Quebec to impose tax on unvaccinated
The Canadian province of Quebec will charge a health tax to residents who are not vaccinated against COVID-19. Quebec, which has seen the highest number of COVID-related deaths in Canada, is currently struggling with a surge in cases. On Tuesday, Premier Francois Legault announced that it would be the first in the nation to financially penalise the unvaccinated. Only about 12.8% of Quebec residents are not vaccinated, but they make up nearly half of all hospital cases. Just over 85% of Quebec residents had received at least one vaccine dose.
‘Omicron to infect more than half of Europe’
More than half of the population in the European region could be infected by Omicron within the next two months, the World Health Organisation warned Tuesday. Dr Hans Kluge said Omicron “represents a new west to east tidal wave” sweeping through the 53 countries that make up WHO’s European region. More than seven million infections were confirmed across the region in the first week of 2022, more than doubling over a two-week period. “As of 10 January, 26 countries report that over 1% of their population is catching COVID-19 each week,” said Dr Kluge, WHO Europe’s regional director.Fifty countries have now reported Omicron cases with the variant “quickly becoming the dominant virus in western Europe and is now spreading in the Balkans,” he added.
Is the party over for Johnson?
The British national papers are dominated by the fall-out from revelations that a garden drinks party was held in Downing Street during the first national lockdown. The Guardian says Boris Johnson is facing intense pressure from senior Conservatives to publicly confirm whether or not he attended the gathering on May 20, 2020. Conservative MPs have openly expressed anger and humiliation about the “bring your own booze” gathering for up to 40 people during lockdown. Grieving families have accused Johnson of showing “contempt” for their lost loved ones by refusing to say if he joined the “lockdown-busting” party.
Biden calls for ‘turning point’ on election laws
President Biden has made a passionate plea for the reform of US voting rights. Speaking in Georgia, Biden said he supported changes which would allow reforms to be passed without Republican support. He said he had had talks on the issue for months but was tired of being quiet.
US accused of “horrific abuse” at Guantanamo
Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel has accused the US of carrying out “horrific abuse” against inmates held at the Guantanamo Bay prison, which was opened 20 years ago. He made the remarks on the arrival of the first detainees on the US military base in Cuba following the 9/11 attacks.
Moscow Troops to leave Kazakhstan
President Tokayev of Kazakhstan has announced that the 2,000 soldiers of the Russian military alliance will begin to leave the country in the next two days, as “the peacekeeping mission has been successfully completed”. The withdrawal would last about 10 days. The president had asked Moscow to send soldiers to help him regain control of the situation.
Buenos Aires left without power
At least 200,000 people in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires have been left without power in a heatwave. Increased demand for air conditioning and electric fans led to the partial collapse of the grid.
‘Nazi funeral: unacceptable episode’
Italian police are investigating whether a hate crime was committed by mourners at a funeral in Rome during which a flag with a Nazi swastika was draped over the coffin. Some of those present gave the fascist salute. Chrush officials said it took place without the knowledge of the priest. The Vicariate of Rome has “firmly” deplored the incident, saying it was “a horrible symbol irreconcilable with Christianity”.
Pope slips out of Vatican to ‘buy CD’
Pope Francis has made an unannounced visit to a record shop in Rome, to buy a CD. He was caught on camera by Javier Martinez-Brocal, director of the Rome Reports news agency, who said he was in the neighbourhood of Rome’s Pantheon when he noticed a white Fiat 500 with Vatican license plates and some police cars parked in front of the Stereosound shop. Francis had slipped inside and stayed for about 12 minutes, chatting with the owners, whom he knew as Cardinal Bergoglio during his visits to Rome, and who he had promised them he’d visit when he met with them at the Vatican. The Pontiff, whose love of tango and milonga is well known, didn’t buy anything. But the shop owners gave him a CD of classical music. He thinks Mozart “lifts you to God”!
Djokovic admits breaking isolation rules
Novak Djokovic has admitted breaching isolation rules after testing positive for COVID-19 last month, describing it as an “error of judgement”. In an Instagram post on Wednesday, the Serbian admitted meeting a journalist for an interview two days after he tested positive on December 16. His activity has been scrutinised as the Australian government considers whether to deport him. In his lengthy statement, the world’s top men’s tennis player said his travel declaration form was submitted by his support team and that his agents sincerely apologised for making a mistake by ticking the incorrect box about his previous travel before visiting Australia.