The COVID-19 wave that plunged India into the world’s biggest health crisis has the potential to worsen in coming weeks, with some research models projecting that the death toll could more than double from present levels. A team at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru used a mathematical model to predict that about 404,000 deaths would occur by June 11 if current trends continue. A model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington forecast 1,018,879 deaths by the end of July. While COVID-19 cases can be hard to predict, particularly in a sprawling nation like India, the forecasts reflect the urgent need for India to step up public health measures such as testing and social distancing. Even if the worst estimates are avoided, India could suffer the world’s biggest COVID-19 death toll. The US has the largest number of fatalities at 592,409. India yesterday reported a record 3,780 deaths for an overall toll of 226,188, along with 382,315 new cases, taking its outbreak past 20.6 million infections. In the past few weeks, the scenes on the ground, with long lines outside crematoriums and hospitals turning away ambulances, have painted a picture of a nation overwhelmed by the crisis. “The next four to six weeks are going to be very, very difficult for India,” said Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown University School of Public Health. “The challenge is going to be to do things now that will make sure it is four weeks, not six or eight, and that we minimize how bad things will get, but in no way is India anywhere near out of the woods.” A spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare could not immediately be reached for comment. The ministry on Monday said that in about a dozen states, including
An Australian court yesterday agreed to hear a challenge to the country’s controversial ban on citizens returning home from COVID-19-hit India. A federal court said that it would urgently hear a challenge brought by a 73-year-old man living in Bengaluru who wishes to return to Australia. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week banned arrivals from India, which is recording hundreds of thousands of new COVID-19 infections each day. Under the measures, Australian citizens who return home face jail time and heavy fines. The move has caused widespread outrage, with Morrison’s own allies describing it as racist and an abandonment of vulnerable Australians overseas. The conservative government has argued the ban is necessary to prevent Australia’s quarantine facilities from being overwhelmed by arrivals from India infected with COVID-19. Christopher Ward, the lawyer representing the 73-year-old man, said that “he is a gentleman who wishes to return to Australia, and his return is currently prevented.” The case is challenging the ban on several grounds of constitutionality, “proportionality and reasonableness,” Ward said. Justice Stephen Burley ordered that a further hearing date would be set in the next 24 to 48 hours. Australia has no widespread community transmission of COVID-19, but has seen several outbreaks emerge from hotel quarantine facilities, causing disruptive city lockdowns. There are estimated to be about 9,000 Australian citizens in India, including high-profile cricketers playing the now-suspended Indian Premier League. Morrison on Tuesday refused to amend the ban, but insisted it was “highly unlikely” the punishment would ever be meted out. The ban is scheduled to run until Saturday next week.
On a cloudy spring day, hundreds lined up in their vehicles on the Canadian side of the border crossing that separates Alberta and Montana. They had driven for hours and camped out in their vehicles in hopes of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine from a Native American tribe that was giving out its excess doses. The Blackfeet tribe in northern Montana last month provided about 1,000 surplus vaccines to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border, in an illustration of the disparity in speed at which the US and Canada are distributing doses. While more than 30 percent of adults in the US are fully vaccinated, in Canada that figure is about 3 percent, as Canada lacks the ability to manufacture the vaccine. Among those who received the vaccine at the Piegan-Carway border crossing were Sherry Cross Child and Shane Little Bear, of Stand Off, about 50km north of the border. Cross Child and her husband have family and friends in Montana, but have not been able to visit them since the border closed last spring to all but essential travel. “It’s been stressful because we had some deaths in the family, and they couldn’t come,” she said. “Just for the support, they rely on us, and we rely on them. It’s been tough.” More than 95 percent of the Blackfeet reservation’s roughly 10,000 residents who are eligible for the vaccine are fully immunized, after the state prioritized Native American communities — among the most vulnerable US populations — in the early stages of its COVID-19 vaccination campaign. The tribe received vaccine allotments from the federal Indian Health Service and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, leaving some doses unused. With an expiration date fast approaching, it turned to other nations in the Blackfoot Confederacy, which includes the Blackfeet, and three
VIRUS FALLOUT: Anxiety about COVID-19 and its effects on the economy likely caused many couples to think that having a baby right then was a bad idea, experts have said
The US birthrate fell 4 percent last year, the largest single-year decrease in nearly 50 years, a government report released yesterday said. The rate dropped for mothers of every major race and ethnicity, and in nearly every age group, falling to the lowest point since federal health officials started tracking it more than a century ago. Births have been declining in younger women for years, as many postponed motherhood and had smaller families. Birthrates for women in their late 30s and in their 40s have been inching up — but not last year. “The fact that you saw declines in births even for older moms is quite striking,” said Brady Hamilton of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the lead author of the new report. The CDC report is based on a review of more than 99 percent of birth certificates issued last year. The findings echo a recent Associated Press analysis of data last year from 25 states showing that births had fallen during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic no doubt contributed to last year’s big decline, experts said. Anxiety about COVID-19 and its effects on the economy likely caused many couples to think that having a baby right then was a bad idea, they added. However, many of last year’s pregnancies began well before the US outbreak. CDC researchers are working on a follow-up report to better parse out how the decline unfolded, Hamilton said. Other highlights from the CDC report included: About 3.6 million babies were born in the US last year, down from about 3.75 million in 2019. When births were booming in 2007, the US recorded 4.3 million births. The US birthrate dropped to about 56 births per 1,000 women of child-bearing age, the lowest rate on record. The rate is half of what it was in the early 1960s. The birthrate for 15-to-19-year-olds dropped
A Singaporean company plans to feed airport food waste to crickets and mealworms before turning them into fish feed, aiming to cut the city-state’s use of imported feed and offer a sustainable alternative. Blue Aqua International is to partner with dnata, an air and travel services provider, to convert organic waste from its catering and ground handling operations at Singapore Changi Airport into insect protein for aquacultural use, a statement said on Tuesday. The project seeks to replace traditional fish and soybean meal as the main sources of protein for aquafeed. The insects would eat the food waste and convert it into body biomass containing about 60 percent protein. The dried larvae would then be made into feed. Insects are emerging as a sustainable solution to several problems. Using a fraction of the land and emitting less carbon, they turn food waste into feed and offer an alternative source of protein. Ynsect SAS, a French start-up that breeds mealworms to feed fish and pets, attracted money from investors including Iron Man movie actor Robert Downey Jr in a round of fundraising last year. The deal would give Singaporean farmers access to domestically produced animal feed, which is traditionally purchased from overseas. The Southeast Asian nation imports more than 90 percent of its food and has set a goal to produce one-third of its food locally by 2030. It also aims to achieve an overall recycling rate of 70 percent by 2030. Currently, less than 20 percent of Singapore’s food waste is recycled. As part of the partnership, Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based dnata would add Blue Aqua to its list of suppliers to purchase locally farmed seafood for its catering operations.
MEEK CRITICISM? New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta said that Wellington recognizes a genocide when it is defined as such by international courts
New Zealand yesterday shied away from labeling China’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority genocide, once again leaving Wellington out of step with its Western allies. The New Zealand Parliament unanimously passed a motion expressing “grave concern” at human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, but only after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s ruling Labour Party insisted that any reference to genocide be scrubbed out. New Zealand Member of Parliament Brooke van Velden said that, while allies such as the US, Britain and Canada had called what was taking place genocide, it was “intolerable” that New Zealand refused to use the term to avoid upsetting its largest trading partner. “The world is looking to us now to see what standard we are going to set — can the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] play us off as the weakest link in the Western alliance,” she said. “We may face the threat of loss if we speak our mind, but we face a much greater danger if we don’t.” At least 1 million Uighurs and people from other mostly Muslim minorities have been held in camps in Xinjiang, say rights groups, who accuse authorities of forcibly sterilizing women and imposing forced labor. Van Velden, from the minor opposition ACT Party, received support on the genocide question from the Greens, who said that it was “stunningly callous” to water down the condemnation of China’s actions to maintain trade relations. “It’s absolutely morally indefensible and a breach of New Zealand’s legal obligations,” Greens Member of Parliament Golriz Ghahraman said. New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta told parliament that New Zealand had raised its concerns about the situation in Xinjiang with China at the highest levels of government. However, she said that Wellington only recognized a genocide when it had been defined as such by international courts, citing the Holocaust,
In December 2019, police officers visited Ruslan Shaveddinov’s Moscow apartment, sawed through the door and placed him in handcuffs before whisking him away for forced military service in the Arctic. Denied access to a cellphone — a breach of the rules, the 25-year-old opposition advocate said — he had to correspond with his loved ones via handwritten letters that took weeks to arrive. “They sent me as far away as possible,” the ally of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said. Sequestered for one year to a military post accessible only by helicopter and surrounded by roaming polar bears, Shaveddinov said that he and the other four soldiers at the base even had to melt snow for drinking water. “It was like I had been exiled, with no connection to the outside world, in unlivable conditions,” he said. While military service is mandatory in Russia, with more than 250,000 men aged 18 to 27 conscripted each year, many Russians get out of it through medical or educational exemptions. Some also simply ignore the summons or pay bribes. However, for those harboring opposition sympathies, avoiding service is a more complicated endeavor. Opposition and rights advocates have said that conscription in recent years has become another weapon in the authorities’ arsenal in their drive to silence dissent. In Shaveddinov’s case, the authorities had taken an interest in him that summer when Navalny’s aides organized protests in Moscow demanding fair elections. Protesters also riled authorities that autumn by launching a voting strategy that saw Kremlin-linked candidates lose races in local polls. Shaveddinov said he provided proof that he was medically unfit for military service, although his appeals were shut down three times. However, Shaveddinov said that he did not think that his advocacy could result in forced conscription, in what he likened to the Soviet Union-era practice of exiling dissidents to the Gulag network of
In Colombia, a country still reeling from six decades of civil war and battling ongoing spurts of violence, fears have been raised of a creeping militarization as police and soldiers have forcefully clamped down on protests. Colombia’s human rights ombudsman said that 19 people — 18 of them civilians — had been killed and more than 800 injured in clashes with uniformed officers deployed as tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in anti-government rallies. With the backing of the army commander, President Ivan Duque on Saturday said that he would use “military assistance” to combat “those who through violence, vandalism and terrorism seek to intimidate society.” The Colombian Ministry of Defense said that 47,500 military personnel were put into operation countrywide. For many Colombians, deploying soldiers against a civilian population “was received negatively, as a militarization” of public order policing and as a form of “repression,” said Eduardo Bechara, a professor of public policy at Colombia’s Externado University. After six decades of armed conflict not quite quelled by the signing of a 2016 peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group, the Colombian government is more accustomed to waging battle than dealing with urban protests, Bechara and other experts said. The government blames the chaos on “premeditated” violence “organized and financed by dissidents of the FARC” who did not accept the peace deal, and the ELN or National Liberation Army — the last active guerilla group in the country. The first target for military deployment on Friday last week was Cali, a city in western Colombia with a longstanding problem of violent crime blamed on warfare between rival drug cartels. Colombian Minister of Defense Diego Molan announced the deployment of 700 soldiers to the city to confront “criminal organizations” that he said were fomenting violence. However, Ariel Avila, deputy director of Colombia’s
NEW ZEALAND PM plans summer wedding Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern plans to get married this summer, but did not disclose the date, media reported yesterday. Ardern told Coast Radio that she and her partner, television host Clarke Gayford, have “finally got a date” for the wedding, the New Zealand Herald reported. “That doesn’t mean we’ve told anyone yet, so I feel like we should probably put some invites out,” she was quoted as saying. Ardern, 40, got engaged to Gayford, 44, in April 2019 and they have a two-year-old daughter. AUSTRALIA Giant wood moth spotted A giant moth with a wingspan measuring up to 25cm has been found at a Queensland school next to a rainforest. Builders found the giant wood moth, the heaviest moth in the world, while constructing new classrooms at Mount Cotton State School. Giant wood moths are found along the Queensland and New South Wales coast, the Queensland Museum said. The female moths can weigh up to 30g and have a wingspan of up to 25cm, while the male moths are half that size. They have a short life cycle, with adults living only a matter of days. They die after mating and laying eggs. MALI Nonuplets surprise doctors A woman on Tuesday gave birth to nine babies — two more than the doctors had detected inside her womb — joining a small pantheon of mothers of nonuplets. The pregnancy of Halima Cisse, 25, has fascinated the West African nation and attracted the attention of its leaders. When doctors in March said that Cisse needed specialist care, authorities flew her to Morocco, where she gave birth. “The newborns [five girls and four boys] and the mother are all doing well,” Minister of Health and Social Development Fanta Siby said in a statement. UNITED KINGDOM Prize winners welcomed Starting yesterday, prize winners in the arts
POST-COUP VIOLENCE: Three blasts ripped through a rural house, killing a lawmaker as well as three police officers and a resident, while another officer was hurt
Blasts from at least one parcel bomb in Myanmar have killed five people, including an ousted lawmaker and three police officers who had joined a civil disobedience movement opposing military rule, media reported yesterday. Since the elected government led by Nobel laureate Burmese State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown in a coup on Feb. 1, Myanmar has seen an increasing number of small blasts in residential areas, and sometimes targeting government offices or military facilities. The latest blasts were in a village in the southern central part of Myanmar in Western Bago and occurred at about 5pm on Monday, the Myanmar Now news portal reported, citing a resident. Three blasts were triggered when at least one parcel bomb exploded at a house in the village, killing a regional lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy (NLD) party, as well as the three police officers and a resident, the report said. Another police officer involved in the civil disobedience movement was also severely wounded after his arms were blown off by the explosion, the resident was cited as saying. He had been hospitalized and was receiving treatment, it said. Khit Thit Media also reported the blasts, citing an unnamed NLD official in the area. Reuters could not independently verify the reports and a military spokesman did not answer a telephone call seeking comment. Violence has escalated since the coup, with hundreds reported killed by security forces, trying to quell pro-democracy protests in cities and rural towns. Ethnic militias have also backed opposition to the junta and the military is fighting these groups on the fringes of Myanmar. On Monday, the Kachin Independence Army, an ethnic rebel group, said it had shot down a military helicopter. The Chinland Defense Force, a newly formed militia in Chin state bordering India, said on Facebook yesterday that its forces
The family of an indigenous teenager who was allegedly assaulted by a police officer in Sydney last year have welcomed the decision to lay charges, saying they want the law to be “applied with fairness and justice.” Police yesterday confirmed that an officer had been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault, 11 months after footage surfaced of him allegedly tripping a 16-year-old indigenous teenager while arresting him, slamming the boy face-first on to bricks. The officer involved, a constable who has worked for New South Wales (NSW) police for three years, was placed on restricted duties in June last year after police professional standards launched an investigation into the incident. In a statement, police said the officer was issued with a court attendance notice yesterday for assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault. The officer is due to appear before Downing Centre local court on June 24. Police said in a statement that the officer’s employment was “under review.” The footage of the incident showed the boy standing meters away from the officer as someone said: “I don’t need to open my ears, I’ll crack you across the jaw, bro.” The officer then approached the boy, using his leg to sweep the teenager’s feet from under him while his arms were held behind his back, causing the teenager to slam face-first into the ground. In a statement, a spokesperson for the boy’s family said they were “happy with the way this is now proceeding, legally and fairly.” “We know we cannot discuss the details of this case now that charges have been laid,” they said. “We as a family cry and share the grief and pain of the families who have had the lives of their young black sons and daughters taken away from them violently by police and custodial authorities,” they said. “Aboriginal
Part of a huge rocket that launched China’s first module for its Tianhe space station is falling back to Earth and could make an uncontrolled re-entry at an unknown landing point. The 30m-high core of the Long March 5B rocket on Thursday launched the “Heavenly Harmony” uncrewed core module into low Earth orbit from Wenchang in China’s Hainan Province. The Long March 5B then itself entered a temporary orbit, setting the stage for one of the largest-ever uncontrolled re-entries. Some experts fear it could land on an inhabited area. “It’s potentially not good,” said Jonathan McDowell, astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University. “Last time they launched a Long March 5B rocket they ended up with big long rods of metal flying through the sky and damaging several buildings in the Ivory Coast,” he said. “Most of it burned up, but there were these enormous pieces of metal that hit the ground. We are very lucky no one was hurt.” Yesterday, the core was orbiting Earth about every 90 minutes at about 27,600kph and an altitude of more than 300km. The US military has named it 2021-035B and its path can be seen on Web sites including orbit.ing-now.com. Since the weekend it has dropped nearly 80km in altitude and SpaceNews reported that amateur ground observations showed it was tumbling and not under control. This, and its speed, makes it impossible to predict where it will land when Earth’s atmosphere eventually drags it down, although McDowell said the most likely outcome is that it will fall into the sea, as the ocean covers about 71 percent of the planet. However, McDowell said some pieces of the rocket would survive re-entry and that it would be the “equivalent of a small plane crash scattered over 100 miles [161km].” Since 1990 nothing more than 10 tonnes has been deliberately left
‘PREVENTION METHOD’: Doctors have described the rules as ‘mean-spirited,’ while a cricket commentator tweeted the prime minister has ‘blood on his hands’
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, under pressure to overturn rules barring travel from India, yesterday said that it was “highly unlikely” travelers would face maximum penalties of five years jail and a A$66,000 (US$51,000) fine. Australia last week banned all travelers from India, including its own citizens, from entering the country until Saturday next week due to the surge in COVID-19 cases there, and warned that offenders would be prosecuted and penalized. The temporary restrictions have been excoriated by lawmakers, expatriates and the Indian diaspora. “I don’t think it would be fair to suggest these penalties in their most extreme forms are likely to be placed anywhere, but this is a way to ensure we can prevent the virus coming back,” Morrison told local broadcaster Channel Nine. The rules would be used “responsibly and proportionately,” but were needed to ease pressure on the country’s quarantine systems, with COVID-19 cases from India jumping to 210 in a 28-day period, largely last month, from 14 two months earlier. Australia’s main medical association said that the government should immediately reverse its “mean-spirited” order and put in place a plan to ensure the safe return of Australians from India. Authorities should also move vulnerable people from India once the current pause in flights is lifted, Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said. The Australian Human Rights Commission and even politicians from Morrison’s own party criticized the decision for leaving Australians stranded. Former Australia cricket player Michael Slater, who was working in India as a commentator for the Indian Premier League, lambasted the Australian government for the travel ban. “Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this. How about you sort out quarantine system,” Slater wrote on Twitter. Morrison dismissed Slater’s comments as “absurd.”
Her exam revision done, schoolgirl Swadha Prasad gets on with her real work: finding life-saving oxygen, drugs and hospital beds for people with COVID-19 as India faces a second wave of infections. As the Indian government struggles to tackle the pandemic, young people have stepped into the breach, setting up apps to crowdsource aid, delivering key supplies and using social media to direct resources to people in need. Prasad works with dozens of volunteers — all aged 14 to 19 — as part of a youth-led organization called UNCUT, building online databases packed with information about medical resources available across the country. The operation runs non-stop, with the teenagers constantly on their phones as they verify the availability of supplies, update information in real time and field calls from frantic relatives. “Some of us do midnight to morning shifts, because the calls don’t stop at 3am,” said Prasad, 17, who works a 14-hour stretch from before midday until 1am. It is a long and often tiring affair, the Mumbai-based student said. “If I can help save a life, there is no part of me that is going to say no,” she said. And lives have been saved, she said, pointing to a case where the team sourced oxygen for a young patient in the middle of the night after an agonizing two-hour wait. “It’s not only about providing resources ... sometimes people just need to know they are not alone,” she said. With two-thirds of its 1.3 billion people under the age of 35, India is an overwhelmingly young country, but its young people have never been called on to shoulder such huge responsibilities. In the slums of Mumbai, Shanawaz Shaikh has provided free oxygen to thousands of people. Known popularly as the “oxygen man,” the 32-year-old sold his cherished SUV in June last year to fund the initiative after his
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said that China remains a benefactor amid brewing tensions in disputed waters and while Manila strives to obtain vaccines, including from Beijing, after its Indian deal faces delays. “China remains our benefactor,” Duterte said in a taped televised briefing. “Just because we have a conflict with China, doesn’t mean to say that we have to be rude and disrespectful.” Duterte made the comment after Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin earlier on Monday, using his personal Twitter account, posted an expletive-laced demand for China to remove ships from areas in the disputed South China Sea. Locsin yesterday apologized to Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) “for hurting his feelings.” Tensions between the two nations have risen in the past few weeks, with the Philippines repeatedly protesting Chinese ships’ presence, which Beijing has maintained is normal and legitimate. At a 2016 election debate, Duterte said he would ride a jet ski to the South China Sea to personally stake claims if elected. Meanwhile, COVID-19 vaccine orders from India might be delayed to September from this quarter or be reduced as infections in the South Asian nation surge, said Carlito Galvez Jr, a retired Philippine Army general who is the nation’s vaccine czar. A supply deal for 30 million Novavax Inc shots with the Serum Institute of India is the Philippines’ biggest. Galvez said that his government is negotiating for a monthly delivery of as many as 4 million doses from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd and 2 million shots of Russia’s Sputnik V. For the country to achieve herd immunity, 500,000 people must be vaccinated each day, Galvez said.
DISCRIMINATION: The territory is to review a plan to force all foreign domestic workers to be vaccinated, but mandatory testing for COVID-19 is to proceed, Carrie Lam said
Hong Kong authorities have rowed back on plans to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for foreign domestic workers, after human rights groups slammed the policy as being discriminatory. After a domestic worker from the Philippines was found to have a more contagious variant of COVID-19 last week, authorities said all 370,000 foreign domestic workers in the territory would have to get tested before Sunday. Domestic workers would also need to get vaccinated before renewing their employment contracts, authorities said. However, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) yesterday said the vaccine policy was being suspended after a backlash from workers’ groups who said they were being unfairly singled out, and a Philippine government official criticized the move. “I have asked the secretary for labor to review the whole policy, and to consult advisers and consulates for the countries where domestic workers primarily come from as to whether compulsory vaccinations can be done,” Lam told reporters. The policy was not discriminatory, and the government still planned to complete mandatory testing of all domestic workers by Sunday, she added. Female domestic workers — largely from the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal and Sri Lanka — usually live with their employers in Hong Kong. During lockdowns to control the spread of COVID-19, they were kept away from their usual social gatherings with friends on their one day off each week. After the order on mandatory testing, domestic workers had lined up for hours on Sunday — their usual day off — to get tested, said Dolores Balladares, chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, a workers’ rights group. “We welcome the suspension of mandatory vaccines, but we are calling for scrapping the mandatory testing and vaccine policy entirely, as it punishes and criminalizes domestic workers,” she said. “We are in favor of testing and vaccination on a voluntary basis, but singling us out and making it
Madrid yesterday voted in an early regional election the incumbent conservative Popular Party (PP) is expected to win comfortably, dealing a blow to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, of the Socialist Workers’ Party. President of the Community of Madrid Isabel Diaz Ayuso has consistently pushed back against central government pressure to impose tighter COVID-19 restrictions. The 42-year-old rising star in the PP said that keeping the economy afloat and preserving social interaction is also important for health. On her watch, Madrid has had Spain’s lightest virus restrictions. It has been the only major European capital to keep bars, restaurants and theaters open with few restrictions since a nationwide lockdown ended in the middle of last year. “Having beers is important,” Ayuso told Cadena Ser radio station last month. “After a bad day a beer cheers you up.” She has been campaigning under the slogan “Freedom.” Critics say her lax restrictions have come at too high a price. Madrid has the highest percentage of intensive care beds occupied by COVID-19 patients in the nation, at nearly 45 percent — and one of the country’s highest infection rates, they said. More than 5.1 million people are eligible to vote in the election in Spain’s richest region, which has been governed by the PP since 1995. Polling stations opened at 9am and closed at 8pm, with results expected several hours later. Due to the pandemic, social distancing measures were in place at polling stations, which were disinfected every three hours. Voters who have COVID-19, or suspect they do, had been encouraged to cast their ballots during the final hour of voting to avoid mixing with others. Final opinion polls give the PP about 40 percent support, almost double their result in the May 2019 election. That would put them well ahead of the Socialists, whose backing in the opinion poll had dropped to
MINORITIES: White Britons make up just 45 percent of the city’s population, with the incumbent tracing his roots to Pakistan and his main rival to Jamaica
One has family roots in Pakistan, the other in Jamaica: The two leading contenders for mayor of multicultural London stand out amid an anguished debate about post- colonialism and race in Britain. The office formerly held by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson oversees a budget of ￡17 billion (US$23.6 billion), along with one of the world’s biggest transport networks and city police forces, guaranteeing the mayor national exposure. Opinion polls tip the Labour Party’s Sadiq Khan for a clear win tomorrow, five years after he took over from the Conservative Johnson, becoming Britain’s best-known Muslim politician. “The city back in 2016 chose me to be their mayor so it shows how progressive we are,” said Khan, the 50-year-old son of a Pakistani bus driver. “I’m really hopeful about the future, because I get to mentor and help some of those coming through the pipeline,” he said. “And there’s a new generation of really talented British politicians coming through from different backgrounds, who I think will accelerate the progress in the future.” Khan’s main opponent is the Conservative Shaun Bailey, 49, who, like him, grew up in social housing. Bailey said that, if elected, he would become one of Europe’s most prominent black politicians. His grandfather emigrated from Jamaica in the late 1940s, part of the “Windrush” generation of Caribbean migrants who, along with South Asians, did much to rebuild London after World War II. In 2017, revelations that some in the Windrush generation had been illegally deported after living for years in Britain provoked soul-searching about racism. The debate intensified last year with the “Black Lives Matter” protests as campaigners pressed for a new examination of the nation’s colonial past. However, Bailey is part of a new generation of minority Conservative politicians, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State for the Home Department Priti Patel,
Chinese navy ships have arrived off Bali to help haul up a submarine that sank last month, killing 53 crew, the Indonesian Navy said yesterday, as it geared up for a deep-sea salvage operation. The help arrived after other foreign ships from Australia, Singapore and Malaysia left the archipelago, having assisted Indonesian authorities in finding the stricken vessel. The KRI Nanggala 402 — one of five submarines in Indonesia’s fleet — disappeared last month while it was scheduled to take part in live torpedo training exercises. An underwater rescue vehicle supplied by Singapore gave visual confirmation that the German-built sub was lying on the sea floor more than 800m deep, broken in three parts, confirming there was no hope of finding survivors. Two Chinese salvage ships were on standby in waters off Bali, while a third was expected to arrive later yesterday, the Indonesian Navy said, adding that Chinese navy officials in Bali were helping to examine data collected on the submarine. All three salvage ships can dive up to 4,500m deep. The Indonesian Navy said that Beijing’s ambassador to the country had offered the help to Indonesian Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto. “The offer was welcomed by the Indonesian government,” it said in a statement yesterday. A vessel from Indonesia’s upstream oil and gas regulator task force SKK Migas, used for drilling operations, is also to join the salvage operations. It has a crane with a capacity of 1,200 tonnes. Last week, the navy said that high-powered magnets and air balloons were among the possible options to lift the submarine. An undersea robot would also be used in the operation, it said. The military has yet to offer an official explanation for the sinking of the decades-old submarine, which was delivered to the Southeast Asian nation in 1981.
Samoa yesterday called a fresh election after the last vote failed to produce a clear victor, prompting anger from the opposition, which called the move “trickery” and “unlawful.” The Pacific island nation has been in political limbo since an April 9 election ended with the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) and fledgling opposition FAST party on 26 seats each in the 52-seat parliament. Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi, the head of state in the nation of 220,000, announced another election would be held on May 21. He said court challenges to election results could drag on until the end of this year, impeding the government’s ability to do its job properly. “The uncertainty regarding the results of the elections had affected every fabric of our society,” he said in a nationally televised address after meeting both party leaders. FAST leader Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, who hopes to become Samoa’s first female leader, accused caretaker Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of orchestrating the election move. ‘UNLAWFUL’ “These proposed actions are wrong, these proposed actions are unlawful, these proposed actions threaten and undermine the rule of law,” she said. “The law sets out the process after an election, and we must follow this process, without diversion or trickery,” she said. Mata’afa said calling an election pre-empted the outcome of an opposition legal challenge due to begin this week. The HRPP has been in power since 1982, apart from a brief coalition period in 1986-1987, and Malielegaoi has held the top job for 22 years, making him one of the world’s longest-serving democratically elected leaders. The initial count after the April 9 election, when it was considered there were only 51 seats, gave the two main parties 25 each with one independent. Independent Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio then joined FAST, while the caretaker HRPP administration gained an additional MP under a constitutional requirement setting a minimum quota