Students paralyze traffic in Bangladeshi capital

Students paralyze traffic in Bangladeshi capital
The protest prompted the govt to enact a new road transportation law that increased the punishment for death due to negligent driving to five years. (AFP)
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Updated 29 November 2021

Students paralyze traffic in Bangladeshi capital

Students paralyze traffic in Bangladeshi capital
  • The country has one of the highest numbers of road traffic deaths in the world

DHAKA: Thousands of Bangladeshi students took to the streets of Dhaka on Sunday, blocking the capital city’s main intersections and paralyzing traffic to demand enforcement of road safety laws.

Bangladesh has one of the highest numbers of road traffic deaths in the world, according to World Health Organization estimates. 

Data from the Accident Research Institute of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology shows that road accidents in the country claimed the lives of 3,558 people between January 2020 and June this year.

In 2018, young Bangladeshis protested across the country for over a week after two students were killed by a speeding bus. The protest prompted the government to enact a new road transportation law that increased the punishment for death due to negligent driving to five years.

But demonstrators said the 2018 law had not been implemented as the current road safety protests gained momentum last week, after a college student was killed by a garbage truck.

“How many more lives will be required to restore discipline in streets? We have given time to the authorities but nothing has been changed so we returned on streets again,” Jisan Ahmed, a college student, told Arab News while protesting in the Dhanmondi area of Dhaka.

The protesting students are also demanding a discount on transit fares.

“We want a 50 percent discount on fare in public transports and the authorities have to fulfil the demand by Tuesday. We will stage protest in front of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority building if our demands are not met within 48 hours,” another student protester, Antor Hasan, said.

Nur Mohammad Mazumder, chairman of the authority, said more discussions were needed with transport operators to find a solution to student demands.

“Already we had two meetings where a number of issues were discussed,” he said, adding it may take “some time” to resolve the issues.

Bus owners said they feared facing losses if discounted fares were in place.

“We have to incur losses if the students are transported at 50 percent discounted rate,” Dhaka Road Transport Owners Association Secretary-General Enayet Ullah Khan said. “We will sit again tomorrow among ourselves to find a solution.”

According to the Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh, the fare issue was not a big problem.

“Operators actually don’t require any subsidies from the government in this regard,” the association’s secretary-general, Mozammel Hoque, said.

He expressed worry over the more significant issue that was deteriorating road safety.

“Many of the city buses don’t comply with the fitness parameters set by the authorities,” Hoque said, adding that the number of accidents had increased since the 2018 protests.

“In many cases we’re not witnessing the implementation of the law,” he told Arab News. “Things have taken a worse look as the number of road accidents have increased by around 10 percent.”


British police arrest two men in Texas synagogue attack investigation

British police arrest two men in Texas synagogue attack investigation
Updated 8 sec ago

British police arrest two men in Texas synagogue attack investigation

British police arrest two men in Texas synagogue attack investigation
LONDON: British police on Thursday arrested two men as part of an investigation into a hostage taking at a synagogue in Texas.
“Two men have been arrested this morning in Birmingham and Manchester,” counter terrorism police said.
The daylong siege at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, about 16 miles northeast of Fort Worth, Texas, ended in gunfire on Saturday night with all four hostages released unharmed and the death of the suspect.

Austria introduces lottery as COVID-19 vaccine incentive

Austria introduces lottery as COVID-19 vaccine incentive
Updated 45 min 18 sec ago

Austria introduces lottery as COVID-19 vaccine incentive

Austria introduces lottery as COVID-19 vaccine incentive
  • New daily infections surged to a new record on Wednesday as the extremely contagious omicron variant spread further

VIENNA: Austria’s conservative-led government said on Thursday it was introducing a national lottery to encourage holdouts to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, hours before parliament was due to pass a bill introducing a national vaccine mandate.
Roughly 72 percent of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.
New daily infections surged to a new record on Wednesday as the extremely contagious omicron variant spread further, but the government wants to avoid another national lockdown, since the country emerged from its fourth one only last month.
“What is there to win in the vaccination lottery? Vouchers!” Chancellor Karl Nehammer told a news conference with the leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, with whom the measure was negotiated.
Nehammer said he wanted there to be a financial reward for those who get vaccinated, adding: “We have learned from the past and we have seen that a vaccination lottery is the best possible way to set up such a system.”
Members of the public, whether already vaccinated or not, would get a ticket for each shot they have had — three tickets in total for those who have had their booster shot.
Every tenth ticket would win a 500 euro ($568) gift voucher, Nehammer said, without specifying what the vouchers were for.
The lower house of parliament is due to pass a bill later on Thursday making vaccines compulsory for all adults in Austria, with initial fines of 600 euros, rising to up to 3,600 euros if the fine is challenged unsuccessfully.
Austria will be the first European Union country to introduce a COVID vaccine mandate for all adults when the measure takes effect on Feb. 1.


Britain must learn to live with COVID-19, it could be with us forever — Javid

Britain must learn to live with COVID-19, it could be with us forever — Javid
Updated 20 January 2022

Britain must learn to live with COVID-19, it could be with us forever — Javid

Britain must learn to live with COVID-19, it could be with us forever — Javid

LONDON: Britain must learn to live with COVID-19 as it may be with us forever, health minister Sajid Javid said on Thursday, adding that Britain was moving ahead of other countries as the government lifted coronavirus measures.
“We need to learn to live with it. Sadly people die of flu as well: in a bad flu year you can sadly lose about 20,000 lives, but we don’t shut down our entire country,” Javid said.
“COVID is not going away. It’s going to be with us for many, many years, perhaps forever, and we have to learn to live with it... I think we are leading Europe in the transition from pandemic to endemic and we’re leading the way in showing the world how you can live with COVID.”


Taiwan to mandate COVID-19 vaccination proof for entertainment venues

Taiwan to mandate COVID-19 vaccination proof for entertainment venues
Updated 20 January 2022

Taiwan to mandate COVID-19 vaccination proof for entertainment venues

Taiwan to mandate COVID-19 vaccination proof for entertainment venues
  • The center said the move was needed to minimize the risk of community transmission as Taiwan deals with a small number of domestic infections of the omicron variant

TAIPEI: Taiwan will mandate the use of passes that provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry into entertainment venues, the government said on Thursday, as it seeks to reduce infection risks while tackling a small rise in domestic omicron cases.
The Central Epidemic Command Center said that from Friday entry into venues including bars and night clubs would require proof of full vaccination, either by showing a physical vaccine card or a new digital card.
The center said the move was needed to minimize the risk of community transmission as Taiwan deals with a small number of domestic infections of the omicron variant.
More than 70 percent of people in Taiwan have received two vaccine doses and booster shots are currently being rolled out, though only around 10 percent of residents have had their third shot so far.
Taiwan has kept the pandemic well under control thanks to strict border measures enacted early on and a highly efficient tracing system.
It has reported 18,041 cases to date out of a population of 23.5 million.


Beijing says it warned away US warship in South China Sea

Beijing says it warned away US warship in South China Sea
Updated 20 January 2022

Beijing says it warned away US warship in South China Sea

Beijing says it warned away US warship in South China Sea
  • China: USS Benfold ‘illegally’ sailed into Chinese territorial waters without permission
  • South China Sea one of many flashpoints in the testy relationship between China and the US

BEIJING: Chinese forces followed and warned away a US warship which entered waters near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, the country’s military said on Thursday, in the latest uptick in tensions in the disputed waterway.
The Southern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army said the USS Benfold “illegally” sailed into Chinese territorial waters without permission, violating the country’s sovereignty, and that Chinese naval and air forces tracked the ship.
“We solemnly demand that the US side immediately stop such provocative actions, otherwise it will bear the serious consequences of unforeseen events,” it added.
The US Navy said the Benfold “asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of the Paracel Island, consistent with international law.”
“At the conclusion of the operation, USS Benfold exited the excessive claim and continued operations in the South China Sea,” 7th Fleet spokesman Mark Langford said.
The United States frequently carries out what it calls freedom of navigation missions in the South China Sea to challenge Chinese territorial claims.
China has established military outposts on artificial islands in the waters, which are crossed by vital shipping lanes and also contain gas fields and rich fishing grounds.
The South China Sea has become one of many flashpoints in the testy relationship between China and the United States, with Washington rejecting what it calls unlawful territorial claims by Beijing.
China claims vast swaths of the South China Sea. Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines all have overlapping claims.