Omicron variant likely to be circulating in France — health minister

Omicron variant likely to be circulating in France — health minister
The French health minister added that the government was tightening restrictions to contain its spread. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 28 November 2021

Omicron variant likely to be circulating in France — health minister

Omicron variant likely to be circulating in France — health minister
  • The government was tightening restrictions to contain the spread of the virus

PARIS: The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is probably already circulating in France, its health minister said on Sunday, adding that the government was tightening restrictions to contain its spread.
“There is no identification yet, but it’s a matter of hours,” Olivier Veran told reporters at a vaccination center in Paris.


Australia records deadliest day of pandemic with 80 deaths

Australia records deadliest day of pandemic with 80 deaths
Updated 18 sec ago

Australia records deadliest day of pandemic with 80 deaths

Australia records deadliest day of pandemic with 80 deaths
  • The previous record of 78 deaths was set on Tuesday
  • New South Wales, home to Sydney, reported a record 46 deaths
CANBERRA: Australia on Friday reported its deadliest day of the pandemic with 80 coronavirus fatalities, as an outbreak of the omicron variant continued to take a toll.
But Dominic Perrottet, premier of the most populous state, New South Wales, said a slight decrease in hospitalizations gave him some hope about the strain the outbreak is putting on the health system.
The previous record of 78 deaths was set on Tuesday. There have been just under 3,000 coronavirus deaths in Australia since the pandemic began.
New South Wales, home to Sydney, reported a record 46 deaths. They included a baby who died from COVID-19 in December, one of several historical cases that were investigated.
The news came after the premier of Western Australia state, Mark McGowan, backed down on a promise to reopen the state to the rest of the country on Feb. 5.
In a late-night news conference on Thursday, McGowan said reopening the state as planned would be “reckless and irresponsible” given the large number of COVID-19 cases in other states. No new date has been set for when the state might relax its border closure.
The border decision means neither Prime Minister Scott Morrison nor opposition leader Anthony Albanese can campaign in the state for now. An election is due to be held by May 21.

UK government reinstates citizenship of alleged ‘Islamist extremist’

UK government reinstates citizenship of alleged ‘Islamist extremist’
Updated 18 min 23 sec ago

UK government reinstates citizenship of alleged ‘Islamist extremist’

UK government reinstates citizenship of alleged ‘Islamist extremist’
  • He was told his British citizenship was revoked while visiting newborn daughter in Bangladesh
  • Advocacy group: Citizenship deprivation ‘nearly exclusively impacts Muslims, people of color’

LONDON: A British man left stateless in 2017 when his citizenship was stripped has had it reinstated following a lengthy court battle.

The man, identified in court documents as E3, had his citizenship removed in 2017 while he was in Bangladesh for the birth of his daughter.

In a deprivation-of-citizenship order sent to his mother’s UK address, the government alleged that he was “an Islamist extremist who had previously sought to travel abroad to participate in terrorism-related activity.”

It said he was considered a threat to national security and would not be allowed to return to Britain.

His lawyers were not given any evidence of the criminal activity upon which the decision was based because it was “secret.”

Five years on, the government has reinstated the man’s citizenship, but he faces another court battle to provide his daughter with UK nationality.

“I never thought I would win my case; not because I am guilty of anything but because the system is set up to make you lose,” the man, who was born in London but is of Bangladeshi heritage, told The Independent.

“It was incredibly difficult. It is something that you cannot prepare for — you are suddenly cut off from your home, your family and friends, your job and source of income, and everything you take for granted.

“I was stranded in a country with a family that were financially dependent on me and I had no way of providing for them.”

He said he felt helpless and in danger from the Bangladeshi government. “If they were to learn that the British government had accused me of terrorism, they would probably detain and torture me as they routinely do with terrorism suspects,” E3 added.

“I had been sent into exile for a crime that I was not told about; I was not brought before a judge, had not even seen the evidence, so was not at all hopeful for a positive outcome to my appeal.”

The UK government is currently attempting to push the Nationality and Borders Bill through Parliament, which would make it significantly easier to remove the citizenship of those considered threats to national security.

The bill has proved controversial — if implemented, almost half of all British Asians and two in five black Britons would be eligible to have their citizenship revoked, potentially at short notice.

Anas Mustapha of advocacy group Cage, which is supporting E3’s family, told The Independent that E3’s case “exposes the cruel nature of citizenship deprivation” which, he added, “nearly exclusively impacts Muslims and people of color.”

The Good Law Project published advice on the bill, currently being reviewed by the House of Lords, and concluded that if it becomes law it will have “a disproportionate impact on non-white British citizens.”


Nepal imposes tough restrictions as COVID-19 cases set record

Nepal imposes tough restrictions as COVID-19 cases set record
Updated 51 min 14 sec ago

Nepal imposes tough restrictions as COVID-19 cases set record

Nepal imposes tough restrictions as COVID-19 cases set record
  • Authorities also halted in-person classes at all schools and indefinitely postponed university examinations

Katmandu: Nepal’s capital shut schools, ordered citizens to carry vaccination cards in public, banned religious festivals and instructed hotel guests to be tested every three days as it battles its biggest COVID-19 outbreak.
The chief government administrator of Katmandu issued a notice on Friday saying all people must carry their vaccination cards when they are in public areas or shop in stores.
Nepal, however, has only fully vaccinated 41 percent of its population. The notice did not say how unvaccinated people will be able to pay utility bills or shop for groceries.
The government says it has enough vaccines in stock, but a new wave of COVID-19 cases propelled by the omicron variant has created long lines at vaccination centers, with many people unable to receive shots.
All public gatherings and meetings will be banned and cinemas and theaters will be closed. Gymnasiums, pools and other sporting venues will also be shut. No public religious festivals or events will be allowed, the notice said. It did not say how long the restrictions would last.
Authorities also halted in-person classes at all schools and indefinitely postponed university examinations.
Wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing in public will be mandatory. Only 20 customers at a time will be allowed in shopping malls and department stores, and all must carry vaccination cards. Employees will be given regular antigen tests to be allowed to work.
Restaurants and hotels can remain open, but employees must wear face masks and other protection. Hotel guests must take antigen tests every three days.
The government is also limiting road traffic, with bans on alternating days for vehicles with odd or even license plates.
The notice said violators will be punished, but did not elaborates. An existing law relating to pandemics says violators can be jailed for a month.
The Health Ministry reported a record 12,338 new cases on Thursday and 11,352 on Wednesday, compared to a few hundred daily cases last month.
Nepal had full lockdowns in 2020 and again from late April to Sept. 1, 2021.


EU health ministers seek common line over fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose

EU health ministers seek common line over fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose
Updated 21 January 2022

EU health ministers seek common line over fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose

EU health ministers seek common line over fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose
  • Hungary and Denmark have already decided to roll out a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines

BRUSSELS: European Union health ministers will try to find a common line on Friday over a potential fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines, amid a surge in cases sparked by the omicron variant.
The EU drugs regulator said earlier this week it would be reasonable to give a fourth dose to people with severely weakened immune systems, but more evidence was needed.
Ministers will discuss “the administration of the fourth dose,” said a press release issued by the French presidency of the EU, which organized the video-conference for health ministers at short notice.
EU members Hungary and Denmark have already decided to roll out a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines. Copenhagen said it would do so for the most vulnerable, while the Hungarian government said everybody could get it after a consultation with a doctor.
The rollout of fourth doses began in Israel last month, making it the first country to administer the so-called second booster.
Wealthier nations decided to speed up the rollout of third doses amid a wave of new cases caused by the more contagious omicron variant, but remain divided over a fourth one.
Many consider that more data is needed before making decisions on that.
The French presidency said the video conference was meant to find a common approach at an EU level on vaccination strategies.
The meeting will also discuss coordination of other COVID-19 policies, including for possible new joint purchases of vaccines, as “vaccines adapted to variants are coming soon,” the French presidency said.
Vaccines adapted to omicron could be ready as early as March, but the EU drugs regulator has said it is not yet clear whether they are needed.
Work is underway to develop multivalent vaccines that could protect against multiple variants, but it is not known when or if they could be available.


Taliban to hold meeting in Norway next week

Taliban to hold meeting in Norway next week
Updated 21 January 2022

Taliban to hold meeting in Norway next week

Taliban to hold meeting in Norway next week
  • Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt: We are extremely concerned about the serious situation in Afghanistan

COPENHAGEN: A Taliban delegation will travel to Norway for talks with the Norwegian government, meeting with representatives of the Norwegian authorities and several allied countries but also with civil society activists and human rights defenders from Afghanistan.
The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said Friday that it has invited representatives of the Taliban to Oslo from Jan. 23 to Jan. 25. The statement didn’t say which other countries would take part in the meeting.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said that “we are extremely concerned about the serious situation in Afghanistan.” She said there is “a full-scale humanitarian catastrophe for millions of people” in the country.
She stressed that the meeting was “not a legitimation or recognition of the Taliban. But we must talk to those who in practice govern the country today.”
“We cannot let the political situation lead to an even worse humanitarian catastrophe,” she said.
The Foreign Ministry said that the Taliban delegation meetings also will include Afghans with backgrounds “from various fields and include women leaders, journalists, and people who work with, among other things, human rights and humanitarian, economic, social and political issues.”
It said that earlier this week, a Norwegian delegation visited Kabul for talks on the precarious humanitarian situation in the country.

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