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Thousands protest lockdown across Australia

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Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Sydney and other Australian cities to protest lockdown restrictions amid another surge in coronavirus cases. The unmasked participants marched from Sydney’s Victoria Park to Town Hall in the central business district, carrying signs calling for “freedom” and “the truth”. There was a heavy police presence in Sydney, including mounted police and riot officers in response to what authorities said was unauthorised protest activity. Police confirmed a number of arrests had been made. New South Wales (NSW) Police said it recognised and supported the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, but the protest was a breach of public health orders. A police statement said: “The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community.” The protest comes as Covid-19 case numbers in the state reached another record with 163 new infections in the last 24 hours. Greater Sydney has been locked down for the past four weeks, with residents only able to leave home with a reasonable excuse. State health minister Brad Hazzard said: “We live in a democracy and normally I am certainly one who supports people’s rights to protest … but at the present time we’ve got cases going through the roof and we have people thinking that’s OK to get out there and possibly be close to each other at a demonstration.”
Anti-lockdown protests in Australia
via MatrixNews
In Melbourne, thousands of protesters without masks turned out downtown chanting “freedom”. Some of them lit flares as they gathered outside Victoria state’s Parliament House. They held banners, including one that read: “This is not about a virus it’s about total government control of the people.” A car protest rally is also planned in Adelaide, which is also under lockdown, with police warning they will make arrests over unlawful activity. By Friday, 15.4% of the nation’s population aged 16 and above had received both jabs for Covid-19. “We’ve turned the corner, we’ve got it sorted. We’re hitting the marks that we need to make, a million doses a week are now being delivered,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. “We are well on our way to where we want to be by the end of the year and potentially sooner than that.” The federal government said it will send thousands of extra Pfizer doses to Sydney while adults in Australia’s largest city are also being urged to “strongly consider” AstraZeneca in view of the scarcity of Pfizer supplies.

Far-right activists and yellow vest movement march against French virus bill

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Far-right activists and members of France’s yellow vest movement are holding protests against a bill requiring everyone to have a special virus pass to enter restaurants and other venues and mandating Covid-19 vaccinations for all health care workers. Legislators in France’s senate are debating the bill on Saturday after the lower house of parliament approved it on Friday. French virus infections are spiking and hospital cases are also growing. The government is trying to speed up vaccinations to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals and avoid new lockdowns. Most French adults are fully vaccinated and polls indicate a majority of French people support the new measures. Protesters against the move marched through Paris in one of multiple demonstrations planned Saturday. A crowd gathered at Bastille plaza and marched through eastern Paris in one of several demonstrations which took place around France. Thousands also joined a gathering across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower, organised by a former top official in Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration party. While most protesters were calm, tensions erupted on the margins of the Bastille march. Riot police sprayed tear gas on marchers after someone threw a chair at an officer. Other projectiles could also be seen in a video of the incident. Many marchers focused their anger on a French “health pass” that is required to enter museums, movie theatres and tourist sites. The bill under debate would expand the pass requirement to all restaurants and bars in France and some other venues. To get the pass, people need to be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative test or have proof they recently recovered from the virus. Legislators have debated the measure amid divisions over how far to go in imposing health passes or mandatory vaccinations. Last weekend, more than 100,000 people protested around France against the measures. They included far-right politicians and activists as well as some others targeting their ire at President Emmanuel Macron. Remaining members of France’s yellow vest movement, largely from political extremes, are also using the virus bill to try to renew their campaign. The yellow vest movement started in 2018 as a broad uprising against perceived economic injustice and led to months of protests marked by violence between demonstrators and police, but subsided after the French government addressed many of the protesters’ concerns.

European agency clears Moderna vaccine for children 12-17

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The European Medicines Agency has recommended authorising Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 17, the first time the shot has been authorised for people under 18. The EU drug regulator said research in more than 3,700 children aged 12 to 17 showed that the Moderna vaccine — already given the OK for adults across Europe — produced a comparable antibody response. Until now, the vaccine made by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech has been the only option for children as young as 12 in North America and Europe. The US Food and Drug Administration is currently considering whether to extend the use of the Moderna vaccine to the same age group. With global vaccine supplies still tight, much of the world is struggling to immunise adults. The World Health Organisation and other agencies have urged rich countries to donate their doses to the developing world — where fewer than 2% of people have been vaccinated — rather than moving on to inoculate their less vulnerable populations. Hundreds of millions of Moderna doses already have been administered to adults, and the company says the two-dose vaccine is just as protective for adolescents. In a study of more than 3,700 12- to 17-year-olds, the vaccine triggered the same signs of immune protection, and no Covid-19 diagnoses arose in the vaccinated group compared with four cases among those given dummy shots. Sore arms, headache and fatigue were the most common side effects in the young vaccine recipients, the same ones as for adults. US and European regulators caution, however, that both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines appear linked to an extremely rare reaction in teens and young adults — chest pain and heart inflammation. Both Pfizer and Moderna have begun testing in even younger children, from age 11 down to six months old. These studies are more complex: teens receive the same dose as adults, but researchers are testing smaller doses in younger children. The EU drug regulator said it would continue to monitor the safety and efficacy of the Moderna vaccine in children as it is used in European member countries.

German railway: Floods caused billion-euro damage to network

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Germany’s national railway operator has estimated that last week’s flooding caused damage worth 1.3 billion euros (£1.1 billion) to its network, offering another glimpse of the extent of the devastation. Authorities are still working to determine the overall cost of the floods that did their worst damage in western Germany and eastern Belgium. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this week that the damage is “immense” and will take a long time to repair. At least 180 people died in Germany in the flooding and a further 31 deaths were reported in Belgium, taking the overall death toll to 211. German railway operator Deutsche Bahn said that more than 50 bridges, 180 level crossings, nearly 40 signal boxes, over 1,000 electric and signal masts, as well as energy and lighting systems and station elevators were damaged. “Never before has our infrastucture been destroyed to this extent in one go,” said Volker Hentschel, a board member at the company’s DB Netz infrastructure division. He said its initial estimate is that the flooding caused damage to the railway network and stations of around 1.3 billion euros. The government, which owns Deutsche Bahn, has vowed to make a quick start on rebuilding efforts. Mr Hentschel said it will take “months, if not years” to restore everything, though the company is confident of repairing 80% of the damaged infrastructure by the end of this year. Separately, Turkey also has seen flooding in recent days. Work was continuing to find a missing person following floods in Artvin province in the country’s northeast that started on Wednesday, and one person was being treated for injuries. More than 450 people were evacuated. At least six people were killed last week and two were missing after floods in neighboring Rize province.

Chinese leader visits Tibet amid rising controls over religion

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Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made a rare visit to Tibet as authorities tighten controls over the Himalayan region’s traditional Buddhist culture. State media reported that Mr Xi visited sites in the capital Lhasa, including the Drepung Monastery, Barkhor Street and the public square at the base of the Potala Palace that was home to the Dalai Lamas, Tibet’s traditional spiritual and temporal leaders. Mr Xi’s visit had not been previously announced publicly and it is not clear whether he had already returned to Beijing. China has in recent years stepped up controls over Buddhist monasteries and expanded education in the Chinese rather than Tibetan language. Critics of such policies are routinely detained and can receive long prison terms, especially if they have been convicted of association with the 86-year-old Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since fleeing Tibet during an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. China does not recognise the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile based in the hillside town of Dharmsala, and accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking to separate Tibet from China. Meanwhile, domestic tourism has expanded massively in the region during Mr Xi’s nine years in office and new airports, rail lines and highways constructed. China’s official Xinhua News Agency said that while in Lhasa on Thursday, Mr Xi sought to “learn about the work on ethnic and religious affairs, the conservation of the ancient city, as well as the inheritance and protection of Tibetan culture”. A day earlier, he visited the city of city of Nyingchi to inspect ecological preservation work on the basin of the Yarlung Zangbo River, the upper course of the Brahmaputra, on which China is building a controversial dam. He also visited a bridge and inspected a project to build a railway from south-western China’s Sichuan province to Tibet before riding Tibet’s first electrified rail line from Nyingchi to Lhasa, which went into service last month. Mr Xi’s visit may be timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the 17 Point Agreement, which firmly established Chinese control over Tibet, which many Tibetans say had been effectively independent for most of its history. The Dalai Lama says he was forced into signing the document and has since repudiated it. It also comes amid deteriorating relations between China and India, which share a lengthy but disputed border with Tibet. Deadly encounters last year between Indian and Chinese troops along their disputed high-altitude border dramatically altered the already fraught relationship between the nuclear-armed neighbours. That appears to have prompted Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to wish the Dalai Lama well on his birthday this month on Twitter, and to reveal he also spoke to him by phone. This marks the first time Mr Modi has publicly confirmed speaking with the Dalai Lama since becoming prime minister in 2014. In a statement, the advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet called Mr Xi’s visit “an indication of how high Tibet continues to figure in Chinese policy considerations”. The way in which the visit was organised and the “complete absence of any immediate state media coverage of the visit indicate that Tibet continues to be a sensitive issue and that the Chinese authorities do not have confidence in their legitimacy among the Tibetan people”, the US-based group said.

Haitian president’s hometown holds funeral amid violence

The hometown of Haitian President Jovenel Moise received his body on Friday for a private funeral amid heavy security following violent protests and fears of political volatility in the Caribbean nation. White T-shirts and caps emblazoned with his picture were distributed to supporters the day before what is expected to be the final ceremony to honour Mr Moise, who was shot several times on July 7 during an attack at his private home that seriously injured his wife, Martine. “This is something that will be engraved in our memory,” said Pedro Guilloume, a Cap-Haitien resident who hoped to attend the funeral. “Let all Haitians channel solidarity.” Mr Moise’s body arrived shortly after dawn at his family’s seaside property where the funeral is being held. Six officials carried the brown casket up a stage where they saluted it and stood before it in silence for several minutes before draping a large red and blue Haitian flag over it. As the ceremony began, hundreds of protesters clashed with police outside the private residence. Shots erupted and tear gas and black smoke wafted into the ceremony. Protesters’ cries carried over religious leaders speaking at the funeral. At the end of the funeral, Martine Moise spoke publicly for the first time since the attack, her soft voice growing stronger through the 15-minute speech. “They’re watching us, waiting for us to be afraid,” she said. “We don’t want vengeance or violence. We’re not going to be scared.” Before the funeral began, a man wrapped himself in a large Haitian flag and approached the casket, crying out, “We need to fight and get justice for Jovenel!” Next to him, a man carrying a T-shirt commemorating Mr Moise joined in as he yelled, “Jovenel died big! He died for me and for the rest of the country… We’re not going to back down.”
The funeral is held in Cap-Haitien
The funeral comes days after a new prime minister supported by key international diplomats was installed in Haiti — a move that appeared aimed at averting a leadership struggle following Mr Moise’s assassination. On Thursday, violent demonstrations hit neighbourhoods in Cap-Haitien as groups of men fired shots into the air and blocked some roads with blazing tyres. One heavily guarded police convoy carrying unknown officials drove through one flaming barricade, with a vehicle nearly flipping over. A priest who presided over a Mass on Thursday morning at Cap-Haitian’s cathedral to honour Mr Moise warned there was too much bloodshed in Haiti as he asked people to find peace, noting that the poorest communities are affected. On Thursday evening, Martine Moise and her three children appeared at a small religious ceremony at a hotel in Cap-Haitien where newly appointed Prime Minister Ariel Henry and other government officials offered their condolences. “They took his life, but they can’t take his memories,” said a priest who presided over the ceremony. “They can’t take his brain. They can’t take his ideas. We are Jovenel Moise.” Authorities have said that at least 26 suspects have been arrested so far, including 18 former Colombian soldiers.

German railway: Floods caused billion-euro damage to network

Germany’s national railway operator has estimated that last week’s flooding caused damage worth 1.3 billion euros (£1.1 billion) to its network, offering another glimpse of the extent of the devastation. Authorities are still working to determine the overall cost of the floods that did their worst damage in western Germany and eastern Belgium. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this week that the damage is “immense” and will take a long time to repair.
Floods cause huge damages to German railway network
At least 180 people died in Germany in the flooding and a further 31 deaths were reported in Belgium, taking the overall death toll to 211. German railway operator Deutsche Bahn said that more than 50 bridges, 180 level crossings, nearly 40 signal boxes, over 1,000 electric and signal masts, as well as energy and lighting systems and station elevators were damaged. “Never before has our infrastucture been destroyed to this extent in one go,” said Volker Hentschel, a board member at the company’s DB Netz infrastructure division. He said its initial estimate is that the flooding caused damage to the railway network and stations of around 1.3 billion euros. The government, which owns Deutsche Bahn, has vowed to make a quick start on rebuilding efforts. Mr Hentschel said it will take “months, if not years” to restore everything, though the company is confident of repairing 80% of the damaged infrastructure by the end of this year. Separately, Turkey also has seen flooding in recent days. Work was continuing to find a missing person following floods in Artvin province in the country’s northeast that started on Wednesday, and one person was being treated for injuries. More than 450 people were evacuated. At least six people were killed last week and two were missing after floods in neighboring Rize province.

Driver dies after bus plunges off road on Capri

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A public bus on the Italian holiday island of Capri crashed through a guardrail and landed on a beach resort area Thursday, fatally injuring the driver, firefighters and Capri’s mayor said. The fire department tweeted that the bus had 11 people on board when it ran off the road near the popular Marina Grande area of the island. Capri mayor Marino Lembo told Italian state TV that the bus driver died shortly after the crash. Four passengers were seriously injured, including a child who was flown by helicopter from the island to a hospital in Naples, Italian media reported. Several other passengers sustained lesser injuries, Italian media said. The state TV report said the bus plunged some five to six metres (17-20ft) off the road. The bus appeared to have smashed against some structures when it landed away from where people were sunbathing, but it was unclear whether they were changing cabins. Italian media said some beachgoers instinctively dove into the sea for cover when they heard the loud crash. Capri’s mayor said the cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known, daily newspaper La Repubblica reported.

Planes collide on taxiway at Dubai International Airport

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Two passenger jets from low-cost carrier FlyDubai and Bahrain-based Gulf Air collided with each other on the taxiway at Dubai International Airport, though authorities reported no injuries in the incident. FlyDubai said one of its Boeing 737-800s heading to Kyrgyzstan found itself affected by ”a minor incident” on Thursday and forced to return to the stand. It said passengers took a later flight, which departed six hours later. “FlyDubai will work with the authorities to investigate the incident,” the airline said, adding that the collision damaged a wingtip on one of the aircraft. Gulf Air said one its aircraft “was impacted on the tail by an aircraft of another airline”. Gulf Air did not identify the aircraft involved, but said it was “working to reconnect all the passengers to their final destinations”. Gulf Air flies passengers from Dubai International Airport onto its hub at Bahrain International Airport in Manama. Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest airport for international travel before the coronavirus pandemic, said the collision forced them to shut down one of its two runways for two hours. It said operations were not affected by the closure.

Hard-hit Dutch town faces a 400 million euro flood damage bill

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Flooding that raged through a southern Dutch tourist town last week caused around 400 million euros (£345.7 million) in damage to homes and businesses, the town’s mayor has said. About 700 homes in Valkenburg were so badly damaged that their owners will have to seek temporary accommodation while they are repaired, mayor Daan Prevoo said. The southern Dutch province of Limburg was hit with the most severe flooding in decades late last week, causing an anxious weekend as authorities closely monitored dikes and levees strained almost to breaking point by swollen rivers and inundated flood plains. Unlike in neighbouring Germany and Belgium, where a total of 202 are confirmed dead, there were no casualties in the Netherlands. “It’s clear we are the hot spot” of the flooding damage in the Netherlands, Mr Prevoo said. He added that half of the 400 million euros is physical flooding damage and half is the cost to businesses, which will miss out on their peak tourism season as they recover from the devastation. The Dutch government last week declared the region a disaster area. That means that residents could be in line to have damages not covered by their insurance compensated out of a government fund.