COVID: the biggest global crisis for children – UNICEF
COVID-19 is “the greatest global crisis for children in our 75 years of history”, says the UN’s children’s agency, UNICEF, in an analysis just released. The report warns that the pandemic is reversing virtually every measure of progress for children, including a “staggering increase of 100 million more children plunged into poverty, about 1.8 children every second from mid-March 2020”.
Omicron now present in 57 countries – WHO
The World Health Organization has said the Omicron coronavirus variant is now present in 57 countries and warned that the rate of hospitalisation resulting from infections was likely to rise. It has called on member states to speed up their vacination programmes.
Scholz takes oath of office as Merkel bows out
Germany’s new Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called the COVID crisis the biggest challenge facing Germany. He was speaking on the day he took over from his predecessor Angela Merkel, who is standing down after 16 years at the helm. The Social Democrats lead a three-party coalition with the Greens and the Liberals.
UK braces for tighter restrictions
The BBC reports “increasing doubts” over the impact of the new coronavirus restrictions announced by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as political support for the measures is not assured. Questions have been raised about the handling of allegations that Johnson’s staff held a Christmas Party last year despite COVID restricions. This led to the resignation of one of his top advisers, Allegra Stratton yesterday afternoon. The new measures announced by Johnson last night include a return to working from home and the showing of COVID status before entering large venues such as nightclubs. The rule on face mask wearing will also be extended to almost all indoor locations from tomorrow.
US troops against Russia not on the cards – Biden
President Biden has said that using US troops against Russia in the dispute over Ukraine, isn’t on the cards right now. But he added Moscow would be hit by sanctions, the like nobody had ever seen, and Washington would bolster its military presence in NATO counties near Russia and provide defensive assistance to Kiev. In his first comments since his talks with Biden on Tuesday, President Putin said NATO’s expansion was a key issue for Russia’s security.
Jimmy Lai guilty of Tiananmen vigil
Media tycoon Jimmy Lai is among three Hong Kong pro-democracy activists found guilty of participating in and inciting membership in the 2020 “illegal” vigil in remembrance of the bloody events in Tiananmen Square. Together with Lai, the 74-year-old founder of pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily, former journalist Gwyneth Ho and well-known rights attorney Chow Hang-tung were also convicted on charges of unlawful assembly. More than two dozen politicians and activists have been charged over it.
More countries announce diplomatic boycott of Olympics
UK and Canada have joined Australia, the United States, Lithuania and New Zealand in announcing a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year over China’s human rights record. The UK said it would not send any politicians; Beijing said it hadn’t invited any.
New Zealand to become ‘smoke-free’
New Zealand is to enact legislation that would make it impossible for young people to buy cigarettes in a bid to making the country almost entirely smoke-free within four years. The authorities hope to create a new generation of non-smokers. Officials believe the laws would increase life expectancy among the indegineous Maori community.
Pelé in hospital…again
Brazilian football legend Pelé has again been admitted to a hospital in Sao Paolo to undergo treatment for a colon tumour. The three-time World Cup winner, who is 81 years old, had surgery in September to remove a colon tumour, with the hospital saying at the time that he would also need to have chemotherapy.
Robbie Shakespeare dead at 68
Influential Jamaican reggae artist Robbie Shakespeare – one half of the duo Sly and Robbie – has died aged 68. He died in Florida where he had recently been in hospital for kidney surgery. The prolific bassist and music producer is credited with revolutionising the sound of reggae and dancehall music.
Catherine the Great letter sold for over $1 million.
A letter from Catherine the Great, dated April 20, 1787, sold for $1.3 million dollars at a London auction on Wednesday. In the letter to Ukraine governor-general Count Piotr Aleksandrovich, she expresses support to make immunisation of the public a priority. MacDougall’s auction house in London, which sold the letter, said it showed the “statecraft and foresight shown by the great monarch”.
Over 40 camels disqualified from Saudi beauty contest
Saudi authorities have conducted their biggest-ever crackdown on camel beauty contestants that received Botox injections and other artificial touch-ups, with over 40 camels disqualified from the annual pageant. The breeders of the most beautiful camels compete for some $66 million in prize money as jurors decide the winner based on the shape of the camels’ heads, necks, humps, dress and postures. This year, authorities discovered dozens of breeders had stretched out the lips and noses of camels, used hormones to boost the beasts’ muscles, injected camels’ heads and lips with Botox to make them bigger, inflated body parts with rubber bands and used fillers to relax their faces.