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.
French authorities yesterday said that they would close a Paris mosque as part of a clampdown on radical Islam that has yielded over a dozen arrests following the beheading of a teacher who had shown his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. The mosque in a densely populated suburb northeast of Paris had disseminated a video on its Facebook page days before Friday’s gruesome murder, railing against teacher Samuel Paty’s choice of material for a class discussion on freedom of expression, a source close to the investigation said. The French Ministry of the Interior said the mosque in Pantin, which has
LONGSTANDING NEUTRALITY: The US request came as it vied for influence in Southeast Asia with China, but Indonesia has never let foreign militaries operate there Indonesia this year rejected a proposal by the US to allow its P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance planes to land and refuel there, four senior Indonesian officials familiar with the matter have said. US officials made multiple “high-level” approaches in July and August to Indonesia’s defense and foreign ministers before Indonesian President Joko Widodo rebuffed the request, the officials said. Representatives for Indonesia’s president and defense minister, the US Department of State’s Office of Press Relations and the US embassy in Jakarta did not respond to requests for comment. Representatives for the US Department of Defense and Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi
COVID-19 UNDER CONTROL: The two prime ministers agreed to ease entry bans, and allow short-term business visits and reopen flights between Vietnam and Japan Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first overseas summit since taking office last month, yesterday agreed with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to step up defense and security cooperation in the face of China’s expanding influence in the region. In talks in Hanoi, Suga and Phuc set up a basic agreement allowing Japan to export defense equipment and technology to Vietnam. Japan has been pursuing such agreements to bolster ties with Southeast Asian nations and sustain its own defense industry. Suga said that his four-day trip to Vietnam and Indonesia would be key to pursuing the “free and open Indo-Pacific” vision
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night said that he has no problem with being held responsible for the many killings under his crackdown on drugs, and that he is ready to face charges that could land him in jail, but not charges of crimes against humanity. Duterte’s televised remarks were among his clearest acknowledgement of the prospects that he could face a deluge of criminal charges for the bloody campaign he launched after taking office in the middle of 2016. Police have reported that at least 5,856 drug suspects have been killed in raids and more than 256,000 others arrested since