Countdown to Olympics 2020 opening ceremony
It’s countdown time for the start of the 33rd Olympic Games in what is expected to be a solemn opening cermony – a far cry from the celebrations promised during the closing ceremony in Rio in 2016 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cast a shadow over both athletes and officials alike. For the first-time ever there will be no spectators both for the ceremony and sporting competions. Some 950 guests will be in attendance during the ceremony with Emperor Naruhito expected to declare the games open. Protests against the staging of the games because of the pandemic continued on Thursday.
COVID: USA, China irresponsible to oppose the WHO investigation
The White House said China was “irresponsible” in its opposition to a new investigation by the World Health Organisation on the origins of COVID. White House spokesperson Jen Psaki labelled the decision as”dangerous”.
More than half of adult population in Europe fully vaccinated
The European Union has re-affirmed that over 200 million Europeans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, which is more than 50% of the adult population. However, the EU was still short of the 70% vaccination target it had set for the summer this year.
Italy to introduce vaccination certificate next month
Italy is introducing a mandatory vaccination certificate as of the beginning of August. Ansa says the move will allow those aged 12 and over, who have received at least one jab, to access a range of venues, including indoor restaurants, cinemas and gyms. After disagreements within the governing coalition, the pass would not be needed for transport.
Brexit: ‘Brussels ready with infringement’
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has once again dug her heels at re-negotiating the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol. She announced she had received a “phone call” from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson but later reiterated the position announced by Vice President Maros Sefcovic stating that “the EU will continue to be creative and flexible within the framework of the protocol. But we will not renegotiate it. We need to ensure both stability and predictability in Northern Ireland”. Meanwhile, diplomatic sources said the Commission had already opened an infringement procedure on 15 March.
France: Pécresse running for president
The president of the Ile-de-France region and former minister during Nicolas Sarkozy’s five-year term, Valérie Pécresse, has announced her candidacy for the 2022 presidential elections. The former Republican told Le Figaro she wanted “to restore French pride”. Pécresse, who got a second term at the helm of the Ile-de-France in the recent regional elections, says she wants to present herself in the centre-right primaries as a “free woman”.
Ukraine seeks stronger guarantees on Nord Stream 2
Ukraine has many questions on how a deal between the United States and Germany can mitigate the security threat posed by the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters on Thursday. Washington and Berlin unveiled an agreement on Wednesday to map out the consequences for Russia if Moscow uses the pipeline to harm Ukraine and other eastern European countries.
Maduro calls Vatican letter a ‘compendium of hatred’
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has described a letter sent by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin to local businesses, which urged Caracas politicians to take seriously negotiations to resolve the country’s crisis, as a “compendium of hatred”. The letter was read aloud by a Catholic Church representative at the annual assembly of Fedecamaras. Maduro said in a state television appearance, “When everyone is talking about producing and overcoming the economic crisis, an unknown priest…read a letter from Pietro Parolin, a letter that was a compendium of hatred, of venom”.