A court in Belarus convicted a journalist of insulting the president in messages in a deleted chat group and sentenced him to 1 1/2 years in prison, the Belarusian Association of Journalists said Monday. The verdict in the case against Siarhei Hardziyevich, 50, comes as part of a massive crackdown that Belarusian authorities have unleashed on independent media and human rights activists. Hardziyevich on Monday was found guilty of insulting the president and slandering police officers, according to the association. The court sentenced him to a prison term and a $1,600 fine. The charges against the journalist from Drahichyn, a city 300 kilometers (185 miles) southwest of Belarus’ capital of Minsk, were brought over messages in a chat group on the messaging app Viber which was deleted last year. Hardziyevich, who worked for a popular regional news outlet, The First Region, has maintained his innocence. His defense team demanded the charges be dropped due to a lack of evidence and because the crime was impossible to establish. “I have nothing to do with these crimes, I don’t consider myself guilty,” Hardziyevich said in his address to the court before the verdict. The Viasna human rights center declared Hardziyevich a political prisoner. Belarusian authorities have ramped up the pressure against non-governmental organizations and independent media in recent weeks, conducting more than 200 raids of offices and apartments of activists and journalists in July alone, according to Viasna.Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has vowed to continue what he called a “mopping-up operation” against civil society activists whom he has denounced as “bandits and foreign agents.”Lukashenko faced months of protests triggered by his being awarded a sixth term in an August 2020 vote that the opposition and the West saw as rigged. He responded to demonstrations with a massive crackdown that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police.
A total of 29 Belarusian journalists remain in custody either awaiting trial or serving their sentences.
Wildfires scorching some of Turkey’s most popular destinations have upended a nascent recovery in the country’s tourism sector hobbled for more than a year by the COVID-19 pandemic.Scenes of happy beachgoers flocking to coastal areas turned nightmarish as fires forced mass-evacuations of tourists and locals alike in cities such as Bodrum and Marmaris.Tuesday marked the seventh consecutive day Turkish firefighters battled the blazes, fueled by abnormally high summer temperatures and strong winds. The fires have been blamed for at least eight deaths and forced numerous residents, many of them farmers, to flee. 10,000 Flee Turkey Wildfires; Greece Power Grid Threatened At least 8 people have been killed in Turkey since Wednesday; EU sends firefighters Beyond physical destruction, the economic impact is already costly.“We are devastated,” said Huseyin Aydin of Bordum Tour, a travel agency that books boating excursions in the Mediterranean Sea. “All the routes for the boat tours have been canceled as of now, and they will also be canceled into next year because all the nature sightseeing parts of our tours are completely burned.”Aydin told VOA his business will have to shift to other tourist ventures or risk shutting completely.
Elsewhere in the country, things look less grim.Tourists visit the 150A.D Roman temple dedicated to Apollo the Greek and Roman god of music, harmony and light, in Antalya, southern Turkey, June 20, 2021In Istanbul, crowds of tourists can be seen strolling the streets after the Turkish government lifted almost all pandemic-related restrictions to boost economic activity and stimulate the country’s vital tourism sector.
“It’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience,” said Tania Nel, a resident of Qatar who has spent almost a month traveling Turkey.“It was a country that I could enter easily, with just a PCR [COVID test], and obtain a visa for online. I’ve always wanted to see Turkey and, with other countries being closed, it seemed like a very obvious choice,” she told VOA. “Things being comparatively cheap here also meant I could stay longer and see quite a lot of regions in the country.”Turkey sought to remain an international tourist destination throughout the pandemic, requiring only a negative COVID-19 test to enter the country and exempting foreigners from some restrictions, such as curfews and travel limitations within the country. Nel said ease of access drew her to Turkey.“I had originally planned to travel to South Africa in July to see my family, but they experienced a spike in cases and stricter restrictions, hence the decision to come to Turkey,” Nel said, who is originally from Cape Town, South Africa.Lagging recoveryTurkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism says incoming foreigners in June of this year barely topped 2 million, less than half the total recorded in June 2019 which saw over 5 million foreign visitors.That hits especially hard in Turkey, where tourism is a key contributor to the national economy. The Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation describes Turkey’s tourism economy as “one of Turkey’s most dynamic and fastest growing sectors,” accounting for more than two million jobs and more than 7% of total employment.Arriving tourists report receiving especially warm greetings by cash-strapped hospitality workers.“They welcomed all tourists like royalty,” Nel said.
Low tourism levels have capped the economic stimulation usually expected during the summer. Many businesses report continued and intense financial hardship.“We are in a really hard time economically at the moment,” said Turgay Karahan, who owns two gift shops in an area of Istanbul frequented by tourists.Foreign tourists visit Buyukada, the largest of the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara, off Istanbul, Turkey, July 14, 2021.
A lack of customers forced Karahan to let employees go and work longer hours for a fraction of pre-pandemic earnings.
“We’re working more but we’re also earning less. Most of the money we make is spent on taxes and rent. Therefore, as an employer I am in a very hard spot,” Karahan told VOA.Numerous cafes, restaurants, and bars in Istanbul and elsewhere have permanently closed since the pandemic first struck.
Karahan spoke wistfully of the throngs of tourists that used to pack into his gift shops.“In the past, Turks felt like foreigners on this street because so many international tourists were here. Before the pandemic, you’d see tourists from England, Germany, France, Italy all crowding the streets in the summer. Nowadays, it’s not like this at all,” he said.
Lost earningsThe financial pain is also felt by Kuzey Yucehan, who owns a restaurant around the corner from Galata Tower, a top Istanbul tourist attraction.Staff at Kuzey Yucehan’s restaurant Art Smyrna are seen setting up freshly repainted tables to attract customers during an otherwise sluggish summer tourism season in Istanbul (VOA/ Salim Fayeq)
“For months we were only operating for takeaway [orders], but the business that brought was not sustainable. Because of that, we have many problems with making ends meet and being profitable,” Yucehan told VOA, adding that many businesses have had to fend for themselves.
“Although in the media the government presented themselves as helpful and generous toward businesses in Turkey, we did not receive any financial relief as an independent business,” Yucehan said. “We hope that COVID passes and the world will get back to normal soon.”This report includes some information from Reuters.
France hopes to secure more than $350 million in humanitarian aid for Lebanon’s crisis-battered population at a donors’ conference it co-hosts with the United Nations Wednesday — marking the year anniversary of Beirut’s deadly port blast. International pressure is growing for Lebanon’s fractious parties to unify and push through reforms. Roughly 40 representatives of international institutions and heads of state were expected at this video conference, including U.S. President Joe Biden and Jordan’s King Abdullah. FILE – French President Emmanuel Macron attends a donor teleconference with other world leaders concerning the situation in Lebanon following the Beirut blast, in Fort de Bregancon in Bormes-les-Mimosas, France, Aug. 9, 2020.It marks the third international meeting Paris has hosted this past year to support ordinary Lebanese, struggling under deepening poverty and spiraling inflation and unemployment. The World Bank calls Lebanon’s political and financial crisis since 2019 the world’s worst since the mid-19th century. Co-hosted by the U.N. Wednesday’s virtual talks come exactly a year after the massive explosion of fertilizer stocked at Beirut’s port, which killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and devastated big chunks of the capital. International frustration is growing over Lebanon’s squabbling political parties. Lebanon’s new prime-minister-designate, billionaire businessman Najib Mikati, said he was unable to form a new government before the blast anniversary. His predecessor, Saad Hariri, gave up efforts to do so. FILE – Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati, speaks to journalists after his meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, July 26, 2021.Hasni Abidi, international relations professor at the University of Geneva, said France and other donor nations cannot invest in Lebanon in a sustainable way so long as there is no government willing to engage in real reforms demanded by the international community. Apparently to ramp up pressure on Lebanon’s parties, the European Union announced it had adopted a legal framework for sanctioning individuals and entities seen as undermining the country’s rule of law and democracy. Before the EU framework was announced, a European Union spokeswoman said it was too soon to talk about specifics in terms of sanctions. Former colonial power France has played a leading role in mobilizing international backing for struggling Lebanese and in prodding the country’s politicians.FILE – French President Emmanuel Macron, center, visits the devastated site of the explosion at the port of Beirut, Lebanon, Aug.6, 2020.French President Emmanuel Macron was the first foreign leader to visit Beirut after the 2020 blast. Days later, he held a first international funding conference — and another, this past June, to support Lebanon’s financially strapped army. Some critics suggest France has little to show for its efforts thus far and should have imposed tough sanctions against Lebanon’s political elite early on. Others say it is up to Lebanon’s politicians to act. Otherwise, they say, there is little the international community can do. Sources: AFP, Reuters, Al Jazeera, The New York Times, AP, ESSEC-French business school webinar.
The British government’s scientific advisers have raised the prospect of fighting a forever war against the coronavirus saying the eradication of the virus “will be unlikely.” And they warn “there will always be variants.”They hold out the hope that the virus may evolve in such a way that it causes “much less severe disease,” but they caution that is unlikely to happen for some time. Preventive measures and restrictions will be needed in the meantime as there’s a “realistic possibility” that vaccine-resistant variants will emerge.And, chillingly, in a report released last week by Britain’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, otherwise known as SAGE, the scientists do not discount the chance of a new variant arising with the deadliness of MERS, another coronavirus which has a case fatality rate of 35%.FILE – Critical care staff look after a COVID-19 patient on the Christine Brown ward at King’s College Hospital in London, Jan. 27, 2021.Report quietly releasedThe report on the possible long-term evolution of the virus was released late Friday, and opposition politicians in Britain have complained it was sneaked out without little fanfare by the government to try to avoid publicity so as not to undermine public confidence in the easing of British pandemic restrictions and the opening of the country’s borders to travelers from the United States and European Union.”This report should have sent shock waves through the UK Government,” Philippa Whitford, a Scottish Nationalist lawmaker and the vice-chair of an all-party parliamentary group on the pandemic, told local reporters.”It was instead quietly snuck out among a glut of reports during parliamentary recess. Recommendations and comments made by SAGE bring home the simple reality — that we have not yet ‘defeated’ this virus,” Whitford, a qualified surgeon, added.In the paper, the scientists outline the chances that a new variant will evade current vaccines, saying that is “almost certain” to happen. SAGE’s biggest fear is of “antigenic drift,” small changes in the genes of a virus that can lead to changes in its surface proteins. Most of the vaccines in current use target the surface proteins of the coronavirus. The scientists also worry about the possibility of variants recombining to become more infectious.Clinical epidemiologist Deepti Gurdasani says the SAGE report “makes clear that the virus becoming less virulent is unlikely in the short term.” She tweeted: “So for all those who suggest that we should live with it, and it’ll become like seasonal coronaviruses and benign, doesn’t look like that’s likely to happen anytime soon.”The report has caught the attention of governments in Europe, and officials in Berlin say it played into the decision announced Monday by the German government to offer vaccine booster jabs to people considered potentially vulnerable to developing COVID-19, the disease the coronavirus can trigger.After Another COVID Spike, Israel Launches Third Vaccine DoseHealth officials say decision to offer third dose follows evidence that effectiveness of two doses wanes over timeThird shotsStarting next month, Germany will start administering a booster of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine to people aged over 60, care-home residents and people with compromised immune systems. Also, a booster shot will be offered to Germans who received AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, whose efficacy against the Delta variant is thought to be weak. “We will be prepared for the fall,” said Klaus Holetschek, Bavarian health minister. “I am convinced that a booster shot is important and right based on prevention alone,” he added, speaking on behalf of the country’s 18 state health ministers.Israel, France and Hungary are already offering booster shots to some people, and Britain will offer booster jabs next month, too. British health officials say they want to maximize protection for the elderly and vulnerable ahead of the country’s winter season, when other seasonal respiratory viruses surge. Italy and Spain will also likely make additional jabs available later in the year, officials in Rome and Madrid have said. Britain to Offer COVID-19 Booster Shots This Fall The nation is also offering incentives to persuade younger adults to get vaccinatedIn the United States, officials are considering a request by vaccine-maker Pfizer for booster shots to be authorized, but so far has withheld permission. But the Biden administration has ordered 200 million more Pfizer vaccines, a move seen by observers as preparation for a regimen of booster shots.Speaking to broadcaster CNCB, Scott Gottlieb, a former head of the US Federal Drug Administration, said he believes vaccine booster shots will start to be given in the US by next month to older people and those with compromised immune systems. “I just think we’re on a slower path here,” he said.But some are criticizing the move by rich nations to start offering booster shots, saying the priority should be getting vaccines to poorer countries, who are lagging with inoculations because of scarce supplies. They say not only is this a moral issue but a practical one: vaccine-resistant variants are more likely to emerge as a result of widespread infections in poorer and developing nations, they say.”Vaccine resources need to be shared with the world to help end this COVID-19 pandemic,” the NGO Doctors Without Borders, tweeted Monday.
A Belarusian activist was found dead in a park near his home in Kyiv early on Tuesday, a day after he was reported missing, Ukrainian police said. Vitaly Shishov, who led a Kyiv-based organization that helps Belarusians fleeing persecution, had been reported missing by his partner on Monday after not returning home from a run. Police said they had launched a criminal case for suspected murder but would investigate all possibilities including murder disguised as suicide. “Belarusian citizen Vitaly Shishov, who disappeared yesterday in Kyiv, was found hanged today in one of Kyiv’s parks, not far from his place of residence,” the police statement said. Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania have become havens for Belarusians during a crackdown by President Alexander Lukashenko following a disputed election last year. Shishov led the Belarusian House in Ukraine (BDU) group, which helps Belarusians find accommodation, jobs and legal advice, according to its website. The organization said on Monday it was not able to contact Shishov. It said Shishov had left his residence at 9 a.m. and was supposed to have returned an hour later. The Belarusian authorities have characterized anti-government protesters as criminals or violent revolutionaries backed by the West and described the actions of law enforcement agencies as adequate and necessary.
Huan Huan, a giant panda on loan to France, gave birth to twin cubs very early Monday, according to the Beauval zoo. The twins, born around 1 a.m., are Huan Huan and her partner Yuan Zi’s second and third cubs, after the first panda ever born in France, Yuan Meng, in 2017. “The two babies are pink. They are perfectly healthy. They look big enough. They are magnificent,” said Rodolphe Delord, president of ZooParc de Beauval in Saint-Aignan, central France. WATCH: Using Pandas for DiplomacySorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 16 MB480p | 23 MB540p | 33 MB720p | 74 MB1080p | 134 MBOriginal | 725 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioPanda reproduction, in captivity or in the wild, is notoriously difficult. Experts say few pandas get in the mood or even know what to do when they do. Further complicating matters, the window for conception is small since female pandas are in heat only once a year for about 24-48 hours. Huan Huan and her partner Yuan Zi — the star attractions at Beauval — thrilled zoo officials in March when they managed to make “contact,” as they put it, eight times in a weekend. Veterinarians also carried out an artificial insemination, just to be sure. Huan Huan’s first cub, Yuan Meng, now weighs more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and is to be sent this year to China, where there are an estimated 1,800 giant pandas living in the wild and another 500 in captivity. Huan Huan’s newborns will not be named for 100 days, with Peng Liyuan — the wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping — set to choose what they will be called, the zoo said.
Every day sees more Afghan refugees reach Turkey after a grueling trek across Iran. As far as they’re concerned their journey is far from over — they want to get to the countries of the European Union — for them the Promised Land.
But it is a land that is unwilling to accept them and is making plans to deter them from arriving.
Around 2,000 Afghans a day are entering Turkey, and migration experts expect the numbers to surge as the Taliban seizes control of more of Afghanistan.
The Taliban is currently besieging three major cities in south and west Afghanistan to add to the rapid rural gains it has made in recent weeks in the wake of the decision by the Biden administration to withdraw US troops from the country. Almost all NATO troops will be gone by September. Few observers believe the Afghan government will be able to hold out and last week a Pentagon watchdog warned that the country’s government will likely face an “existential crisis.”
The Afghans making their way through Iran to Turkey are voting with their feet, fearful of what a Taliban future of strict Islamic rule will hold for them. Most arriving at the Turkish borders are single men, and many are uneducated, but hope to secure settlement in Europe and for their families to join them later, say migration groups.An Afghan migrant eats outside a bus terminal, as he and others struggle to find buses to take them to western Turkish cities, after crossing the Turkey-Iran border in April 11, 2018.Turkey the GatekeeperEuropean leaders are preparing for a new migration crisis and are negotiating another multi-year migration deal with Turkey to get Ankara to block Afghan and other asylum-seekers from heading their way. It would be a renewal of a five-year deal struck in 2016 that saw the EU pay Ankara billions of dollars to curb irregular migration towards Europe, improve the living conditions of refugees in Turkey, and foster legal migration through official resettlement schemes.
“The 2016 agreement had a significant impact on limiting the number of arrivals” in the EU, according to Daniele Albanese of Caritas Italiana, a non-profit and the charitable arm of the Italian Bishops Conference. “While nearly 861.630 people reached Greece in 2015, that number dropped to 36, 310 the following year,” she noted in a commentary for the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, a think tank.
But she warns that a “political approach that does not take into consideration the needs of the refugee population deserving a better life is far from a long-term, durable solution.”Afghans wait inside the passport office in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 30, 2021.No repeat of 2015For now, though, European governments are focused on the short-terms and are in no mood to see a return to the open-doors migration policy of 2015, one that in its wake roiled the continent’s politics and fueled the rise of populist nationalist parties. “Post-U.S. Afghanistan poses a severe migration problem, and we expect a rising number of people attempting to flee the Taliban,” a senior EU diplomat told VOA.
Around a million asylum-seekers from the Mideast, most of them Syrians, Afghanistan and sub-Saharan Africa arrived and settled in Europe in 2015-2016.
Asked last month at a press conference whether Germany should welcome Afghan refugees, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the architect of the 2015 open-doors policy, replied: “We cannot solve all of these problems by taking everyone in.” She called instead for political negotiations so “people can live as peacefully as possible in the country.”
Greek authorities are reporting that Afghans now make up the largest share of asylum-seekers who manage to navigate the Aegean from Turkey. Austria last week announced it is to deploy additional soldiers to its borders with Slovenia and Hungary so as to increase the number of border guards by 40 percent. The country’s interior minister Karl Nehammer said at a news conference that EU migration policies have proven ineffective against irregular migrants, and he said Austrian immigration authorities have already apprehended 15,768 migrants attempting to cross illegally the Austrian border this year, compared to 21,700 for the whole of 2020.
“In Austria we have one of the biggest Afghan communities in the whole of Europe,” Nehammer said. “It cannot be the case that Austria and Germany have to solve the Afghanistan problem for the EU,” Nehammer added.
Despite the advance of the Taliban, European countries have been continuing with deportations of Afghan asylum-seekers — only Finland, Sweden and Norway have announced temporary suspensions of forced returns to Afghanistan.
Turkey is already hosting anywhere from an estimated 200,000 to 600,000 Afghans and – unlike the more than three million Syrian refugees living in Turkey – they have few legal rights of protection and no access to public services. Turkish opposition parties have been seizing on migration as an issue to try to outmaneuver President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and last month jumped on remarks by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz that Turkey is “a more suitable place” for Afghans than his or other western European countries.
On Sunday, Devlet Bahçeli, chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party, MHP, told the Türkgün newspaper “there should be a limit on asylum seekers from going and settling wherever they want without the control [of authorities].”“It’s understood that an influx of refugees will reach our borders in the risky and dangerous period ahead. We must be on the alert,” he added.
A record number of migrants has crossed the English Channel from France to the United Kingdom this year in small boats. The British government is seeking to deter the migrants by making irregular migration a criminal offense.The migrants come from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Most are fleeing conflict or poverty.At its narrowest point, the English Channel is 30 kilometers wide. The migrants usually travel in overloaded inflatable dinghies across the busiest shipping lane in the world. British and French intelligence services say the crossings are coordinated by networks of people smugglers, who charge about $3,000 per person.French police patrol the coastline to intercept migrants, but say the coastline is too vast to prevent all departures. Once inside British waters, the migrants must be taken ashore under international law.A man thought to be a migrant who made the crossing from France is escorted along a walkway past dinghies after disembarking from a British border force vessel in Dover, south east England, July 22, 2021.A record 430 people made the crossing in a single day last month. The total for 2021 so far stands at around 8,500, according to data from PA Media, formerly the Press Association, that was collated from government statistics. That number is higher than all of 2020, when 8,461 people made the crossing.Speaking in parliament last month, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the government would take action to stop the migration.“We’re seeing right now is effectively people trafficking, smugglers, criminal gangs exploiting our asylum system to bring in economic migrants and people that, quite frankly, are circumventing our legal migration routes, coming to our country illegally,” she told lawmakers last month.“This is an evolving situation. The numbers of migrants attempting these crossings from France have increased considerably,” she said.The spike in arrivals has embroiled Britain’s revered sea rescue charity, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), into the controversy. Critics accuse the charity of providing a “taxi service” to Britain. The RNLI has defended its actions.“When our lifeboats launch, we operate under international maritime law, which states we are permitted, and indeed obligated, to enter all waters regardless of territories for search and rescue purposes. And when it comes to rescuing those people attempting to cross the channel, we do not question why they got into trouble, who they are or where they come from. All we need to know is that they need our help,” RNLI chief executive Mark Dowie said in a statement last month.A group of people thought to be migrants crossing from France, come ashore aboard the local lifeboat at Dungeness, southern England, July 20, 2021.The government argues that the migrants should seek asylum in the first safe country in which they arrive, rather than traveling to Britain. Its proposed legislation would sentence migrants who enter Britain without permission up to four years in prison.Bridget Chapman of Kent Refugee Action Network, a charity that supports migrants arriving across the English Channel, said retribution won’t deter the migrants.“It flies in the face of international law, you know. The Geneva Convention states that people have a right to seek asylum, and it can be in a country of their choosing. It feels very deliberately punitive. It feels like saber rattling. It feels like a lot of tough talk to make people feel that the U.K. is not a welcoming place. The fact is that that’s not going to stop people from coming,” she told VOA.A committee of British lawmakers last week condemned the living conditions for newly arrived migrants in the port of Dover. During a visit to a migrant reception center, women with babies and very young children were seen sleeping on thin mattresses on the floor.Meanwhile, Britain has given France $75 million to beef up policing of the northern French coastline to try to intercept migrants, on top of the $39 million it gave last year.France has called for the European Union to conduct reconnaissance flights over the English Channel.
A record number of migrants has crossed the English Channel this year from France to Britain in small boats. The British government is aiming to deter the migrants by making it a criminal offense to arrive in the country without permission, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London. Camera: Henry Ridgwell
A record-breaking heat wave across southeastern Europe has fueled deadly wildfires in Turkey as well Greece and Italy and threatened the national power grid in Greece.Firefighters from the European Union arrived in Turkey on Monday where they joined local volunteers in fighting deadly wildfires along its coastline for a sixth day, The fires have been blamed for the deaths of eight people in recent days. There were no reports of additional deaths Monday.Opposition politicians in the country are criticizing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for what they deemed his sluggish and out-of-touch response to the fires.Italian firefighters are using helicopters to fight fires along that country’s Adriatic coast and in the Sicily region. The National Fire Brigade Corps (Vigilli del Fuoco) reports air tankers from Canada helped fight more than 715 flare-up fires in the past 24 hours.In this photo released by the Italian Firefighters, a view of a violent wildfire that burned the historical pinewood in Pescara, central Italy, Aug. 1, 2021.The Associated Press reports in Greece, where temperatures reached 45° C (113° F) inland, workers with health conditions were allowed to take time off work. Also, coal-fired power stations slated for retirement were brought back into service to shore up the national grid, under pressure due to widespread use of air conditioning.Greek firefighters on Monday fought local fires on the Greek island of Rhodes and in the city of Patras.EU data show this year’s fire season has been significantly more destructive than most, with experts saying that climate change is increasing both the frequency and intensity of such blazes.University of Bristol professor of climate science Dann Mitchell told the AP that the heatwave in southeast Europe “is not at all unexpected, and very likely enhanced due to human-induced climate change.”(Some information in this report came from the AP, Reuters and AFP.)
Britain will begin offering a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to 32 million Britons starting in early September, The Telegraph reported Sunday. The shots will be available in as many as 2,000 pharmacies with the goal of getting them into arms by early December.
The government has been preparing since at least June, when the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) called for a plan to offer the third shot to people 70 years old or older, care home residents and those who are vulnerable for health reasons.
At least 90% of British adults have received at least one shot, but that rate falls to 60% for those 18-30 years old, government figures show.
To encourage younger adults to get vaccinated before colder weather prompts people to spend more time indoors, the Department of Health and Social Care said that restaurants, food delivery services and ride-hailing apps are offering discounts to persuade people to be vaccinated.
“The lifesaving vaccines not only protect you, your loved ones and your community, but they are helping to bring us back together by allowing you to get back to doing the things you’ve missed,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said, according to the Associated Press.
British Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton, who tested positive for COVID-19 in December, said he may be suffering its effects after appearing unwell Sunday after finishing second at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
“I’ve been fighting all year really with staying healthy after what happened at the end of last year and it’s still, it’s a battle,” the 36-year-old said after seeing a doctor after the race. “I haven’t spoken to anyone about it but I think (the effects of COVID are) lingering. I remember the effects of when I had it and training has been different since then.”
In Berlin, thousands marched Sunday to protest pandemic restrictions and about 600 protesters were detained after clashes with police, the AP reported.Police officers scuffle with demonstrators during a protest against government measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, in Berlin, Germany Aug. 1, 2021.While Germany eased many of its restrictions in May, large gatherings remain banned. The number of new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, remain low but are rising. Germany, with a population of 83 million, reported 2,100 new cases Sunday, more than 500 above last Sunday’s number.
Since the pandemic began, it has reported 3.8 million cases and 92,000 deaths.
More than 200 employees at two major hospitals in San Francisco, in the western U.S. state of California, have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a report Saturday in The New York Times.
Most of the staff members at Zuckerberg San Francisco General and the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center Hospital were fully vaccinated and most of them tested positive for the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus, according to the newspaper.
Only two cases required hospitalization. The hospitalization rate would have been higher without vaccinations, said Dr. Lukejohn Day, Zuckerberg’s chief medical officer.
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center said Sunday evening there are 198 million cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and 4.2 million deaths globally. The U.S. leads the world in the number of COVID-19 cases, with 35 million, and 613,174 deaths, according to the university.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.
Rescue ships picked up more than 700 people trying to cross the Mediterranean in makeshift vessels this weekend, mainly off the coasts of Libya and Malta, a migrant aid group said Sunday.The latest figures came as United Nations migration officials repeated their calls for a fairer mechanism to share the responsibility of caring for them, rather than leaving it to the Mediterranean countries.SOS Mediterranee said that its vessel, the Ocean Viking, had carried out six operations in international waters since Saturday. In the last intervention, it rescued 106 people off the Maltese coast after being alerted by German aid group Sea Watch, said the Marseille-based organization.”The youngest survivor rescued in this operation is just 3 months old,” SOS Mediterranee tweeted.Overnight Saturday to Sunday, the Ocean Viking joined vessels from Sea Watch and ResQship, another German group, to help 400 people in difficulty in the central Mediterranean, said the group.They were rescued from a vessel that was taking on water, in what a spokesman for the organization told AFP was a particularly perilous operation.Those who were rescued were shared out between the Ocean Viking and Sea-Watch3.Ocean Viking alone has 555 passengers on board from this weekend’s operations, including at least 28 women, two of whom are pregnant. The organization has yet to determine at which safe port they will be able to leave them.Libya remains one of the main departure points for tens of thousands of migrants hoping to attempt the dangerous Mediterranean crossing, despite the continuing insecurity in the country. Most of them try to reach the Italian coast, about 300 kilometers (190 miles) away.Celine Schmitt, the spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ French operation, said last month there was an urgent need for an automatic system to share the new arrivals between countries, to ensure them a better reception, and not leave it to Mediterranean countries to assume sole responsibility.”If we look at the central Mediterranean, last year, there were fewer than 50,000 people who arrived,” she said.”It is totally manageable for the European population,” when you consider there are 82 million people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes, Schmitt said.International Organization for Migration (IOM) spokesman Paul Dillon took a similar position last week.”By advocating for better migration management practices, better migration governance and greater solidarity from EU member states, we can come up with a clear, safe and humane approach to this issue that begins with saving lives at sea,” he said.The central Mediterranean crossing, between Libya and Italy or Malta, is by far the deadliest in the world, according to figures from the IOM.Of the 1,113 deaths recorded in the Mediterranean in the first half of this year, 930 of them were recorded there.Nevertheless, according to the latest IOM figures, increasing numbers of migrants have attempted the crossing this year.