Minister tests for COVID-19
Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has tested positive for COVID-19 and might have caught it at a meeting with his EU counterparts on Monday, a spokeswoman for the ministry said yesterday. Schallenberg’s infection raises the prospect that the EU Foreign Affairs Council was a so-called super-spreader event. His Belgian counterpart Sophie Wilmes on Friday said she was going into self-isolation with suspected symptoms. Schallenberg also attended a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, but cabinet members wore masks, the spokeswoman said.
Whales stranded on beach
Rangers and volunteers were yesterday attempting to rescue 25 whales stranded on a beach on the North Island, the Department of Conservation said. A pod of about 40 whales was sighted swimming close to the shore in shallow muddy water early yesterday before some of them were stranded, the department said in a statement on its Facebook account. The rest remained offshore, but in shallow waters. “We appreciate the public’s concern but at this stage NO FURTHER HELP IS NEEDED,” it said. The next high tide was expected yesterday evening. The whales were stranded on a beach in the Coromandel Peninsula. Late last month, several hundred whales died in shallow waters off the Australian coast in one of the world’s biggest mass whale strandings.
Man faces life for cocaine
A Sydney man faces life in prison after police intercepted cocaine worth A$248 million (US$175.61 million) concealed in frozen fruit products from Brazil. Federal Police and Border Force officers on Friday seized 552kg of the drug hidden in pallets of banana pulp and branded with koala pictures in Sydney. Police said that Mark De Hesselle collected 139 boxes of the pulp and removed the drugs. He has been charged with attempting to import a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs and possessing a commercial quantity of unlawfully imported border-controlled drugs. Both offenses carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Mass vaccinations planned
India is identifying 300 million people who will receive the initial dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the Times of India reported yesterday. Priority would be given to workers in high-risk sectors such as police, healthcare, sanitation, elderly people and those with co-morbidities, the report said, citing officials it did not identify. The shots, which would include a booster dose, are planned for the initial phase once a vaccine is approved for use, according to the report. The beneficiaries of the vaccine in the first phase would receive an estimated 600 million doses and the implementation plan aims to cover more than 23 percent of the population, the report said. India added 62,212 new cases, taking the total infections in the country to 7.43 million as of yesterday, government data shows.
Forces clash in Borno
Soldiers fighting an insurgency in the restive north have clashed with the Islamic State group’s affiliate in the region, a security source said on Friday. The Islamic State West Africa Province said it had killed 30 soldiers on Thursday, in a statement that could not be independently verified. A security source said that there had been clashes near the village of Doksa, in the Borno State, where the army has launched fresh military operations.
South Korean band BTS is facing a barrage of criticism in China after a member made remarks about the Korean War, with several big-name brands, including Samsung, apparently having distanced themselves from the K-pop group amid the uproar. The controversy is the latest example of the political landmines lying in wait for brands in China, the world’s second-largest economy. Kim Nam-joon, known by the initials R.M., upset many Chinese in a speech when the band received an award from a US-based organization for their contribution to South Korea-US relations. R.M. invoked a “history of pain” shared between South Korea and the US, and,
A US$60 double-dose experimental coronavirus vaccine is being made available to some residents in an eastern Chinese city, health officials have said, the first details of a mass rollout for an as yet unproven vaccine. Officials in Jiaxing on Thursday said that residents aged 18 to 59 with “urgent needs” could seek consultations at clinics for a Sinovac Biotech vaccine that authorities have been giving to groups such as medical workers. The statement from Jiaxing’s center for disease control and prevention did not specify what constituted “urgent needs.” Authorities did not say how many people in the city had been given the vaccine,
Often seen grinning at a missile launch or in command of lengthy official meetings, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has offered a glimpse of a different image — emotional and apologetic. At a weekend military parade where he showed off Pyongyang’s latest and largest intercontinental ballistic missiles, Kim’s voice trembled momentarily as he spoke of “tears of gratitude” for his people’s efforts. He repeatedly and effusively thanked the public and military for their loyalty, and for remaining healthy in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which he said had not caused a single case in North Korea. That has come at a
Japan’s new leader aims to beef up security ties when he visits Vietnam and Indonesia next week amid concerns about Beijing’s growing assertiveness, but he is likely to steer clear of the harsh anti-China rhetoric used by his US counterparts. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, whose resume is scant on diplomatic experience, is following in predecessor Shinzo Abe’s footsteps by making the two Southeast Asian nations the destination for his first overseas trip since taking office in last month. “I think it is important to show ... we put more emphasis and importance on that region and we are interested in the