Global Review – 8th January

80% of European adults fully vaccinated

The European Commission has announced 80% of adult EU citizens are “fully” vaccinated. Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a tweet, the EU plans to further increase the vaccination rate in the EU and to support the Covax programme and immunisation campaigns in partner countries”. She urged people to “get vaccinated and boosted”.

World passes 303 million COVID cases

The total number of COVID-19 cases registered worldwide passed the 303-million-mark on Friday, with the Omicron variant’s rapid spread setting new infection records in dozens of countries over the last week. According to an AFP count based on official figures, in the past seven days, 34 countries have recorded their highest number of weekly cases since the start of the pandemic, including 18 nations in Europe and seven in Africa. Even as it spurred the world to record 13.5 million cases in the last week alone – 64% higher than the previous seven days – the global average of deaths dropped 3%.

Australia’s daily cases surpass 100,000

Australia reported more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time in a single day, as home test results were included and some restrictions were reintroduced to ease pressure on a health system stressed by the fast-spreading Omicron variant. Victoria state reported 51,356 cases on Saturday, more than double the day before. Some 26,428 of the positive results came from the newly-admitted tests. In New South Wales, cases climbed to 45,098, with 1,795 people hospitalised. The states recorded nine deaths each. 

‘Vacation stampede’ in the UK

One thing Brits are eager to spend their hard-earned cash on is a holiday, the Daily Mirror reports. A relaxation of travel rules for the fully vaccinated has sparked a “rush” of summer holiday bookings”, the paper says, leading with the headline: “Vacation stampede.” Bookings have reportedly hit pre-COVID levels. “People are desperate to get away,” the paper quotes Jet2 chief executive Steve Heapy as saying.

US, NATO take firm line ahead of Russia talks on Ukraine

The United States said Friday a diplomatic solution was possible with Russia but that it would not give in to its demands in talks next week, as NATO warned of real risks if Moscow invades Ukraine. Top Russian and US diplomats meet Monday in Geneva after Moscow amassed tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border and urged the West to agree in writing not to expand NATO. With unusual bluntness, Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of “gaslighting” the world by alleging provocations by Ukraine and vowed that the talks would focus on Moscow’s “aggression toward Ukraine”.

Ahmaud Arbery killers get life

Three white men convicted of murder for chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced to life in prison on Friday, and the judge denied any chance of parole for the father and son who armed themselves and initiated the deadly pursuit of the 25-year-old Afro-American. Murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison under the state of Georgia law unless prosecutors seek the death penalty, which they opted against for Arbery’s fatal shooting. 

German sentenced to life for cannibalism

A German has been sentenced to life in prison for killing, dismembering and partially eating another 43-year-old man he met on the internet. A Berlin court found Stefan R., a 42-year-old teacher, guilty of murder and “offending the peace of the dead”. Due to the gravity of the facts, the man will not be able to benefit from any early release. The president of the court claimed that the accused committed the crime to “fulfill his cannibal dreams”.

Sidney Poitier dead at 94

President Biden and former US President Barack Obama are among a host of prominent figures who paid tribute to the trail-blazing Hollywood legend Sidney Poitier, who died at the age of 94. After turning down several projects he considered demeaning, Poitier got a number of roles that catapulted him into a category rarely, if ever, achieved by an Afro-American of that time, that of leading man. One of these films, The Defiant Ones (1958), earned Poitier his first Academy Award nomination as Best Actor. Five years later, he won the Oscar for Lilies of the Field (1963), the first Afro-American to win for a leading role. He remained active on stage and screen as well as in the burgeoning Civil Rights movement. His roles in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) and To Sir, with Love (1967) were landmarks in helping to break down some social barriers between blacks and whites. Poitier’s talent, conscience, integrity, and inherent likability placed him on equal footing with other stars of the day. He took on directing and producing chores in the 1970s, achieving success in both arenas. Upon Kirk Douglas’s death in 2020, he remained among the few survivors of Hollywood’s golden age and the oldest surviving Academy Award winner.

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