Capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray hit by air strike for second time this week

Capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray hit by air strike for second time this week
Ambulances of Red Cross arrive with patients who were injured in their town Togoga in a deadly airstrike on a market, arrive at Mekelle General Hospital in Mekele, on June 24, 2021. (File/AFP)
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Updated 20 October 2021

Capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray hit by air strike for second time this week

Capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray hit by air strike for second time this week
  • Tigrai Television, controlled by the region’s Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), reported the attack targeted the city center
  • Ethiopia’s government spokesman, Legesse Tulu, did not immediately answer a phone call requesting comment on the reported strike

ADDIS ABABA: An air strike hit the capital of Tigray region in northern Ethiopia on Wednesday morning, regionally controlled television said, reporting the second attack on the city of Mekelle this week.
Tigrai Television, controlled by the region’s Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), reported the attack targeted the city center.
It posted photographs of what appeared to be plumes of billowing smoke, but it was not immediately possible for Reuters to geolocate the photographs. The TV station said in a statement on Facebook that the strike was at 10:24 a.m. (0724 GMT).
Ethiopia’s government spokesman, Legesse Tulu, did not immediately answer a phone call requesting comment on the reported strike. It was not immediately possible to reach the spokesperson for the TPLF.
The two sides have been fighting a war for almost a year that has killed thousands of people and displaced more than 2 million.
A humanitarian source in Mekelle told Reuters the strike was in an area of the city called 05 Kebelle — an area near the a cement factory on the city’s outskirts.
The strike hit around 10:30 a.m., the source said.
The report of a strike comes two days after two air strikes hit the city. Rebellious Tigrayan forces accused the Ethiopian government of launching the strikes. Though a government official initially denied any strikes, state-run media later reported the air force conducted an attack.
The news follows intensified fighting https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/ethiopian-offensive-two-northern-re... in two other Ethiopian regions, where the central government’s military is trying to recover territory taken by the TPLF, which recaptured Mekelle and most of the rest of Tigray several months ago.
“The federal air strikes on Mekelle appear to be part of efforts to weaken Tigray’s armed resistance, which has recently made further gains in eastern Amhara region, with fighting ongoing in some areas,” said Will Davison, a senior analyst on Ethiopia at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, a think-tank.
“Along with superior manpower, control of the skies is one of the few remaining areas of military advantage for the federal government,” Davison said.


India says it detects two cases of Omicron variant

India says it detects two cases of Omicron variant
Updated 15 sec ago

India says it detects two cases of Omicron variant

India says it detects two cases of Omicron variant
  • All primary contacts and secondary contacts of both the cases have been traced and are being tested
BENGALURU: India has detected two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in the southern state of Karnataka, a health ministry official said on Thursday.
“All primary contacts and secondary contacts of both the cases have been traced and are being tested,” the health ministry’s joint secretary Lav Agarwal told a news briefing.

Biden launching winter COVID-19 booster, testing campaign

Biden launching winter COVID-19 booster, testing campaign
Updated 18 min 17 sec ago

Biden launching winter COVID-19 booster, testing campaign

Biden launching winter COVID-19 booster, testing campaign
  • The plan includes a requirement for private insurers to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests and a tightening of testing requirements for people entering the US regardless of their vaccination status
  • Biden is also extending his directive requiring masks on airplanes and other public transit, which had been set to expire in January

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden is set to kick off a more urgent campaign for Americans to get COVID-19 booster shots Thursday as he unveils his winter plans for combating the coronavirus and its omicron variant with enhanced availability of shots and vaccines but without major new restrictions.
The plan includes a requirement for private insurers to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests and a tightening of testing requirements for people entering the US regardless of their vaccination status. But as some other nations close their borders or reimpose lockdowns, officials said Biden was not moving to impose additional restrictions beyond his recommendation that Americans wear masks indoors in public settings.
Biden said Wednesday that the forthcoming strategy, to be unveiled during a speech at the National Institutes of Health, would fight the virus “not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more.”
The White House released details of Biden’s plan early Thursday, in advance of the speech.
The Biden administration has come to view widespread adoption of booster shots as its most effective tool for combating COVID-19 this winter. Medical experts say boosters provide enhanced and more enduring protection against COVID-19, including new variants.
About 100 million Americans are eligible for boosters under current US policy, with more becoming eligible every day. Convincing those who have already been vaccinated to get another dose, officials believe, will be far easier than vaccinating the roughly 43 million adult Americans who haven’t gotten a shot despite widespread public pressure campaigns to roll up their sleeves.
And while Biden’s vaccination-or-testing requirement for workers at larger employers has been held up by legal challenges, the president on Thursday will renew his call for businesses to move ahead and impose their own mandates on workers so they can stay open without outbreaks.
In a effort to encourage more people to take the booster doses, the Biden administration is stepping up direct outreach to seniors — the population most vulnerable to the virus. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will send a notice to all 63 million Medicare beneficiaries encouraging them to get booster doses, the White House said. The AARP will work with the administration on education campaigns for seniors.
So far about 42 million Americans, about half of them seniors, have received a booster dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week broadened its booster dose recommendation to cover all Americans aged at least 18 starting six months after their second dose of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna.
The White House said the CDC was also developing new guidance for schools in an effort to reduce or eliminate current quarantine requirements for those are not fully vaccinated and exposed to the virus. The new policies, which the White House said will be released in the coming weeks, could include so-called “test-to-stay” policies, in which those who are considered close contacts can continue to go to school but wear masks and undergo serial testing, in a bid to minimize learning loss and disruption.
The administration’s upcoming rule to require private insurers to cover at-home testing is still being drafted, and many details remain to be worked out, including under what criteria they will be reimbursable, officials said. Those insured by Medicare and Medicaid would not be eligible, but the White House said as many as 150 million people with private insurance would see easier and cheaper access to the at-home tests.
Beginning next week, the White House said, all travelers to the US, regardless of nationality or vaccination status, will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of boarding their flights. That’s down from three days right now for those who have been vaccinated, in an added precaution against the omicron variant. But the White House has shelved tougher options, like requiring post-arrival testing or requiring quarantines upon arrival in the US
Biden is also extending his directive requiring masks on airplanes and other public transit, which had been set to expire in January, through at least the middle of March, the White House said.
The administration is also informing states that it has more than 60 teams available to help them or their municipalities address surges in cases and public health shortages heading into the winter, with half aimed at bolstering hospital services and 20 targeted at supporting life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments.


Philippines activists push new petition seeking Marcos election ban

Philippines activists push new petition seeking Marcos election ban
Updated 02 December 2021

Philippines activists push new petition seeking Marcos election ban

Philippines activists push new petition seeking Marcos election ban
  • Outside the poll body, more than a dozen people chanted “Disqualify, BBM! Disqualify! Disqualify!” while carrying posters bearing the same message

MANILA: Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the early frontrunner for the Philippines presidency, was hit by another formal complaint on Thursday, as longtime opponents of his powerful family pile pressure on authorities to disqualify him from elections next year.
The activists’ petition is part of a flurry of complaints designed to sideline Marcos, a career politician and son and namesake of the notorious dictator who was driven from power by a 1986 people’s uprising.
It was among at least six lodged with election authorities and is centered on his 1995 conviction for failing to pay income tax or file tax returns while in public office from 1982 to 1985, which carries a lifetime election ban.
“He was the son of the ruling dictator, the same dictator who imposed the penalty of perpetual disqualification,” the 13-page petition said.
The group was referring to a 1985 amendment to the internal revenue code permanently barring a public officer convicted of a tax crime from voting and running in any election.
“Perhaps he thought he was an exception to his father’s decrees,” the petition said.
The Marcos family is arguably the most famous and divisive in the Philippines.
Despite its fall from grace, it has retained vast wealth and far-reaching and powerful connections, but its prominence has been a cause of anger to thousands who suffered during the harsh 1970s martial law under the elder Marcos.
Outside the poll body, more than a dozen people chanted “Disqualify, BBM! Disqualify! Disqualify!” while carrying posters bearing the same message.
BBM refers to “Bongbong” Marcos, his nickname. His media group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since his conviction, Marcos, 64, has been elected governor, congressman and senator and ran unsuccessfully for the vice presidency.
“He may have been allowed to run in 2016 but we will not allow him to run again,” said petitioner and Akbayan youth chairperson Rj Naguit.


UN fears sectarian violence that could ‘fracture’ Ethiopia

UN fears sectarian violence that could ‘fracture’ Ethiopia
Updated 02 December 2021

UN fears sectarian violence that could ‘fracture’ Ethiopia

UN fears sectarian violence that could ‘fracture’ Ethiopia
  • In an interview with AFP, Martin Griffiths expressed deep concern for the stability of a nation of 115 million people
  • Griffiths, the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, said the conflict in Ethiopia has sparked perhaps the world’s most worrying humanitarian crisis
GENEVA: Ethiopia risks descending into sectarian violence and experiencing a chaotic Kabul-style exodus if the year-long conflict spreads to the capital Addis Ababa, the UN aid chief warned.
In an interview with AFP, Martin Griffiths expressed deep concern for the stability of a nation of 115 million people composed of more than 80 ethnic groups.
Griffiths, the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, said the conflict in Ethiopia has sparked perhaps the world’s most worrying humanitarian crisis.
He warned that a battle in the capital Addis Ababa and increasing communal violence could worsen the situation “exponentially.”
Humanitarian organizations have been scrambling to respond to soaring needs in Ethiopia, and laying contingency plans in case the crisis deepens.
“The worst I think from a humanitarian perspective (would be) if there is a battle for Addis or turmoil around there, leading to increased communal violence across the country,” Griffiths said.
“If that were to happen, we’re facing something I don’t think we have faced before for many, many years: We’re facing a fracture ... of the fabric of Ethiopia.”
The chaos flowing from such a situation would be far worse than what has happened in the last 13 months.
Thousands of people have been killed, two million displaced and hundreds of thousands driven into famine-like conditions since the conflict erupted in November 2020, according to UN estimates.

The conflict began when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into the northernmost Tigray region to topple the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) — a move he said came in response to rebel attacks on army camps.
The rebels mounted a comeback, recapturing most of Tigray by June before expanding into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar.
The conflict took a sharp turn around a month ago, when the TPLF claimed to have captured strategic towns on a key highway to the capital.
But last week Abiy himself deployed to the conflict zone, and the government has since claimed it is back in control of several towns including the UNESCO World Heritage site Lalibela.
Griffiths called for an end to the violence.
Even if fighting approaches the Ethiopian capital, he insisted “major targets should be avoided,” including the airport and the city itself, with a population of over five million, “where it is unimaginable to think of a battle like that.”
He said: “The real, elemental worry is if the conflict mutates into communal violence across different parts of the country, as opposed to conflict between the government and specific groups... That would make everything exponentially worse.”

While the UN was intent on staying to provide aid regardless, he said fears abound among expatriates like diplomats and others in Addis that the country could witness scenes reminiscent of the chaotic airport evacuation after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August.
They worry “the same thing might happen that happened in Kabul,” he said.
Asked if he believed that really might happen, he said: “I think it could, but I hope it won’t.”
Speaking to AFP ahead of the launch of the international humanitarian communities annual global appeal, Griffiths pointed out that the nearly $3 billion requested to address aid needs in Ethiopia next year was dramatically higher than in previous appeals “because of the likelihood that these needs will grow.”
The UN’s World Food Programme said last week that the number of people requiring food aid in Ethiopia’s war-torn north had surged to more than nine million, while drought has also deepened food insecurity in other regions.
The UN has warned that 400,000 people in the north of the country were at risk of famine, but Griffiths said a lack of fuel and access to assess the situation on the ground meant a full-blown famine had yet to be confirmed.
With improved access and more available fuel, UN agencies are now aiming to make the assessment within weeks.
Asked if there was a risk of a repeat of the devastating famine conditions that killed more than a million people in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s, Griffiths said he hoped not.
“I just hope to God that we’re not going to see that kind of misery.”

Omicron could become dominant in France by end of January -government advisor

Omicron could become dominant in France by end of January -government advisor
Updated 02 December 2021

Omicron could become dominant in France by end of January -government advisor

Omicron could become dominant in France by end of January -government advisor
  • The local health body for the Ile de France region said in a statement that a case of omicron variant had been found in a person who returned from Nigeria

PARIS: The omicron coronavirus variant could become the dominant strain in France by the end of January, but meanwhile it should be possible to have a good Christmas if steps are taken to curb the delta strain, France’s top scientific adviser said on Thursday.
Jean-Francois Delfraissy told BFM television the “true enemy” for now was still delta, spreading in a fifth wave.
“We should see a progressive rise of the omicron variant, which will take over from delta,” possibly by the end of January, he said.
“Christmas is not at risk if the population and decision-makers are all very cautious,” he said, reiterating that social distancing and a third, booster shot of vaccines were key weapons in the fight against COVID-19.
France recorded nearly 50,000 new conformed COVID-19 cases over 24 hours, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
There were 1,886 people in intensive care units with COVID-19 on Wednesday, a level Delfraissy said was not yet a peak, particularly when compared to 6,000-7000 at the height of the second wave in France last autumn.
The local health body for the Ile de France region of greater Paris said in a statement on Thursday that a case of omicron variant had been found in a person who returned from Nigeria, the first confirmed case in Metropolitan France.