Connect with us


COVID: S Korea reports record cases as Omicron wave nears peak | Coronavirus pandemic News



Country long hailed as a pandemic success story reports more than 621,000 cases and 429 deaths.

South Korea has reported new daily records for coronavirus cases and deaths as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly across the country.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported a staggering 621,328 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, including 62 among arrivals from overseas, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Deaths also reached a record for a single day with 429 people confirmed to have lost their lives, bringing the overall toll since the start of the pandemic to 11,481.

The surging caseload comes as South Korea eases curbs designed to contain the spread of the virus, amid pressure from small businesses and others hit hard by the pandemic.

The government is due to announce on Friday whether it will further relax restrictions, which currently include a late-night business curfew and a ban on private gatherings of more than six people.

Yonhap noted that the number of critically-ill patients, which is being used to guide the official pandemic response, had dropped to 1,159 from 1,244 on Wednesday.

The country has scaled back the test, track, tracing, and quarantine strategy that helped keep earlier waves in check and despite Thursday’s record deaths, the fatality rate remains low relative to other countries.

Health authorities also believe the Omicron wave could be close to its peak.

About 87 percent of South Korea’s 52 million people have been fully vaccinated with 63 percent having received a booster shot, according to the KDCA.

Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Sri Lanka hikes fuel prices, hires financial and legal advisers | Business and Economy News



Sri Lanka has increased fuel and transport prices, a long-flagged move to combat its debilitating economic crisis, but the hikes are bound to exacerbate galloping inflation, at least in the short term.

Power and energy minister Kanchana Wijesekera said in a message on Twitter on Tuesday that petrol prices would increase by 20-24 percent while diesel prices would rise by 35-38 percent with immediate effect.

“Cabinet also approved the revision of transportation and other service charges accordingly,” he said.

Wijesekera said also that people would be encouraged to work from home “to minimize the use of fuel and to manage the energy crisis” and that public sector officials would work from office only when instructed by the head of the institution.

Food and transport price increases will flow through to food and other goods, economists said.

Annual inflation in the island nation rose to a record 33.8 percent in April compared with 21.5 percent in March, according to government data released on Monday.

Sri Lanka is in the throes of its worst economic crisis since independence, as a dire shortage of foreign exchange has stalled imports and left the country short of fuel, medicines and hit by rolling power cuts.

The financial trouble has come from the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic battering the tourism-reliant economy, rising oil prices and populist tax cuts by the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother, Mahinda, who resigned as prime minister this month.

Economists have said fuel and power price hikes will be necessary to plug a massive gap in government revenues, but agree that it will lead to short-term pain.

Dhananath Fernando, an analyst for Colombo based think-tank Advocata Institute, said prices of petrol have soared 259 percent since October last year and diesel by 231 percent. Prices of food and other essential goods have surged, he said.

“Poor people will be the most affected by this. The solution is to establish a cash transfer system to support the poor and increase efficiency as much as possible.”

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, appointed in place of Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier this month after violence broke out between government supporters and protesters, said last week: “In the short term we will have to face an even more difficult time period. There is a possibility that inflation will increase further.”


Renegotiate debt

The price hike comes at a time when Sri Lanka has hired heavyweight financial and legal advisers Lazard and Clifford Chance as it prepares for the difficult task of renegotiating its debts, Reuters reported, citing three unnamed sources as the talks are still private.

Spokespeople from Sri Lanka’s cabinet and Lazard, which has handled debt talks for dozens of crisis-strained countries in recent years, did not immediately reply to requests for comment while law firm Clifford Chance declined to comment.

Experts and economists have been waiting for the appointment as the country looks to restructure more than $12bn of overseas debt that had been building up for years but become unsustainable when COVID-19 hammered the economy.


“By far the most important thing is to what extent the government will have the political will, and the ability, to deliver on the pre-conditions for the IMF programme,” said Gramercy’s co-head of sovereign research & strategy, Petar Atanasov.

“Governments are often willing to do the things that are required when their backs are completely against the wall.”

While there are hopes a deal can be struck to ease the economic crisis, it is unlikely to be straightforward.

A mix of loans from China, India and Japan, as well as all the bonds held by private investment funds mean long-resisted but now embraced talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) could be complex, especially if social unrest worsens.

A group of Sri Lanka’s largest sovereign dollar bondholders has hired Rothschild as its financial adviser and another legal firm, White & Case, as its legal adviser.

“I think the new cabinet would really have to show quick solutions to really pressing problems such as electricity and importation of goods to pacify the people,” said Carlos de Sousa, an emerging market strategist at Vontobel Asset Management which holds Sri Lanka’s bonds.

“They will try, but it is not clear to me whether they will be sufficiently successful. We will see.”

Source link

Continue Reading


Executions surge 20 percent in 2021 led by China, Iran: Amnesty | Death Penalty News



Human rights group also notes continued secrecy in China, North Korea and Vietnam, and ‘alarming rise’ in use of death sentences in Myanmar.

The number of executions globally rose 20 percent in 2021, while the number of death sentences handed down increased by 40 percent, rights group Amnesty International has said.

Its annual report, Death Sentences and Executions, said at least 579 people were killed by states that retain capital punishment while at least 2,052 had a death sentence passed against them.

“The increase in executions was primarily driven by rises in the yearly figure for Iran (from at least 246 in 2020 to at least 314 in 2021, a 28% increase), which was the highest figure on record since 2017,” the report said. “The spike in Iran appeared particularly for executions of people convicted of drug-related offences (132), which represented 42% of the total and constituted a more than five-fold rise from 2020.”

The figures do not include China, where thousands are thought to be executed or sentenced to death each year in a system shrouded in secrecy. Amnesty said secrecy in North Korea and Vietnam, as well as the difficulty in accessing information on the use of the death penalty “continued to impair a full assessment of global trends”.

The rights group noted that executions in Saudi Arabia in 2021 were also more than double the number recorded in 2020, while countries including Bangladesh, India and Pakistan passed more death sentences.

Amnesty also noted that retentionist states had “resorted to the death penalty as a weapon in the armoury of state repression against protestors and minorities”.

In Myanmar, where the military seized power from the elected government in a coup in February 2021, the report noted an “alarming increase in the resort to the death penalty under martial law, where the military transferred the authority to try cases of civilians to special or existing military tribunals, through summary proceedings and without the right to appeal”.

Nearly 90 people were arbitrarily sentenced to death, it added, and some of those sentenced were not even present to hear the sentence.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam seated at a table and with activists and legislators standing behind him signs the law abolishing the death penalty
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signs a bill abolishing the death penalty surrounded by legislators and activists at Greensville Correctional Center last March [Steve Helber/AP Photo]

Despite the rising toll, Amnesty said the global trend remained in favour of the abolition of the death penalty, noting that just 18  countries were known to have carried out executions last year, the lowest since it began keeping records.

“It is an isolated minority of countries that still chose to resort to executions,” the report said.

In the United States, executions dropped to the lowest since 1988 while the federal administration adopted a temporary moratorium on executions. Virginia became the country’s 23rd state to abolish the death penalty in its entirety.

A number of countries continued to take steps to abolish the use of capital punishment or limit its use.

In July, Sierra Leone’s parliament voted unanimously to adopt a bill that would fully abolish the death penalty, while similar legislation became law in Kazakhstan in December.

Malaysia also continued with a moratorium on executions and the government said it would prepare legislative changes on the use of the death penalty by the third quarter of this year. Most people on death row in Malaysia have been convicted of drugs crimes.

Source link

Continue Reading


Ireland to host informal UNSC meeting on media freedom, Abu Akleh | United Nations News



All 15 members of the United Nation’s highest body are expected to attend the meeting on Tuesday.

Ireland’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations has said her country will host an informal meeting of the Security Council that will discuss media freedom and shine a light on the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

Geraldine Byrne Nason said on Monday that all 15 members of the Security Council are expected to attend Tuesday’s session that will address media freedom and the safety of journalists – issues that have been highlighted by Abu Akleh’s killing on May 11.

Byrne Nason will chair the meeting, which will be briefed by Irene Khan, UN special rapporteur on media freedom and Jon Williams, a board member of media watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists. An AFP news agency journalist and an Al Jazeera representative will also be present during the information session at the UN.

The announcement comes after Abu Akleh, 51, a veteran Al Jazeera Arabic television reporter, was shot and killed on May 11 while covering an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

Al Jazeera has accused the Israeli army of killing Abu Akleh “in cold blood”  and have called for an independent investigation.

Witnesses and colleagues at the scene have said that Israeli forces shot Abu Akleh and injured another Palestinian journalist.

The Israeli military and prime minister initially said Palestinian fighters may have been responsible. It later said Abu Akleh may have been mistakenly shot by Israeli army fire.

Last week, Israeli media reported that the Israeli military will not be conducting a criminal investigation.

Global condemnation

The killing of Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American and a household name across the Arab world, has garnered international condemnation.

Condemnation grew after Israeli forces beat pallbearers with batons during Abu Akleh’s funeral in Jerusalem, causing them to nearly drop her coffin.

On May 13, the Security Council called for an “immediate, thorough, transparent, and fair and impartial investigation” into Abu Akleh’s killing and stressed the need to ensure accountability.

Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral
Israeli police beat mourners and pallbearers as they carried Shireen Abu Akleh’s coffin during her funeral on May 13, 2022 [Maya Levin/AP]

The UN’s Human Rights Office also called for an independent probe and said the killing may constitute a war crime.

“The killing of Abu Akleh is another serious attack on media freedom and freedom of expression, amid the escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank,” said UN experts on May 13.

The UN experts said Abu Akleh’s death came amid a high rate of attacks against Palestinian journalists, and rising violence in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Last year, the experts said, marked the highest number of Palestinian deaths resulting from confrontations with Israeli forces since 2014.

Under international law, journalists must not be targeted and should be protected as civilians.

On the day she was shot, Abu Akleh was wearing a helmet and a vest that clearly identified her as a journalist.

The Doha-based network has said Abu Akleh’s killing was “intended to prevent the media from conducting their duty”.

On Monday, the Palestinian foreign ministry announced it has formally asked the International Criminal Court to conduct an investigation into the killing of the Al Jazeera journalist.

The UN’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “appalled by the killing“.

Source link

Continue Reading