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Iceland to lift all COVID-19 restrictions from Saturday
25 June 2021, 4:01 PM

Icelanders will no longer need to wear masks or keep a safe distance from other people as all COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted on Saturday, the country’s health minister said on Friday.

The North Atlantic country has generally combated theCOVID-19 outbreak well via a rigorous testing and tracing system, but it has instituted lockdown measures several times in the last year to curb infection spikes.

“We are restoring the society we are used to living in and which we have longed for,” Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir, said.

Iceland will likely be the first country in Europe to lift all of its COVID-19 restrictions, Svavarsdóttir said, according to news website Kjarninn. Restrictions in place until now have included curbs on public gatherings and a distance rule of two metres between people.

The government says 87% of Icelanders have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, which is says is the highest rate recorded among comparable countries. The country of 360 000 people has an infection incidence of just 1.6 per 100 000 inhabitants on a two-week average.

Only 30 people have died out of a total of 6 637 infections.

 

sabc news Tanzania president
Tanzania’s president urges public not to ignore pandemic
25 June 2021, 2:49 PM

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan urged the public on Friday not to ignore a third wave of COVID-19, after her predecessor, the late John Magufuli, alarmed the world with his sceptical approach to the pandemic.

Since Hassan took office after the death of Magufuli in March, the government has changed tack from downplaying the crisis to calling for social distancing and emphasising mask wearing in public.

There is currently no COVID-19 vaccination programme in Tanzania, but the country has applied to join COVAX vaccine-sharing facility and officials there are working with health partners to develop a deployment plan, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said earlier this month. The government has also asked the International Monetary Fund for a $571 million loan to help it tackle the challenges caused by the coronavirus.

Tanzania’s COVID-19 committee announces vaccine rollout plan:

“As you know the world is grappling with the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hassan said in a speech to Catholic bishops in Dar es Salaam.

“We came from the first wave and Tanzania was affected,” she added. “The second wave came and dropped and now there is the third wave. There are signs of the third wave in our country. We have COVID-19 patients who have been seen in this third wave.”

Before his death in March from long-term heart disease, Magufuli dismissed the threat of COVID-19, suggested Tanzania was free of the virus and called vaccines a Western conspiracy. Under his watch, the country of 58 million people stopped reporting COVID-19 cases and deaths in May 2020.

Hassan said on Friday that during a recent visit to a hospital in Dar es Salaam she was told by a doctor about patients who were struggling with breathing issues.

“I asked him to say the truth – ‘is it COVID-19?’ He said, ‘yes, it is COVID-19,'” she told the crowd of religious leaders. “This pandemic is here and we should not ignore it,” she said.

US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan to dominate Biden-Ghani talks
24 June 2021, 9:40 PM

The United States troop withdrawal will be the main topic of conversation when Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani meets with US President Joe Biden in Washington on Friday.

The first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders follows an April announcement by Biden of the full withdrawal of US troops by September. This is in an effort to end America’s longest running war after nearly 20 years of conflict. But as the United Nations Security Council learned this week, Taliban insurgents have captured more than 50 of the 370 districts in Afghanistan since May, warning that increased conflict posed a risk of insecurity to many other countries.

It was a war against the Taliban predicated on the 911 attacks over their refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden. With President Biden announcing just months into his term that the troops were coming home, the Secretary General Special Representative to the UN’s Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, says: “The mid-April announcement that all international troops will be withdrawn in the coming months sent a seismic tremor through the Afghan political system and society at large. The withdrawal decision was expected but its speed with the majority of troops now already withdrawn was not. All actors have had to adjust to this new, reality that is unfolding. More than 50 of Afghanistan’s 370 districts have fallen since the beginning of May. Most districts that have been taken surround provincial capitals, suggesting that the Taliban are positioning themselves to try and take these capitals once foreign forces are fully withdrawn.”

A statement from the White House earlier this week says the US is committed to supporting the Afghan people by providing diplomatic, economic and humanitarian assistance to the country – promising that they would remain deeply engaged with the government of Afghanistan to ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to the US homeland. But it’s an assurance that has done little to quell unease on the ground with reports of a US intelligence assessment showing the Afghan government could collapse within six months after US troop withdrawals – a question put to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

“I don’t have any more assessment beyond the intelligence community. I don’t anticipate – the timeline for withdrawal is not going to change by September, which, of course, is overseen by our Department of Defense. A part of their discussion on Friday will certainly be the President reiterating his commitment to work with the government of Afghanistan to continue to provide humanitarian support, over-the-horizon security – you know, work that – that he committed to when he made this announcement. And I’m sure they’ll discuss this during their meeting on Friday,” says Psaki.

The UN’s Deborah Lyons warns that every effort should be made to prevent a worst-case scenario from prevailing.

“It should be emphatically clear that any efforts to install a militarily imposed government in Kabul would go against the will of the Afghan people, and against the stated positions of the regional countries and the broader international community,” says Lyons.

Peace talks in Qatar between the Afghan government and the Taliban have stalled with calls for the Security Council to push the parties back to the negotiating table.

“This is certainly not an outcome to be accepted after two decades of enormous sacrifices in blood and treasure by Afghans and our international partners. Profoundly appreciating your sacrifices and support over the past two decades, we, the government and people of Afghanistan, are committed to continue to work with our international and regional partners not to let our joint sacrifices go in vain and work to achieve our shared goal of peace, security and prosperity,” says Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Hanif Atmar.

Washington’s message to the Taliban is that the world would not recognise the establishment of a government imposed by force nor the restoration of an Islamic Emirate where women’s rights are again jeopardised.

7 shot dead in Gugulethu traditional ceremony
23 June 2021, 9:50 PM

Seven people have been shot dead outside a home in Gugulethu in Cape Town. They were apparently killed execution style.

Arrive Alive says Netcare 911 responded to reports of a shooting. Five men sustained fatal injuries after being shot in the head.

Two others sustained serious wounds and died in hospital.

The police in the Western Cape say they have instituted the 72 Activation Plan for the mobilisation of resources in search of gunmen.

Reports indicate that the victims were attending a traditional ceremony.

“Organised crime detectives are probing the seven murders. Anyone with information that could assist the investigation is urged to contact the police on 08600 10111. The identities and ages of the deceased persons will be released once their next of kin are informed,” say the police in a statement.

The motive for the shooting incident is yet to be determined.

Western Cape Acting Provincial Commissioner , Major General Thembisile Patekile, says police teams are already pursuing several leads.

“The teams will work through the night conducting tracing operations”, says Major General Patekile.

The area is notorious for shootings.

In November, seven people were also killed by an unknown group in the township.

SABC News reporter Mariska Botha elaborates on that case in the video below:

Polls open in Ethiopia’s Sidama region, counting continues elsewhere
22 June 2021, 11:27 AM

Voters in Ethiopia’s Sidama region went to the polls a day late on Tuesday as officials counted ballots from other regions in an election marred by an opposition boycott, war and reports of irregularities in some areas.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hopes the national and regional elections will show the success of democratic reforms he launched after being appointed by the ruling coalition in 2018. But the vote also reflects a messy reality in the country of 109 million people.

Authorities could not hold polls on Monday in four of Ethiopia’s 10 regions including Sidama, where there were logistical problems, according to the election board. “Democracy is not built in a day. We are laying it brick by brick,” Abiy said in a written statement late on Monday.

“No matter who wins, Ethiopians from all over the country have voted for whomever they choose, without any fear and without any kind of pressure. And because of that, Ethiopia is triumphant,” said Abiy.

There was no comment from him on Tuesday morning and his spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment as counting proceeded. In two regions where voting did happen, opposition observers were reportedly chased away from many polling stations, board chief Birtukan Midekssa told reporters late on Monday.

The board was scheduled to hold a news conference at 2 p.m. (1100 GMT). Abiy’s newly formed national Prosperity Party is widely forecast to defeat the fragmented opposition of dozens of mostly ethnically based parties. The ruling coalition and its allies hold all 547 national parliamentary seats.

Ethiopians vote in the country’s parliamentary elections:

Though the prime minister won the Nobel prize in 2019 for making peace with neighbouring Eritrea, his international reputation has been tarnished since conflict erupted in the northern Tigray region in November.

Fighting between Ethiopia’s military and the region’s former governing party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has forced more than 2 million people from their homes, and the United Nations reports there is a famine looming. No date has been set for elections in Tigray.

The opposition alleged some irregularities in regions that voted. Opposition leader Berhanu Nega said his Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party (Ezema) had filed 207 complaints after local officials and militia in Amhara region and in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, blocked party observers, he said.

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