Waikato to be locked down
An outbreak of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has spread beyond the largest city of Auckland, prompting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to put additional regions into a snap lockdown. Yesterday, there were 32 new COVID-19 cases in Auckland, which has been in lockdown since August, and two cases in Waikato District. Ardern said parts of the district would go into a five-day lockdown and the government would today decide whether Auckland’s 1.7 million residents would remain sealed off. Ardern enforced what was meant to be a “short and sharp” lockdown in response to the Auckland outbreak, which now stands at 1,328 cases. “We are doing everything that we can to keep cases confined to Auckland, and managing them there,” Ardern said.
Report unmasks pedophilia
Thousands of pedophiles have operated inside the French Catholic Church since 1950, the head of an independent commission investigating the scandal said days ahead of the release of its report. The commission’s research had uncovered 2,900 to 3,200 pedophile priests or other members of the church, Council of State vice president Jean-Marc Sauve said, adding that it was “a minimum estimate.” The report, commissioned by the church, is due to be released tomorrow after more than two years of research based on church, court and police archives, as well as interviews with witnesses. The report would also look into “the mechanisms, notably institutional and cultural ones” within the church that allowed pedophiles to remain, he said.
Visa waivers extended
The government has extended an emergency visa program for truck drivers as fuel shortages yesterday showed few signs of abating, particularly in London and the southeast of England. The government on Friday said that temporary visas for nearly 5,000 foreign truck drivers it hopes to recruit would run until the end of February next year instead of expire on Christmas Eve as originally planned. The short duration of the program had drawn criticism for not being attractive enough to attract drivers. The government said that 300 fuel truck drivers would be able to come from overseas “immediately” and stay through March, while 4,700 other visas would be granted to food truck drivers from late this month.
Resort island blaze in check
Authorities on Saturday brought a major fire on a tiny resort island under control, after the blaze consumed dozens of homes and forced 400 people to evacuate. “The fire is 100 percent controlled,” Permanent Intervention Commission head Max Gonzales told a news conference. A huge cloud of black smoke rose in the early morning from the island of Guanaja, off the north coast of mainland Honduras. Its 6,000 inhabitants live mainly from tourism. Military helicopters dropped bags of water on what Guanaja Deputy Mayor Mireya Guillen described as “uncontrollable” flames. Aided by police, people raced to save beds, furniture and other belongings as the blaze approached, video on social media showed. Other videos showed the extent of the devastation. “Ninety houses [had been] destroyed, 120 damaged ... 2,500 people directly affected, three injured and three others to be confirmed,” Gonzales said. The blaze also forced the evacuation of about 400 people, firefighters and other authorities said. Emergency shelters were set up in a church and a school. The fire started for unknown reasons early on Saturday.
HOUSES FLOODED: The ground shook in Tonga as explosions were heard, followed by gushing water and pelting rocks, sending people running to higher ground A massive volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves around the Pacific caused “significant damage” to the island nation’s capital and smothered it in dust, but the full extent was not apparent with communications still cut off yesterday. The eruption on Saturday was so powerful that it was recorded around the world, triggering a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the US. Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, suffered “significant” damage, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding that there had been no reports of injury or death, but a full assessment was not possible with communication lines down. “The tsunami has
Two years ago, Qi Jiayao visited his mother’s hometown of Shaoxing in eastern China. When he tried to speak to his cousin’s children in the local dialect, Qi was surprised. “None of them was able to,” said the 38-year-old linguist, who teaches Mandarin in Mexico. The decline in local dialects among the younger generation has become more apparent in recent years as Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has sought to bolster a uniform Chinese identity. Mandarin is now spoken by more than 80 percent of China’s population, up from 70 percent a decade ago. Last month, China’s State Council promised to
PORT CONGESTION: Ships heading for Omicron-affected Dalian and Tianjin are being redirected to Shanghai, which does not have the capacity for the sudden cargo influx China has detected the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 in a second major port city, deepening concern that the vastly more infectious variant could spread quickly across the world’s largest trading nation, upending global supply chains. Chinese officials said yesterday that at least one person has Omicron in Dalian, a city of 7 million. A second person also tested positive for the virus, but the variant is unknown. Both are college students who returned home for the Lunar New Year holiday from Tianjin, where at least 137 other cases were traced as of Wednesday. Dalian joins Tianjin as the second crucial port city
DEMOGRAPHIC CRISIS: Beijing is attempting to address its population decline, including considering raising the retirement age and allowing more than two children China’s birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in six decades, barely outnumbering deaths last year despite major government efforts to increase population growth and stave off a demographic crisis. Across China, 10.62 million babies were born last year, a rate of 7.52 per thousand people, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday. In the same period 10.14 million deaths were recorded, a mortality rate of 7.18 per thousand, producing a population growth rate of just 0.34 per 1,000 people. The growth rate is the lowest since 1960, and adds to the findings of May last year’s once-per-decade census, which found