Philippines to begin vaccinating children against COVID-19 from October

Philippines to begin vaccinating children against COVID-19 from October
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has urged the public to get immunized, specifically Filipinos residing in areas with plentiful supplies of COVID-19 vaccine. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 29 September 2021

Philippines to begin vaccinating children against COVID-19 from October

Philippines to begin vaccinating children against COVID-19 from October
  • Health authorities to widen program to include 12-17 year olds, general public to reach herd immunity, government says

MANILA: The Philippines said on Tuesday it will expand its COVID-19 vaccination program to include the general public and children aged 12-17 years old for the first time from October to achieve herd immunity and gradually return to normal life.
The Southeast Asian nation of 110 million people has reported one of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Asia since the pandemic began last year, prompting authorities to impose strict anti-virus measures in the worst-affected areas and relax curbs in other parts to spur economic activity.
Still, vaccination measures have been slow, with only 20.3 million or 26 percent fully vaccinated and 23.6 million receiving their first dose since March when the government launched its vaccination drive for five priority groups, including health workers, senior citizens, those with comorbidities, economic frontliners, and indigents.
"The good news is, the president has approved the vaccination of the general population beginning October," President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesperson, Harry Roque, said in a press briefing.
"We will also start inoculating children (between 12 to 17 years of age) ...in October. This has also been approved by the president," he added, urging parents to register their children for the vaccination.
Malacañang's announcement comes a day after Duterte threatened to invoke police power of the state on those who refused to get vaccinated.
In a recorded address aired on Monday night, Duterte implored the public to get immunised, specifically Filipinos residing in areas with ample COVID-19 vaccine shots.
“Government has no power to compel any religion, faith, or church...We can only cooperate. But the police power of the state can be invoked if you pose a threat to others... (because) then you are already a danger to society,” he said.
Duterte further explained that once the Philippines had achieved herd immunity through mass immunization, it would be "safe to gradually ease restrictions."
“I now encourage you — those who have yet to receive the vaccines — to get inoculated...We are almost pleading down on our knees," he said.
The Philippines leader warned government employees to leave their office if they refuse vaccination, especially those at the frontline or tasked with interacting with people.
Citing a report from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Duterte said that unvaccinated persons who got infected with COVID-19 are likely to get hospitalized with more severe or critical conditions compared to those who were already inoculated.
Meanwhile, Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL),  said on Tuesday that whether or not the president could implement police power to compel those who refuse to get vaccinated was a "tricky, debatable and complicated" matter.
"As a general rule, the State can invoke police power for the protection of life, public health and for the public interest. But there are loose ends that need to be tied up. These include questions of liberty, necessity, privacy, proportionality, coverage, parameters and even sanctions of specific measures to make it compulsory or mandatory," he told Arab News.
"Yet resort to the use of police power under the circumstances in the country dodges or ignores questions on availability and access to the vaccines as well as to the who, when and where," he added.
Olalia said the move also "glosses over the fact that all measures or responses of the government thus far have been confused and confusing."
Meanwhile, in his report to the president, National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. said that the Philippines was expecting the delivery of COVID-19 jabs to reach 100 million by October end.
Galvez added that economic centers such as Metro Manila, Baguio City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, and Davao City had surpassed the 50 percent vaccination targets in their areas.
Locals, for their part, elicited mixed reactions to the government's move.
One parent who asked not to be named, said "it would be better if vaccination against COVID-19 is compulsory but not coercive", just as it is in the case of other vaccines.
Mariel San Diego, a fully vaccinated government employee based in Luzon island's Pampanga province, said it would be better for the president to allow local government units to act on the matter. "Or if he really wants to do it, maybe he should start in his home city, Davao," San Diego told Arab News.
Others said individuals should be allowed to exercise their choices.
"The virus does not come from the unvaccinated. Both vaccinated, and unvaccinated can be carriers or transmitters. My choice of not getting the vaccine is from my family's history of allergic reactions. I could die with just a shot," Virginia Pasalo, a resident of Pangasinan province, said.
"These vaccines also lack clinical trials. I will wait for other medications to be available," she added.


Mali asks Islamic High Council to begin dialogue with Al-Qaeda

Mali asks Islamic High Council to begin dialogue with Al-Qaeda
Updated 16 sec ago

Mali asks Islamic High Council to begin dialogue with Al-Qaeda

Mali asks Islamic High Council to begin dialogue with Al-Qaeda
  • It is not clear when the dialogue will begin, but the council will lead discussions with Malian militant leaders

BAMAKO: Mali’s government has asked the country’s Islamic High Council to begin a dialogue with Al-Qaeda-linked groups in a new effort to address a nearly decade-long insecurity crisis.

It is not clear when the dialogue will begin, but the council will lead discussions with Malian militant leaders Iyad Ag Ghaly and Amadou Kouffa of the Al-Qaeda-linked group known as JNIM, the council said.

Mohamed Kibiri, spokesman for the council, said on Tuesday that he was asked by the government last week to launch discussions. He said they are working with their representatives in the country’s north.

“The only directive we have received is to negotiate only with the Malians,” he said. “The other jihadists we consider invaders.”

Mali’s Minister of Religious Affairs and Worship Mamadou Koné confirmed that the government asked the council to lead discussions with the two groups.

This is not the first time the Malian government has asked the council to open dialogue with jihadist groups. Earlier this year, the council reached a ceasefire agreement between an Al-Qaeda-linked group and local fighters in a village in the Niono circle in central Mali. The jihadists granted freedom of movement to the villagers, and peaceful cohabitation with the army and local armed groups, in exchange for compulsory veiling of women, collection of taxes and traditional justice.

Mali has been fighting growing insecurity since 2012, when Al-Qaeda-linked groups took over parts of the north. Despite a French-led military operation that forced many rebels from their northern strongholds in 2013, insurgents quickly regrouped and have been advancing year after year toward the south of the country, where the Malian capital is located.

Meanwhile, the French army said Tuesday its troops shot dead a woman while conducting an anti-terror reconnaissance operation with Malian soldiers in the west African country, prompting an investigation.

The woman died on Monday during a joint patrol “in an area where elements of an armed terrorist group has been detected east of Gossi” in the north, the French general staff said.

The soldiers saw two individuals riding a motorbike, but they left it behind to flee into the undergrowth when they spotted the French and Malian troops, said the statement.

“An abandoned assault rifle, ammunition and a military bag are discovered near the motorbike,” it added.

The soldiers “engage in the pursuit of one of the two individuals in the woods. Four warning shots are fired to stop him but the latter moves further away.”

“The individual turns sharply toward the soldiers who fire to neutralize” the target and then “discover that it is a woman,” suspected of being one of the people on the motorcycle.

“Residents of the nearest village are called to give the identity of this person” but “no one knows her,” said the general staff, adding that the body was buried at the site.

An investigation has been opened “to clarify the exact sequence of events and to shed full light on this combat action,” the statement concluded.

Deployed to Mali since 2013 because of deadly jihadist activity, a force of some 5,000 French troops is now being drawn down, potentially by as much as half by early next year.


Pakistan confirms Indian invite to meeting on Afghanistan, but not participation

Pakistan confirms Indian invite to meeting on Afghanistan, but not participation
Updated 16 min 48 sec ago

Pakistan confirms Indian invite to meeting on Afghanistan, but not participation

Pakistan confirms Indian invite to meeting on Afghanistan, but not participation
  • India offers to host November gathering of national security advisers

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign office has said Islamabad had received an invitation from India to attend a national security advisers’ meeting on Afghanistan in New Delhi next month but had not yet taken a decision on whether it would participate.

India’s invite to Pakistani National Security Adviser Dr. Moeed Yusuf comes at a time of high tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors and longtime foes.

If the talks go ahead, it would be the first meeting on Afghanistan to be convened by India since the Taliban captured power in August. Pakistan, China, Iran, Russia, and Tajikistan have reportedly also been asked to attend the discussions planned for Nov. 10 to 11.

On Monday, Pakistani foreign office spokesperson, Asim Iftikhar, said: “There is the invitation. There is no decision yet.”

Pakistan and India have a longstanding dispute over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which they both rule in part but claim in full. They have fought two wars over the region.

India was a key supporter of the ousted regime in Kabul and as both Pakistan and China become key players in a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, its nervousness has increased, analysts say.

India has bitter memories of the previous Taliban stint in power from 1996 to 2001 and the group’s links to Pakistan.

An Indian Airlines plane was hijacked in 1999 and ultimately landed in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. New Delhi freed three senior Pakistani militants in its jails in exchange for the return of the passengers and the Taliban allowed the hijackers and the released prisoners to go to Pakistan.

But over the past year, as the Taliban emerged as a dominant force in Afghanistan and US-brokered negotiations began in Doha, Indian diplomats had opened a line with the group.

But Pakistan has long insisted India has no role in Afghanistan, with which it does not share a border, and has consistently accused India of using Afghan soil to mastermind militant attacks inside Pakistan — an accusation New Delhi has denied.

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Two dead, 450 arrested in Chile protest violence

Two dead, 450 arrested in Chile protest violence
Updated 20 min 40 sec ago

Two dead, 450 arrested in Chile protest violence

Two dead, 450 arrested in Chile protest violence
  • Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in 50 locations around the country to mark the anniversary of the street protests led by students

SANTIAGO: Two people died, 56 were injured and 450 arrested as clashes broke out in Chile during mass street protests to mark the second anniversary of a social uprising, police said on Tuesday.

Monday’s demonstrations throughout the country were to mark the October 2019 protests that sparked political change in the country and led to the start of a process to rewrite the Pinochet dictatorship-era constitution.

A man was killed by gunfire during an attempted robbery of a shop in Santiago on Monday while a woman died after falling from a motorcycle, also in the capital.

Most disturbances on Monday took place in Santiago where vandals set up street barricades, attacked a police station, and looted shops and public buildings, a police report said.

Authorities detained 450 people throughout the country, 279 of those in Santiago, while 11 civilians and 45 police officers were injured.

“The numbers are very high,” said Marcelo Araya, director of order and security at Chile’s Carabineros national police force.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in 50 locations around the country to mark the anniversary of the street protests led by students and sparked by a hike in metro fares.

The unrest that followed left 34 dead and 460 people with eye injuries, including some that lost their sight, from pellets and tear gas fired by police.

Billionaire right-wing President Sebastian Pinera’s government came under fire over the at times brutal response from security forces that included some rights violations.

The protests continued for four months up to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Juan Francisco Galli, the interior undersecretary, blamed Monday’s violence on opposition candidates for next month’s presidential election, leftist Gabriel Boric and centrist Yasna Provoste, for proposing and supporting pardons for detainees that “looted, destroyed everything and threw Molotov cocktails” during the 2019 protests.

“The people responsible for the violence are those that established in our country a sense of impunity, that there are no consequences for violence,” said Galli.

The violence contrasted with the peaceful protest by 10,000 people on Plaza Italia, the central square in Santiago that was the hub of the 2019 movement, whose behavior was “largely positive,” according to Araya.

That protest lasted around four hours with minimal police presence, although authorities had earlier removed traffic lights and rubbish bins to prevent vandals from damaging them.

Some 5,000 police officers were deployed throughout the country to keep order, according to local press.

Protesters demanded universal healthcare, free and improved schooling and higher pensions.

The demonstration coincided with the constituent assembly elected to re-write the constitution beginning its work following a period of 100 days in which it set out its internal rules.

The current constitution was implemented during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-90) and was one of the main targets of the 2019 protests.


American nurse convicted of killing 4 men with air injections

American nurse convicted of killing 4 men with air injections
Updated 19 October 2021

American nurse convicted of killing 4 men with air injections

American nurse convicted of killing 4 men with air injections
  • Prosecutors said during closing arguments that Davis “liked to kill people.”
  • Defense attorney says the hospital had issues and that Davis was a scapegoat

TYLER, Texas: A Texas nurse was convicted Tuesday of capital murder in the deaths of four patients who died after prosecutors say he injected them with air following heart surgeries.

The Smith County jury deliberated for about an hour before finding William George Davis, of Hallsville, guilty of capital murder involving multiple victims. Prosecutors planned to seek the death penalty during the sentencing phase, which was scheduled to start Wednesday.
Davis, 37, was accused of injecting air into the four patients’ arteries after they underwent heart surgery at the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler in 2017 and 2018. During recovery from their surgeries, the four — John Lafferty, Ronald Clark, Christopher Greenway and Joseph Kalina — suffered unexplained neurological problems and died.
During the trial, Dr. William Yarbrough, a Dallas-area pulmonologist and professor of internal medicine, explained to the jury how injecting air into the arterial system of the brain causes brain injury and death.
Yarbrough said he was able to determine there was air in the arterial system of the victims’ brains by viewing images from brain scans — something he said he had never before observed in his decades in medicine.
He ruled out blood pressure problems or any other causes of death besides the injection of air, and said it must have happened after the surgeries because the complications occurred while the patients were in recovery.
Defense attorney Phillip Hayes told the jury that the hospital had issues and that Davis was a scapegoat who was only charged because he was there when the deaths occurred.
Prosecutor Chris Gatewood said during closing arguments that Davis “liked to kill people.” And prosecutor Jacob Putnam said the hospital hadn’t changed any of its procedures and hadn’t had any similar incidents since Davis left.


Boy, 16, charged with murder after fatal stabbing of Afghan refugee

Boy, 16, charged with murder after fatal stabbing of Afghan refugee
Updated 19 October 2021

Boy, 16, charged with murder after fatal stabbing of Afghan refugee

Boy, 16, charged with murder after fatal stabbing of Afghan refugee
  • Hazrat Wali was stabbed to death last week when a fight broke out near his college
  • He is believed to have been the 25th teenager murdered in London this year

LONDON: A boy, 16, has been charged with murder over the fatal stabbing of an 18-year-old Afghan refugee, Hazrat Wali, in London last week.

The 16-year-old from Hammersmith and Fulham, London, appeared in court via video link from the young offender’s institution where he is being held.

He confirmed his identity and was told that his plea hearing would be held on Jan. 11, 2022. Wali’s brother and foster mother attended the brief hearing on Tuesday. 

The youth defendant was remanded into custody until his next court appearance.

Police are continuing to investigate the stabbing, which is said to have occurred when a fight broke out in a field near Wali’s college in west London.

Wali was an Afghan refugee who came to Britain two years ago, according to the Evening Standard. An unnamed relative told the free London daily newspaper: “He came here to study, he was living all on his own in London. His immediate family are all back in Afghanistan.

“I saw him in hospital. He had a fight is all that I had heard,” the relative added.

Witnesses say a teacher from the school ran over to give the teenager CPR in an attempt to save his life. While he administered first aid, Wali is said to have told the teacher the identity of the person that stabbed him. Wali died in hospital soon after.

Wali is believed to have been the 25th teenager murdered in London this year.