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Regional News • Europe • Germany
Berlin Senate decides on stricter contact restrictions from Good Friday
Berlin Senate decides on stricter contact restrictions from Good Friday
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The Berlin Senate agreed on Thursday on stricter contact restrictions from Good Friday. The governing mayor Michael Müller (SPD), announced this after a Senate meeting. According to this, Berliners are initially only allowed to be outside alone or in pairs between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Over Easter, the previous regulations with a maximum of five people from two households will remain. In both cases, children up to the age of 14 are not counted.

Michael Müller (SPD), the governing mayor, defended the stricter rules at a press conference after a senate meeting on Thursday afternoon. "Infections arise through direct contacts in the professional, school and private environment.

Regional News • Europe
WHO says European vaccine rollout is "unacceptably slow"
WHO says European vaccine rollout is "unacceptably slow"
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler. (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released a statement, saying that "speeding up vaccination roll-out is crucial as new cases in the WHO European Region are increasing in every age group, apart from one."

Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, stated that vaccines are highly effective in preventing infections, but the "roll-out of these vaccines is unacceptably slow". Kluge is recommending "the same public health and social measures as we have in the past to compensate for delayed schedules" and added, "we must speed up the process by ramping up manufacturing, reducing barriers to administering vaccines, and using every single vial we have in stock, now."

“Only 5 weeks ago, the weekly number of new cases in Europe had dipped to under 1 million, but now the Region’s situation is more worrying than we have seen in several months. There are risks associated with the increased mobility and gatherings over the religious holidays. Many countries are introducing new measures that are necessary and everyone should follow as much as they can,” said Dr Dorit Nitzan, Regional Emergency Director for the WHO Regional Office for Europe.

Regional News • Asia • India
India blocked bank accounts of China's ByteDance
India blocked bank accounts of China's ByteDance
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler – Logo via TikTok (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

ByteDance in January cut its Indian workforce after New Delhi decided to retain a ban on its popular video app TikTok, first prohibited last year following a border clash between India and China. The authorities also directed Citibank and HSBC to prevent ByteDance India from withdrawing funds from any other bank accounts linked to its tax identification number, the first source said.

The move was widely linked to India's broader pushback against Chinese businesses after clashes at a disputed Himalayan border site left 20 Indian soldiers dead.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Germany restricts use of AstraZeneca vaccine to over 60s in most cases
Germany restricts use of AstraZeneca vaccine to over 60s in most cases
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

German Health Minister Jens Spahn and the 16 state health ministers on Tuesday decided to suspend the routine use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under age 60 at an emergency meeting. The decision came amid fresh concern over unusual blood clots reported in a tiny number of younger people who received the vaccine.

Several European countries briefly suspended the use of the vaccine earlier this month, albeit in that instance for more elderly people rather than the young, but resumed jabs after EU regulators said the shot was safe for use.

Regional News • Americas • Canada
Canada halts AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for people under 55
Canada halts AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for people under 55
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler. (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Canada announced Monday that the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is recommending that the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine should not be administered to people under the age of 55 due to safety reasons.

“There is substantial uncertainty about the benefit of providing AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines to adults under 55 given the potential risks,” said Dr Shelley Deeks, vice-chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

"Following population-based analyses of VIPIT assessing risk of COVID-19 disease by age, and considering that alternate products are available (i.e., mRNA vaccines), from what is known at this time, there is substantial uncertainty about the benefit of providing AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to adults under 55 years of age given that the potential risks associated with VIPIT, particularly at the lower estimated rates," committee officials said.

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Jair Bolsonaro to replace military chiefs
Jair Bolsonaro to replace military chiefs
Credit: Marcos Corrêa/PR (Public Domain)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will replace the commanders of the country's army, navy and air force, the defense ministry said Tuesday. Some local media, including the Folha de Sao Paulo daily, reported that the military chiefs had quit in protest at the unexpected ministerial reshuffle. The president named Carlos Alberto Franco Franca as the new foreign minister after Araujo tendered his resignation earlier in the day.

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Brazil broke a new record with 3,668 deaths by Covid-19 recorded in 24 hours
Brazil broke a new record with 3,668 deaths by Covid-19 recorded in 24 hours
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler. (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

According to a report of the consortium of Brazilian media companies consortium released on March 29 3,668 deaths by Covid-19, a new daily record. The country had, since the beginning of the pandemic 317,936 deaths.

Regional News • Africa
19 civilians killed in a French army air strike in Mali

A UN Mission in Mali has just reported 19 civilians gathered for a wedding died in a French army air strike targeting jihadists in January in central Mali. France denies any wrongdoing.

Regional News • Asia • China
China's leadership adopts electoral reform for Hong Kong
China's leadership adopts electoral reform for Hong Kong
Credit: unsplash.com / Ruslan Bardash

China continues to expand its influence over Hong Kong. An electoral law reform gives Beijing control over candidate selection in the Special Administrative Region's parliamentary elections, allowing it to exclude candidates who are not considered loyal.

President Xi Jinping ordered the publication of the electoral law change on Tuesday, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported. The changes to the Special Administrative Region's electoral system were approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong's sole delegate, told the AFP news agency.

China's People's Congress had launched the amendment to the Special Administrative Region's electoral law in mid-March. It is intended to ensure that Hong Kong can only be run by "patriots". In this way, Beijing wants to gain control over the selection of candidates. Among other things, the Chinese leadership is to be given veto rights to be able to exclude certain candidates.

Regional News • Americas • United States
US CDC director warns of potential fourth Covid-19 wave
US CDC director warns of potential fourth Covid-19 wave
Credit: The White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr. Rochelle Walensky issued a warning of a potential fourth Covid-19 wave, as the country sees a rise in infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

"I’m going to lose the script and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. Right now I’m scared," Walensky said during a press conference. "We do not have the luxury of inaction. For the health of our country, we must work together now to prevent a fourth surge."

Dr. Anthony Fauci urged Americans to "hang in there", adding it "will be a race between the vaccine and what’s going on with the dynamics of the outbreak, and we can win this by just hanging in there a bit longer."

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Entry by air to Germany from now on only possible with a negative Covid-19 test result
Entry by air to Germany from now on only possible with a negative Covid-19 test result
Credit: unsplash.com / reisetopia

As of today, entry by air to Germany is only possible with a negative Covid-19 test. A corresponding amendment to the Coronavirus Entry Regulation came into force at midnight. The new regulation applies regardless of the Corona situation in the country from which someone is flying to Germany. The test may be no more than 48 hours old at the time of entry. The measure is limited until 12 May.

Regional News • Africa
Traffic in Suez Canal resumes after Ever Given refloated
Traffic in Suez Canal resumes after Ever Given refloated
Credit: kees torn, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Shipping traffic has resumed through Egypt’s Suez Canal on Monday after the container cargo ship Ever Given was successfully refloated and moved.

"The efforts to float the delinquent Panamanian container ship Ever Given are successful," so Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority.

Regional News • Europe
Sweden to end travel ban for people travelling from Norway and Denmark on March 31
Sweden to end travel ban for people travelling from Norway and Denmark on March 31
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler. (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The Swedish government said it would end the travel ban for people travelling from Norway and Denmark to Sweden on March 31. All people travelling to Sweden will still need a negative Covid-19 test to enter the country.

"This means, among other things, that Norwegians and Danes can travel to their holiday homes in Sweden and that families and friends across borders can meet each other," Mikael Damberg, Minister of the Interior, told a news conference.

Regional News • Americas • United States
5 dead in helicopter crash, including Czech billionaire Petr Kellner
Knik Glacier, Alaska
Knik Glacier, Alaska Credit: McStyles at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Five people were killed in a helicopter crash in the Knik glacier, approximately 54 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska on Sunday. The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center was sent to the crash site and found five people dead, among them Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, and one survivor who was transported to a hospital where he remains in serious but stable condition.

Regional News • Europe • France
Historian's Report: France Shares Responsibility for Genocide in Rwanda

France bears a "grave and overwhelming share of responsibility" for the genocide, says the 1,200-page report prepared by historian Vincent Duclert and 12 collaborators for the attention of Emmanuel Macron.

It says French authorities "failed" during the four years of escalation in Rwanda: they "strengthened" the corrupt, racist dictatorship in the capital, Kigali, and themselves pursued an "ethnicist" view of the conflict. Specifically, France had trained the Rwandan army - from whose circles the Hutu killers came - and supplied it with "considerable quantities of weapons and ammunition."

However, the Duclert report also states that France did not directly equip the murder gangs. Rather, Paris "did not understand" what was going on in Rwanda. There was therefore no actual complicity in the genocide. In short, the report, for which the authors had unrestricted access to the archives, including those of the Élysée Palace, concludes that there was joint responsibility, but not joint guilt.

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Brazilian Foreign Policy Ministry Ernesto Araújo resigns
Ernesto Araújo (left) with Jair Bolsonaro
Ernesto Araújo (left) with Jair Bolsonaro Credit: Palácio do Planalto (Public Domain)

The polemic Brazilian Foreign Policy Ministry Ernesto Araújo presented his resignation Monday to the President Jair Bolsonaro.

In the Brazilian Congress, the assessment is that the minister's performance isolated Brazil in the international scenario and hindered the obtaining of vaccine doses against Covid-19.

Mr. Araújo adopted in his administration the same principles as the foreign policy of former US President Donald Trump. This stance generated friction with important trading partners, such as China, the main destination for Brazilian exports, as well as the largest producer of vaccine supplies in the world.

Regional News • Americas • South America
Facebook freezes Maduro's page for Covid-19 misinformation
Nicolás Maduro
Nicolás Maduro Credit: Presidencia El Salvador (Public Domain)

Facebook has frozen the page of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a company spokesperson said, after the leader was accused of violating the platform's policies about the spread of Covid-19 misinformation.

A spokesperson for the company also told the AFP news agency that a video from Maduro's page had been removed "for violating our policies against misinformation about Covid-19 that is likely to put people at risk for harm".

Regional News • Africa
Suez Canal: Ever Given container ship mostly freed

The MS Ever Given, the container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week, has been successfully refloated on Monday, authorities confirm.

"The container ship began to float successfully after responding to the pulling maneuvers," said Osama Rabie, head of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA). "Once the ship is withdrawn, we will resume navigation directly, and we will take it to the Bitter Lakes."

Regional News • Africa
Over 30 passengers killed in a train collision in Egypt
Over 30 passengers  killed in a train collision in Egypt
Credit: AaronAinomugisha (Twitter reproduction)

A collision between two passenger trains in central Egypt on Friday left at least 32 people dead, the Egyptian health ministry announced. Dozens of ambulances raced to the crash scene in the Tahta district of Sohag province, around 460 kilometres south of the capital Cairo.

"The trains collided while going at not very high speeds, which led to the destruction of two carriages and a third to overturn," a security source told Reuters.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Arrest warrant issued for suspect in German politics mask affair
Arrest warrant issued for suspect in German politics mask affair
Credit: Mika Baumeister

Union politicians and several businessmen are alleged to have received several million euros as commission for brokering protective masks to ministries. The affair has been exposed - now the Munich Public Prosecutor's Office has applied for an arrest warrant against one of the accused. This was reported by several news agencies and the Bayerischer Rundfunk.

The accused was arrested on Thursday, the investigating authority announced. The investigators did not give a name.

Regional News • Americas • United States
5 White House Staffers Fired Over Marijuana Use
5 White House Staffers Fired Over Marijuana Use
Credit: Diego Cambiasso (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday five White House staffers were "no longer employed" over their use of marijuana as part of a vetting process for security clearance, as the Biden administration comes under fire over reports that numerous young staffers have been penalized for past marijuana use (including in states where it’s legal) even though they were told they wouldn’t be.

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Brazil posts record 3,650 new Covid-19 deaths in 24 hours
Brazil posts record 3,650 new Covid-19 deaths in 24 hours
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler. (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

In just 24 hours, 3,650 deaths linked to the disease were officially registered Friday, according to data from the National Council of Health Secretaries (Conass). The previous record had been registered last on March 23rd, with 3,251 lives lost in 24 hours.

With the new balance, the total number of victims of the disease in Brazil is 307,112. The mortality rate per group of 100,000 inhabitants rose to 146.1 in Brazil, the 18th highest in the world, when disregarding the dwarf countries San Marino, Liechtenstein and Andorra, according to a Johns Hopkins University survey.

Regional News • Americas • South America
Argentina has formally withdrawn from the Lima Group
Argentinean Flag
Argentinean Flag Credit: Érico Andrei (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement in which it stressed that, since the arrival of Alberto Fernández to the Casa Rosada, "Argentina has never participated in meetings or signed documents" of the Lima Group and emphasised that his administration "the only thing it has done" with respect to this alliance was to "distance itself". "Once again, we reiterate that the best way to help Venezuelans is to facilitate an inclusive dialogue that does not favour any particular sector, but rather to achieve elections accepted by the majority with international control," the letter from the San Martín Palace states.

Argentina also maintains that, in "a context in which the pandemic has wreaked havoc in the region, the sanctions and blockades imposed on Venezuela and its authorities, as well as the destabilisation attempts that occurred in 2020, have only aggravated the situation of its population and, in particular, that of its most vulnerable sectors".

Regional News • Oceania
New Zealand unanimously approves paid leave following miscarriage, stillbirth
New Zealand unanimously approves paid leave following miscarriage, stillbirth
Credit: unsplash.com/John Looy

New Zealand’s Parliament unanimously approved legislation on Wednesday allowing mothers and their partners three days of paid bereavement leave after a miscarriage or stillbirth. Previously, employees were provided with paid leave in case of a stillbirth, the new bill now extends those benefits for those who lose a pregnancy at any point.

Regional News • Americas • South America
Argentinean government announced that flights from Brazil, Chile and Mexico will be suspended.
Aerolineas Argentinas plane
Aerolineas Argentinas plane Credit: Andrew W. Sieber (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The Argentinean government on Friday formalized the suspension of flights from Brazil, Chile and Mexico, due to the increasing cases of Covid-19 in those countries, and the circulation of new strains. The new measure starts on Saturday.

The government's objective is to reduce the number of trips during Easter Week, a time when many citizens tend to travel around the country or abroad, which in this case is the main concern.

Regional News • Europe
UK health minister admits preferential treatment from AstraZeneca
UK health minister admits preferential treatment from AstraZeneca
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler.

As 29 million apparently hoarded AstraZeneca vaccine doses have been traced in Italy, Britain's health minister Matt Hancock has conceded preferential treatment for his country by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company.

"I believe that free trading nations follow contract law," Hancock told the Financial Times. "Our treaty trumps theirs. It's called contract law and it's clear," he said, referring to the dispute between the EU and AstraZeneca over cut supply volumes.

Regional News • Europe • United Kingdom
Santander Bank to Close 111 UK branches
Santander Bank to Close 111 UK branches
Credit: Rodhullandemu, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

Santander has announced it will close 111 UK branches as the company will shift its focus to mobile and online banking amid increasing numbers of customers visiting bank branches. The decision affects around 840 employees, but Santander promised to offer them different jobs within its company.

Regional News • Americas • South America
A helicopter from Uruguayan Air Force transporting Pfizer vaccines crashed. No casualties, all doses destroyed

Pfizer vaccines arrived in Uruguay on Wednesday. Today, an Air Force helicopter was responsible for transporting 180 doses crashed. The authorities started an investigation suspecting that the cause was a mechanical failure.

The crew managed to operate an emergency landing, resulting in no casualties but several injuries. After landing the vehicle was on fire and the load was completely lost.

Regional News • Americas • United States
Rachel Levine confirmed as first transgender federal official
Rachel Levine confirmed as first transgender federal official
Credit: Governor Tom Wolf from Harrisburg, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Rachel Levine was confirmed as assistant secretary of health by the US Senate on Wednesday, making her the first openly transgender to be confirmed as a federal official. The vote was 52-48, with only two Republicans (Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski) joining the Democrats.

Regional News • Europe
EU tightens Covid-19 vaccine export controls
EU tightens Covid-19 vaccine export controls
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

New regulations announced Wednesday will make it easier to halt shipments of Covid-19 vaccines outside of the EU. The new rules were announced as a report emerged about 29 million AstraZeneca doses that were found during an inspection of a bottling plant in Italy.

The European Commission had negotiated vaccine supply contracts on behalf of the 27 EU member states, and Brussels has been frustrated by the slow pace of deliveries. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took note of the new EU rules without mentioning vaccines but saying they could influence companies' decisions on where to invest.