UK’s Prince Philip set to remain in hospital until early next week

UK’s Prince Philip set to remain in hospital until early next week
Police officers and a doorman stand outside the King Edward VII Hospital in London, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 19 February 2021

UK’s Prince Philip set to remain in hospital until early next week

UK’s Prince Philip set to remain in hospital until early next week
  • Both Philip and the 94-year-old queen received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in January
  • The Duke was admitted to the private King Edward VII’s Hospital in London after feeling unwell for a short period

LONDON: Britain’s Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, is likely to remain in hospital until next week, a royal source said on Friday, adding that doctors were acting out of an abundance of caution and the duke remains in good spirits.
Queen Elizabeth’s 99-year-old husband was admitted to hospital on Tuesday as a precautionary measure after feeling ill with an ailment that is not related to COVID-19.
“Following consultation with his doctor the Duke of Edinburgh is likely to remain in hospital for observation and rest over the weekend and into next week,” the source said.
“As we have said previously the doctor is acting with an abundance of caution. The Duke remains in good spirits.”
Both Philip and the 94-year-old queen received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in January.
The Duke was admitted to the private King Edward VII’s Hospital in central London after feeling unwell for a short period, Buckingham Palace said on Wednesday.
He spent four nights at the same hospital at the end of 2019 while being treated for a pre-existing condition.
Philip is now rarely seen in public. He stepped down from official engagements in August 2017 after completing more than 22,000 solo events and thousands more alongside the queen.
A former naval officer renowned for his sometimes brusque manner and humor, Philip married Elizabeth in 1947, five years before she became queen. He is now by far the longest-serving consort of any British monarch.
During the pandemic the royal family has visited hospitals and frontline workers, either online or in person, to thank them for their efforts.
Earlier on Friday Buckingham Palace said Prince Harry and his wife Meghan had made a final split with the family, telling the queen that they would not be returning as working royals.
Harry, who is grandson to the queen and brother of heir William, sent shockwaves through the monarchy in January 2020 by suddenly announcing that he and his wife were embarking on a new future across the Atlantic — one of the most extraordinary royal exits in decades.


WHO warns against blanket travel bans over Omicron coronavirus variant

WHO warns against blanket travel bans over Omicron coronavirus variant
Updated 15 sec ago

WHO warns against blanket travel bans over Omicron coronavirus variant

WHO warns against blanket travel bans over Omicron coronavirus variant
  • Some 56 countries were reportedly implementing travel measures aimed at potentially delaying import of Omicron as of Nov, 28

GENEVA: Countries should apply "an evidence-informed and risk-based approach" with any travel measures related to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, including possible screening or quarantine of international passengers, but blanket bans do not prevent its spread, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
The WHO, in its latest guidance to authorities and travellers, said that people over 60 years of age and those with underlying health conditions should be advised to postpone travel as they are at higher risk of disease and death.
This was in line with its advice regarding over 60s since December 2020, regardless of a traveller's vaccination status, and did not represent any change in guidance, a WHO spokesperson said.
First reported in southern Africa a week ago, the variant has brought global alarm https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/hong-kong-expands-travel-curbs-omicron-fears-australia-reports-5-cases-2021-11-30, led to travel bans, and highlighted the disparity between massive vaccination pushes in rich nations and sparse inoculation in the developing world.
National authorities in countries of departure, transit and arrival may apply a multi-layered approach to mitigate risk so as to delay or reduce importation or exportation of the Omicron variant, the WHO said on Tuesday.
"Measures may include screening of passengers prior to travel and/or upon arrival, and use of SARS-COV-2 testing or quarantine of international travellers after thorough risk assessment," it said.
All measures should be commensurate with the risk, time-limited and applied with respect to travellers' rights, it said.
"Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods," it said.
Some 56 countries were reportedly implementing travel measures aimed at potentially delaying import of Omicron as of Nov, 28, it added.


Brazil and Japan report first cases of the omicron variant

 A man walks past an arrivals board showing cancelled flights at Tokyo's Haneda international airport on November 30, 2021. (AFP)
A man walks past an arrivals board showing cancelled flights at Tokyo's Haneda international airport on November 30, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 8 min 55 sec ago

Brazil and Japan report first cases of the omicron variant

 A man walks past an arrivals board showing cancelled flights at Tokyo's Haneda international airport on November 30, 2021. (AFP)
  • Brazil, which has recorded a staggering total of more than 600,000 COVID-19 deaths, reported finding the variant in two travelers returning from South Africa — the first known omicron cases in Latin America
  • Japan announced its first case, too, on the same day the country put a ban on all foreign visitors into effect. The patient was identified as a Namibian diplomat who had recently arrived from his homeland

BRASILIA/TOKYO: Brazil and Japan joined the rapidly widening circle of countries to report cases of the omicron variant Tuesday, while new findings indicate the mutant coronavirus was already in Europe close to a week before South Africa sounded the alarm.
The Netherlands’ RIVM health institute disclosed that patient samples dating from Nov. 19 and 23 were found to contain the variant. It was on Nov. 24 that South African authorities reported the existence of the highly mutated virus to the World Health Organization.
That indicates omicron had a bigger head start in the Netherlands than previously believed.
Together with the cases in Japan and Brazil, the finding illustrates the difficulty in containing the virus in an age of jet travel and economic globalization. And it left the world once again whipsawed between hopes of returning to normal and fears that the worst is yet to come.
Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine.
The pandemic has shown repeatedly that the virus “travels quickly because of our globalized, interconnected world,” said Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist at the Yale School of Public Health. Until the vaccination drive reaches every country, “we’re going to be in this situation again and again.”
Brazil, which has recorded a staggering total of more than 600,000 COVID-19 deaths, reported finding the variant in two travelers returning from South Africa — the first known omicron cases in Latin America. The travelers were tested on Nov. 25, authorities said.
Japan announced its first case, too, on the same day the country put a ban on all foreign visitors into effect. The patient was identified as a Namibian diplomat who had recently arrived from his homeland.
France likewise recorded its first case, in the far-flung island territory of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. Authorities said the patient was a man who had returned to Reunion from South Africa and Mozambique on Nov. 20.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, said much more will be known about omicron in the next several weeks, and “we’ll have a much better picture of what the challenge is ahead of us.”
In the meantime, a WHO official warned that given the growing number of omicron cases in South Africa and neighboring Botswana, parts of southern Africa could soon see infections skyrocket.
“There is a possibility that really we’re going to be seeing a serious doubling or tripling of the cases as we move along or as the week unfolds,” said Dr. Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi, a WHO regional virologist.
Cases began to increase rapidly in mid-November in South Africa, which is now seeing nearly 3,000 confirmed new infections per day.
Before news of the Brazil cases broke, Fauci said 226 omicron cases had been confirmed in 20 countries, adding: “I think you’re going to expect to see those numbers change rapidly.”
Those countries include Britain, 11 European Union nations, Australia, Canada and Israel. American disease trackers said omicron could already be in the US, too, and probably will be detected soon.
“I am expecting it any day now,” said Scott Becker of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. “We expect it is here.”
While the variant was first identified by South African researchers, it is unclear where and when it originated, information that could help shed light on how fast it spreads.
The announcement from the Dutch on Tuesday could shape that timeline.
Previously, the Netherlands said it found the variant among passengers who came from South Africa on Friday, the same day the Dutch and other EU members began imposing flight bans and other restrictions on southern Africa. But the newly identified cases predate that.
NOS, the Netherlands’ public broadcaster, said that one of the two omicron samples came from a person who had been in southern Africa.
Belgium reported a case involving a traveler who returned to the country from Egypt on Nov. 11 but did not become sick with mild symptoms until Nov. 22.
Many health officials tried to calm fears, insisting that vaccines remain the best defense and that the world must redouble its efforts to get the shots to every part of the globe.
Emer Cooke, chief of the European Medicines Agency, said that the 27-nation EU is well prepared for the variant and that the vaccine could be adapted for use against omicron within three or four months if necessary.
England reacted to the emerging threat by making face coverings mandatory again on public transportation and in stores, banks and hair salons. And one month ahead of Christmas, the head of Britain’s Health Security Agency urged people not to socialize if they don’t need to.
After COVID-19 led to a one-year postponement of the Summer Games, Olympic organizers began to worry about the February Winter Games in Beijing. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said omicron would “certainly bring some challenges in terms of prevention and control.”
World markets seesawed on every piece of medical news, whether worrisome or reassuring. Stocks fell on Wall Street over virus fears as well as concerns about the Federal Reserve’s continued efforts to shore up the markets.
Some analysts think a serious economic downturn will probably be averted because many people have been vaccinated. But they also think a return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity, especially in tourism, has been dramatically delayed.


Three students killed in US high school shooting: police

Three students killed in US high school shooting: police
Updated 30 min 17 sec ago

Three students killed in US high school shooting: police

Three students killed in US high school shooting: police
  • A second-year student was taken into custody and a handgun was seized, but there was no immediate explanation for what prompted the attack in Oxford

WASHINGTON: A 15-year-old student allegedly opened fire at a high school in rural Michigan on Tuesday, killing three other students before being taken into custody, police said.
Six others, including one teacher, were wounded in the attack, which took place shortly after noon at Oxford High School, the Oakland County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.
A second-year student was taken into custody and a handgun was seized, but there was no immediate explanation for what prompted the attack in Oxford, a small town about 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Detroit.
"There was no resistance during the arrest and the suspect has asked for a lawyer and has not made any statements as to a motive," the sheriff's office said.
"It's a very tragic situation," Undersheriff Michael McCabe told reporters.
"We have three deceased victims right now, who are all believed to be students," he said.
"We have lots of upset parents," he said.
Police said they received more than 100 911 emergency calls shortly after noon, and that the shooter unleashed 15-20 shots over about five minutes from a semi-automatic handgun with more than one magazine.
The suspect was taken into custody within five minutes of the first 911 call, they said.
President Joe Biden was informed of the shooting during a visit to Minnesota.
"My heart goes out to the families enduring the unimaginable grief," he said.
"You know, that whole community has to be just in a state of shock right now."
Elissa Slotkin, who represents the district north of Detroit in the US House of Representatives, said she was "horrified" by the shooting.
"I've been talking with Oxford leaders, parents and students and we are all praying for the health of those injured, and the well-being of all our young people, many of whom are in shock," she said in a statement.
It was the deadliest school shooting so far this year, according to Everytown For Gun Safety, a group which keeps statistics of mass shootings and lobbies for gun control.
Before Tuesday's incident, there had been 138 shootings in schools across the United States in 2021, according to figures provided by Everytown. In those incidents, 26 resulted in fatalities, though no more than two each time.
The deadliest school shootings in US history were the April 2007 attack at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, which saw 33 killed, including the shooter, followed by the December 2012 attack on the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 28 dead, including 20 children and the shooter.
In February 2018, a former student with an AR-15 assault rifle opened fire in his former high school in Parkland, Florida, killing 17, in the deadliest-ever high school shooting.


French military facing growing protests in Sahel

French military facing growing protests in Sahel
Updated 01 December 2021

French military facing growing protests in Sahel

French military facing growing protests in Sahel
  • France, the former colonial power in the Sahel, has about 5,100 troops deployed across the region
  • Macron has promised that French troops will not operate in a country where Wagner paramilitaries are also active

BAMAKO: France’s military involvement in the Sahel is encountering growing opposition in the region, with protests that were once isolated to urban centers spreading to rural areas, fanned by social media and anger at insecurity.
Protesters in Burkina Faso and Niger in November hampered a large French military supply convoy traveling from Ivory Coast to Mali.
The trucks, escorted by local forces, took more than a week to get through Burkina Faso, and several people were injured during demonstrations in the northern town of Kaya.
In western Niger, two people were killed in unclear circumstances on Saturday when the convoy attempted to escape protesters.
France’s military has opened an investigation.
Experts say the affair appears to show that anti-French sentiment has spread in the Sahel, although the reasons for it are complex.
France, the former colonial power in the Sahel, has about 5,100 troops deployed across the region, helping to support countries where governments are weak and the armed forces poorly equipped.
The French military first intervened in 2013 to beat back an extremist insurgency in northern Mali.
But the rebels regrouped and two years later spilled over into Burkina Faso and Niger, two of the poorest countries in the world.
Village massacres, roadside bombs and ambushes have claimed thousands of lives and more than a million people have fled their homes.
The insurgency shows no signs of slowing. On Sunday, four Burkinabe soldiers were killed in the north of the country, bringing the toll from two weeks of raids by suspected extremists to at least 80.
A French diplomat, who declined to be named, said that many local people did not understand how extremists could make such gains when French troops are present.
The situation has contributed to conspiracy theories alleging French support for extremists, according to Bamako-based researcher Boubacar Haidara.
Malian Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga recently accused France of training a “terrorist group” in the north of the country, in an interview with Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
The fact that such rhetoric “comes from an authority as high as the prime minister gives it credibility,” Haidara said.
Rumours proliferating on social media — which were also recounted by several protesters in Kaya — claimed the supply convoy was in fact carrying weapons for the extremists.
Yvan Guichaoua, a Sahel specialist at the University of Kent in England, told AFP that France is swimming in a “pool of hostility.”
The scale of the sentiment is difficult to measure, he noted, adding that it is nonetheless “imposing itself on the Sahel political space,” with governments forced to respond.
Not all are critical of France: Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum on Friday thanked the country for its military involvement.
A French government official, who requested anonymity, nonetheless told AFP that the situation is “worrying.”
“People are turning against those on the front line,” the official said.
Complicating the picture is French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to reduce France’s deployment in the Sahel.
He made the decision in June, after a military takeover in Mali in August 2020 that ousted the elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
But the announcement pushed Mali’s ruling military to consider hiring paramilitaries from Russian private-security firm Wagner to bridge the gap, which further raised tensions with France.
Macron has promised that French troops will not operate in a country where Wagner paramilitaries are also active.
However there are fears that a full French withdrawal would precipitate a collapse in Mali, with implications for the wider Sahel conflict — a unwelcome prospect just over four months from a French presidential election.
Anti-French sentiment has long been rife on social media in Mali. There are also periodic protests against France’s military in the country, where demonstrators fly Russian flags.
France has recently tried to respond to what it terms a Russian disinformation campaign back by erecting billboards in the capital Bamako bearing the slogan “we are together,” and issuing statements in the country’s dominant language Bambara.
A competition for loyalties is underway. “The Russians are reshuffling the deck,” said a high-ranking French army officer, who declined to be named.


Ethiopia PM claims war gains, urges rebels to ‘surrender’

Ethiopia PM claims war gains, urges rebels to ‘surrender’
Updated 01 December 2021

Ethiopia PM claims war gains, urges rebels to ‘surrender’

Ethiopia PM claims war gains, urges rebels to ‘surrender’
  • Fears of a rebel march on the capital have prompted some countries to urge their citizens to leave as soon as possible

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday urged Tigrayan rebels to surrender, claiming government forces were nearing victory just one week after he vowed to lead military operations at the front.
“The youth of Tigray is perishing like leaves. Knowing it is defeated, it is being led by one who does not have a clear vision or plan,” Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, said in comments aired on state media.
“It should surrender today to the Ethiopian National Defence Force, to the special forces, to the militias and to the people.”
Tuesday’s footage was the latest in a series of clips showing Abiy, in uniform with soldiers, in what appeared to be the northeastern region of Afar.
The area has been the site of fierce fighting in recent weeks as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group tries to seize control of a critical highway that supplies the capital Addis Ababa.
On Sunday state media claimed the army controlled the lowland Afar town of Chifra, and Abiy said Tuesday such gains would be replicated to the west, in Amhara region.
“The enemy has been defeated. We scored an unthinkable victory with the eastern command in one day ... Now in the west we will repeat this victory,” he said.
The announcement last week that Abiy, a former lieutenant colonel in the military, would head to the battlefield came after the TPLF claimed to control Shewa Robit, a town just 220 km (135 miles) northeast of Addis Ababa by road.
Fears of a rebel march on the capital have prompted the US, France, the UK and other countries to urge their citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible, though Abiy’s government says TPLF gains are overstated and the city is secure.
A TPLF spokesman on Monday dismissed Abiy’s deployment as a “circus” involving “farcical war games.”
War broke out between the two sides in November 2020, with Abiy sending troops into the northernmost Tigray region to topple the TPLF — a move he said came in response to TPLF attacks on army camps.
The fighting has killed thousands, displaced more than 2 million and driven hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions, according to UN estimates.
Diplomats led by Olusegun Obasanjo, the African Union’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, are trying to broker a ceasefire, though there has been little evident progress so far.