is expected to rebound. Indian filmmakers have lined up major big-ticket releases ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, when sales peak and audiences flock to theaters.
The return to cinemas in Mumbai comes a day after India celebrated its one billionth COVID-19 vaccine dose. About half of India’s nearly 1.4 billion people have received at least one dose while around 20 percent are fully immunized, according to Our World in Data.
India witnessed a crushing coronavirus surge earlier this year but life has swung back to normal. Markets buzz with activity, foreign tourists are allowed again and the country is gearing up to celebrate Diwali.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said India’s vaccine drive is an example of what it can achieve if the citizens and the government come together with a common goal. He said the milestone has silenced India’s critics.
“Injecting 1 billion doses is not a mere figure but a reflection of the country’s determination. India has scripted a new chapter in its history. The world will now take India more seriously after this landmark,” Modi said in a speech that was televised live across the country.
Modi also exhorted people to buy Indian-made goods to boost the economy, which is expected to gain from the festival season purchases.
“There are some among us who only trust foreign brands even for everyday necessities. The success of Made in India vaccines is a paradigm shift,” he said.


Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack

Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack
Updated 22 October 2021

Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack

Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack
  • The attackers shot dead some victims and stabbed others with knives

BALUKHALI, Bangladesh: Attackers killed at least seven people in an assault Friday on an Islamic seminary in a Rohingya refugee camp on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, police said.
The attackers shot dead some victims and stabbed others with knives, a regional police chief told AFP. The killings came amid mounting tensions after a Rohingya community leader was shot dead outside his office in the camps three weeks ago.