Australia reducing flights from India

Australia reducing flights from India
The restrictions would become even tighter for Australians who want to travel to high-risk countries in a bid to prevent them returning home with the coronavirus. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 22 April 2021

Australia reducing flights from India

Australia reducing flights from India
  • Authorities were calculating what other countries should join India on a list of high-risk nations requiring added travel restrictions

CANBERRA: Australia will reduce the number of flights arriving from India due to the growing wave of COVID-19 cases in the world’s second-most populous country.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday he had agreed with state and territory leaders that the numbers of Australian citizens and permanent residents returning in chartered flights would be reduced by 30 percent.
The government would soon announce a 30 percent reduction in scheduled commercial flights from India as well, he said.
Australian authorities were calculating what other countries should join India on a list of high-risk nations requiring added travel restrictions. Australians are only allowed to leave the country for a few exceptional reasons.
The restrictions would become even tighter for Australians who want to travel to high-risk countries in a bid to prevent them returning home with the coronavirus.
India reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections Thursday in a surge that has overwhelmed a fragile health care system.
Before the meeting of Australian government leaders, Western Australia state Premier Mark McGowan had called for a pause on arrivals from India. State authorities are investigating how a couple from India staying in a Perth hotel infected a mother and daughter from Britain who shared a room across a corridor while they were all in quarantine.


Gandhi warns ‘explosive’ COVID wave threatens India and the world

Gandhi warns ‘explosive’ COVID wave threatens India and the world
Updated 8 min 15 sec ago

Gandhi warns ‘explosive’ COVID wave threatens India and the world

Gandhi warns ‘explosive’ COVID wave threatens India and the world
  • Gandhi implored Prime Minister Narendra Modi to prepare for new lockdown and accelerate vaccination programme
  • India reported record daily rise in coronavirus cases 414,188 Friday, bringing the total for the week to 1.57 million

BENGALURU: India’s main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi warned on Friday that unless the deadly second COVID-19 wave sweeping the country was brought under control it would devastate India and threaten the rest of the world.
In a letter, Gandhi implored Prime Minister Narendra Modi to prepare for another national lockdown, accelerate a countrywide vaccination program and scientifically track the virus and its mutations.
Gandhi said the world’s second-most populous nation had a responsibility in “a globalized and interconnected world” to stop the “explosive” growth of COVID-19 within its borders.
“India is home to one out of every six human beings on the planet. The pandemic has demonstrated that our size, genetic diversity and complexity make India fertile ground for the virus to rapidly mutate, transforming itself into a more contagious and more dangerous form,” wrote Gandhi.
“Allowing the uncontrollable spread of the virus in our country will be devastating not only for our people but also for the rest of the world.”
India’s highly infectious COVID-19 variant B.1.617 has already spread to other countries, and many nations have moved to cut or restrict movements from India.
British Prime Minister Boris said on Friday the government needed to handle very carefully the emergence of new coronavirus strains in India that have since started to spread in the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile tons of medical equipment from abroad has starting to arrive in Delhi hospitals, in what could ease the pressure on an overburdened system.
In the past week, India has reported an extra 1.5 million new infections and record daily death tolls. Since the start of the pandemic, it has reported 21.49 million cases and 234,083 deaths. It currently has 3.6 million active cases.
Modi has been widely criticized for not acting sooner to suppress the second wave, after religious festivals and political rallies drew tens of thousands of people in recent weeks and became “super spreader” events.
His government — which imposed a strict lockdown in March 2020 — has also been criticized for lifting social restrictions too soon following the first wave and for delays in the country’s vaccination program.
The government has been reluctant to impose a second lockdown for fear of the damage to the economy, though many states have announced their own restrictions.
Goa, a tourism hotspot on the west coast where up to one in two people tested in recent weeks for coronavirus have been positive, on Friday announced strict curbs from Sunday, restricting timings for grocery shops, forbidding unnecessary travel and urging citizens to cancel all gatherings.
While India is the world’s biggest vaccine maker, it is also struggling to produce and distribute enough doses to stem the wave of COVID-19.
Although the country has administered at least 157 million vaccine doses, its rate of inoculation has fallen sharply in recent days.
India vaccinated 2.3 million people on Thursday, the most this month but still far short of what is required to curb the spread of the virus.
India reported another record daily rise in coronavirus cases, 414,188, on Friday, bringing total new cases for the week to 1.57 million. Deaths from COVID-19 rose by 3,915 to 234,083.
Medical experts say the real extent of COVID-19 is likely to be far higher than official tallies.
India’s health care system is crumbling under the weight of patients, with hospitals running out of beds and medical oxygen. Morgues and crematoriums cannot handle the number of dead and makeshift funeral pyres burn in parks and car parks.
Infections are now spreading from overcrowded cities to remote rural villages that are home to nearly 70 percent of the 1.3 billion population.
Although northern and western areas of India bear the brunt of the disease, the south now seems to be turning into the new epicenter.
In the southern city of Chennai, only one in a hundred oxygen-supported beds and two in a hundred beds in intensive care units (ICUs) were vacant on Thursday, from a vacancy rate of more than 20 percent each two weeks ago, government data showed.
In India’s tech capital Bengaluru, also in the south, only 23 of the 590 beds in ICUs were vacant.
The test-positivity rate — the percentage of people tested who are found to have the disease — in the city of 12.5 million has tripled to almost 39 percent as of Wednesday, from about 13 percent two weeks ago, data showed.
Syed Tousif Masood, a volunteer with a COVID-19 resource group in Bengaluru called the Project Smile Trust, said the group’s helpline was receiving an average 5,000 requests a day for hospital beds and oxygen, compared with 50-100 such calls just one month ago.
“The experts say we have not yet hit the peak,” he said. “If this is not the peak, then I don’t know what will happen at the real peak.”


Irish Daesh bride wins case to appeal ban from UK

Lisa Smith, 38, traveled to Syria several years ago to allegedly become the second wife of British Daesh soldier Sajid Aslam. (Screenshot/YouTube)
Lisa Smith, 38, traveled to Syria several years ago to allegedly become the second wife of British Daesh soldier Sajid Aslam. (Screenshot/YouTube)
Updated 28 min 27 sec ago

Irish Daesh bride wins case to appeal ban from UK

Lisa Smith, 38, traveled to Syria several years ago to allegedly become the second wife of British Daesh soldier Sajid Aslam. (Screenshot/YouTube)
  • Lisa Smith served as a soldier before converting to Islam, traveling to Syria

LONDON: An Irish woman alleged to be a so-called Daesh bride has won a court case which will let her challenge an exclusion order blocking her from entering the UK.

Lisa Smith, 38, traveled to Syria several years ago to allegedly become the second wife of British Daesh soldier Sajid Aslam, with whom she had a child.

Smith served as a soldier in Ireland’s Defence Forces before converting to Islam after her first marriage broke down.

She was housed in a refugee camp after the defeat of the terror group until she returned to Ireland in 2019, where she was arrested at Dublin Airport and arrested on suspicion of terror offenses.

She was also served with a notice by the UK Home Office that excluded her from entry to Britain on national security grounds.

Smith took her case to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in London, saying that she had ties to Northern Ireland and had significant family connections there.

While Smith claimed that her father was born in Belfast, the Home Office argued that her parents were not married when she was born, meaning she was not a British national.

The SIAC on Friday ruled in Smith’s favor and have now allowed her to appeal the decision, saying it was “discriminatory.”

Smith’s lawyer, Darragh Mackin, welcomed the ruling, adding that it was “significant” for the Good Friday Agreement.

“Today’s ruling is hugely significant for the upholding of basic human rights principles, which include the right to be free from discrimination,” he said. “The decision to exclude our client was discriminatory and contrary to the basic principles underpinning the Good Friday Agreement.

“As an Irish citizen who resides in a border town, it was always asserted that to restrict her from traveling across the border was unlawful and could not be stood over. We warmly welcome the court’s determination today, which will now reinstate our client’s basic rights to travel to Northern Ireland at her convenience.”

Smith is also facing an additional charge of terrorist financing, the commission heard, relating to an alleged offense in 2015 involving €800 ($970).

She has denied all allegations leveled against her, claiming that she “went to live in Syria” to “learn the teachings of the Qur’an.”


Italy approves extradition of Nice attack suspect

Italy approves extradition of Nice attack suspect
Updated 59 min 4 sec ago

Italy approves extradition of Nice attack suspect

Italy approves extradition of Nice attack suspect
  • Endri Elezi, a 28-year-old Albanian, was arrested on April 21 on a warrant from France in the southern Italian town of Sparanize, north of Naples
  • Elezi is suspected of supplying weapons to the Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel who rammed a truck into a crowd in the French city of Nice on July 14, 2016, killing 86 people

ROME: An Italian court has approved the extradition to France of a man implicated in the deadly Bastille Day attack in Nice in 2016, the AGI news agency reported.
Endri Elezi, a 28-year-old Albanian, was arrested on April 21 on a warrant from France in the southern Italian town of Sparanize, north of Naples.
He is suspected of supplying weapons to the Tunisian man who rammed a truck into a crowd in the French city of Nice on July 14, 2016, the Bastille Day national holiday, killing 86 people.
Elezi, known as “Gino,” is accused of providing Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel with an assault rifle, according to French judicial sources.
A court in Naples approved Elezi’s extradition to France late Thursday, AGI reported.
During the hearing, he denied the accusations, saying: “I have never sold or provided weapons and I don’t know any of the people involved.”
The Naples court did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation.
Elezi was among eight people ordered by the Paris appeals court in March to stand trial for their alleged role in the 2016 attack. The trial will not take place until 2022.
Bouhlel was shot dead by police at the wheel of the vehicle he drove through crowds on Nice’s waterfront, wounding more than 400 people.
The attack came less than a year after the deadly assaults in November 2015 that saw 130 people killed in bombings and shootings across Paris, including at the Bataclan concert hall.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the Nice attack, although prosecutors said there was no evidence that Bouhlel had sworn allegiance to the extremist group.


Talks ‘intensify’ on bringing US back to Iran nuclear deal

Talks ‘intensify’ on bringing US back to Iran nuclear deal
Updated 07 May 2021

Talks ‘intensify’ on bringing US back to Iran nuclear deal

Talks ‘intensify’ on bringing US back to Iran nuclear deal
  • U.S. and Iran have signaled willingness to work out the major stumbling blocks
  • Russian delegate tweeted following Friday's meeting that “the participants agreed on the need to intensify the process”

VIENNA: World powers held a fourth round of high-level talks Friday in Austria aimed at bringing the US back into the nuclear deal with Iran.
Both sides have signaled willingness to work out the major stumbling blocks.
The talks began in early April and Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted following Friday’s meeting that “the participants agreed on the need to intensify the process.”
“The delegations seem to be ready to stay in Vienna as long as necessary to achieve the goal,” he wrote.
The US pulled out of the landmark 2015 deal in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump said the pact needed to be renegotiated. The deal had promised Iran economic incentives in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, and the Trump administration reimposed heavy sanctions on the Islamic republic in an unsuccessful attempt to bring Tehran into new talks.
Iran reacted by steadily increasing its violations of the deal, which is intended to prevent the country from obtaining nuclear weapons. Iran began enriching uranium to a greater purity, stockpiling more than allowed and beginning to use more advanced centrifuges, among other things, in an attempt to pressure the world powers remaining in the deal — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — for economic relief.
US President Joe Biden says he wants to rejoin the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, but that Iran needs to return to compliance.
Iran, which insists it does not want to produce a nuclear bomb, has said it is prepared to reverse all of its violations but that Washington must remove all sanctions imposed under Trump.
On the other side is the question of what Iran’s return to compliance would look like. Delegates to the Vienna talks concede, for example, that Iranian nuclear scientists cannot unlearn the knowledge they acquired in the last three years, but it is not clear whether Iran’s new centrifuges would need to be destroyed, mothballed and locked away, or simply taken offline.
Because the US is currently out of the deal, there was no American representation at the talks. Diplomats involved are shuttling between the Iranian side and a delegation from Washington elsewhere in Vienna.
Between the high-level meetings, expert groups have been meeting to try and come up with solutions to the outstanding issues.
Alain Matton, a spokesperson for the EU delegation in Vienna, which is chairing the meetings, said the expert discussions will continue in the days ahead.
“And the EU as a coordinator and facilitator of the JCPOA talks will continue with separate talks with all participants and with the US,” Matton told reporters. “The participants are continuing with discussions, which are held on various levels and which have as their objective the full and effective implementation of the deal by all sides and the US return to the JCPOA.”
Ahead of the talks, a senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the US position, said Washington has laid out the concessions it’s prepared to make and that success or failure now depends on Iran making the political decision to accept those concessions and to return to compliance with the accord.
The official said it remains possible to reach an agreement before Iran’s June presidential election, which some believe are a complicating factor in the discussions.
Iran’s delegate to the talks, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, told his country’s state-run IRNA news agency late Thursday that his team was trying to reach an agreement as soon as possible but would not act in haste and would act in Iran’s national interests.
“We are on a specified path about which there are, fortunately, agreements, but there are serious obstacles in the way as well,” Araghchi said.
Heading into the talks, Ulyanov tweeted that he saw positive signs from the Iranian minister’s statements.
“The head of the Iranian delegation is cautious in his assessment of the current state of affairs at the Vienna talks (very similar to assessments of the US colleagues),” he tweeted. “But both #Iran and #US refrain from pessimistic conclusions. This seems to be not a bad sign.”


Investigation launched into attack outside London mosque

Several people were pelted with eggs and stones outside the Ilford Islamic Center in the east of London this week. (Screenshot/Google Street View)
Several people were pelted with eggs and stones outside the Ilford Islamic Center in the east of London this week. (Screenshot/Google Street View)
Updated 07 May 2021

Investigation launched into attack outside London mosque

Several people were pelted with eggs and stones outside the Ilford Islamic Center in the east of London this week. (Screenshot/Google Street View)
  • Four people sought in connection with Islamophobic incident in east of the UK capital

LONDON: Police in London have launched an investigation into a suspected Islamophobic attack on a group of worshippers in the city during Ramadan.

Several people were pelted with eggs and stones outside the Ilford Islamic Center in the east of the city on Tuesday, May 4, with witnesses claiming the items were thrown from a passing car driven by a white man with a shaved head. The car carried at least three other passengers.

The Metropolitan Police said it had received a report of a racially aggravated incident, including criminal damage, at around 11 p.m. The Federation of Redbridge Muslim Organizations said five people had been struck by objects, but reported no serious injuries.

The Ilford Islamic Center’s director and secretary, Ahmed Nahwaz, said: “I was caught by surprise because leading up to this we had a very quiet and peaceful 20-odd nights, and then this happened.

“We weren’t expecting it this kind of time in the period of reflection for everyone, having gone through (the coronavirus disease) COVID-19. It’s a shame (but) we’re used to it. We’re a strong community and we take it on the chin. It makes us weary rather than fearful,” he added.

“We just want to be treated like humans, just like everyone else.”

The incident stirred a strong political response, with the MP for Ilford South, Sam Tarry, saying he was “shocked and saddened” at what had happened.

“These disgraceful acts of violence and hatred have no place in Ilford, and I hope that the perpetrators face justice as soon as possible,” he said on his Twitter account. “Solidarity with the victims.”

The leader of Redbridge Council, Jas Athwal, said: “Racist incidents like this have no place in our borough and we will work with our friends and neighbors at Albert Road Mosque (Ilford Islamic Center) and the police to ensure the safety of all worshippers.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Stephen Clayman said: “We take all reports of hate crime very seriously and have launched an investigation.

“Incidents like this will not be tolerated and my officers will be undertaking enhanced patrols in the area to provide reassurance to the local community and visitors to the mosque,” he added.