Paris Officer Charged Over Fatal Election Night Shooting

The site of the shooting in Paris

 

 

A French policeman has been charged with involuntary manslaughter after shooting dead a driver who sought to evade police and a passenger in Paris Sunday, hours after Emmanuel Macron celebrated re-election nearby, a judicial source said.

The 24-year-old officer used his assault rifle to try to stop the car as it hurtled towards his colleagues on the picturesque Pont Neuf bridge, later claiming that he acted in self-defence.

But he was immediately taken in for questioning by the police’s internal investigations agency, and prosecutors determined it was more likely that the officer had responded with excessive force.

Around a dozen rounds were fired, with “five or six shots hitting the occupants,” according to a police report of the incident seen by AFP.

The officer was presented before a judge who decided late Wednesday to charge him with involuntary manslaughter for the death of the driver, the legal source said.

Lesser charges of “wilful violence by a person in authority” were issued over the death of the front-seat passenger, and the injury of a person in the back seat.

He was ordered to turn in his gun and prohibited from any police duties involving contact with the public.

The decision was slammed as “unacceptable” by the right-leaning Alliance police officers’ union, which called for a demonstration to defend “the presumption of legitimate defence” in front of the historic Paris courthouse on Monday.

The police report said the car was parked the wrong way with its hazard lights flashing on the banks of the Seine, prompting the five-person foot patrol to investigate, according to the police report.

When confronted, the driver suddenly sped off towards one officer who managed to jump out of the way.

The two occupants who were killed had extensive criminal records, including for drug charges.

While police in France went unarmed while on routine patrols for years, authorities began issuing assault rifles after the mass jihadist terror killing in Paris on November 13, 2015, which were followed by a wave of other deadly Islamist attacks.

Security forces have been on high alert since the marathon trial for the November 2015 attacks, France’s worst post-war atrocity, opened in September.

The 20 defendants include Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving attacker, who after years of silence claimed in testimony this month that he had a last-minute change of heart and decided not to set off his explosive vest.

UEFA Strips Russia Of Champions League Final Hosting Rights

 

Paris will host this season’s Champions League final after Saint Petersburg was stripped of the match due to Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, UEFA announced on Friday.

The showpiece occasion of the European club season will be played at the Stade de France on Saturday, May 28, European football’s governing body said after holding an emergency meeting in response to the crisis.

“UEFA wishes to express its thanks and appreciation to the French Republic President Emmanuel Macron for his personal support and commitment to have European club football’s most prestigious game moved to France at a time of unparalleled crisis,” a statement said.

“Together with the French government, UEFA will fully support multi-stakeholder efforts to ensure the provision of rescue for football players and their families in Ukraine who face dire human suffering, destruction and displacement.”

The final was supposed to be played at the Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg, which already hosted several matches at last year’s European Championship and at the 2018 World Cup held in Russia.

UEFA made no reference to its relationship with Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant that is a key sponsor of European football’s governing body.

However, UEFA did announce that Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams competing in international competitions must play home matches at neutral venues “until further notice”.

FIFA may now move to force Russia to play their World Cup qualifying play-off against Poland on March 24 on neutral ground.

Spartak Moscow, in the Europa League, are the only club from either Russia or Ukraine s

-AFP

Saudi Paris Embassy Says Arrested Suspect Has No Link To Khashoggi Case

In this file photo taken on December 15, 2014, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi attends a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama. (Photo by MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH / AFP)

 

The Saudi embassy in Paris said Tuesday that a Saudi national arrested as a suspect in the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has no connection with the case.

French police earlier Tuesday arrested a man suspected of being a member of the hit squad that murdered Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, and investigators were seeking to confirm that the man carrying a passport in the name of Khalid Alotaibi was indeed the man being sought in connection with the gruesome murder.

“The person who was arrested has nothing to do with the case in question,” the embassy said in a statement. “Therefore, the kingdom’s embassy expects his immediate release”.

READ ALSO: Saudi Arabia Reports First Case Of Omicron Variant In Gulf

The embassy said that the Saudi judiciary had already issued verdicts against “all those who participated in the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi” and that they were serving their sentences.

In September 2020, a Saudi court overturned five death sentences issued after a closed-door trial in Saudi Arabia, sentencing the accused to 20 years in prison instead.

On the French side, checks were meanwhile still underway on Tuesday evening to ensure that police were holding the right man, a source close to the case said, noting that his detention could last up to 48 hours.

AFP

Nigerians Are Competitive Abroad Due To Good Education From Home – Buhari

President Buhari addresses other world leaders during the Opening ceremony of the Paris Peace Forum in France on 11th Nov 2021.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigerians all over the world are very competitive, noting that they acquired the trait from home where the citizens have been properly educated and immersed in business rudiments.

The President stated this on Friday when he met with the Minister of State Foreign Affairs of United Arab Emirates (UAE), His Excellency Shaikh Shakboot Alnahyan, at the sidelines of the Paris Peace Forum.

According to a statement by his special media aide, Femi Adesina, President Buhari described his countrymen and women as “competitive both at home and abroad,” and urged them to always abide by the rules of their host countries.

Said the President: “Nigerians are all over the place, very competitive. And the competitiveness starts from home, where they have acquired good education, gone into businesses, and then take all that abroad.”

He encouraged Nigerians in Diaspora to “subject themselves to the rules and standards of the country in which they live either as working class, or doing businesses.”

Read Also: Osinbajo To Nigerian Exporters: Take Advantage Of AfCFTA

He welcomed the offer by UAE to partner with Nigeria in the areas of renewable energy, agriculture, infrastructure logistics, and provision of vaccines to further control the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister Shakboot Alnahyan said his country “thinks very highly “of President Buhari’s leadership, noting that he was striving to “build a better future for generations to come.”

He said there were lots of Nigerians in his country, “who add much value,” assuring that the headwinds of the recent past in the relationship “are now behind us.

We want to secure, deepen and strengthen the association for the future. We have a lot in common. We may be taking small steps, but they are leading somewhere.”

On proposed investments in Nigeria, Alnahyan said it would be a win-win situation, “which would bring hope and opportunities for people in both countries. We want to come and add quality and value.”

He equally commended the Nigerian government for its robust tackling of violent extremism.

Post-Pandemic Experimentation At Paris Fashion Week

Models present creations by Chanel as part of Paris Fashion Week in Paris, on October 5, 2021. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

 

Paris Fashion Week wraps up Tuesday after nine days of innovative experiments that showed how the industry is embracing technology and new approaches for a post-pandemic future.

While many fashion houses stuck to online presentations, the biggest names such as Dior, Balenciaga and Stella McCartney — even Yves Saint Laurent, which had been first to quit live shows when the pandemic hit — got back to the catwalk.

But new twists often reflected the lessons learned during lockdowns and increasing environmental concerns.

 

What Is Real?

Among the most inventive runway shows in years came from Balenciaga, who fooled their own guests into becoming part of the spectacle.

Arriving via a red carpet, they were unaware that the official models were walking among them until a big screen relayed their entrance and highlighted which outfits were part of the show.

 

Models present creations by Etam during the Etam Live Show 2021 as part of the Paris Fashion Week at the Garnier Opera in Paris, on October 4, 2021. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

 

The line between guest and model disappeared as it emerged that some of the celebrities had been on secret modelling duty, including racing driver Lewis Hamilton and actress Isabelle Huppert.

The New York Times called it a “knife-sharp belly laugh of an experiment on… our digital lives, where posing has become the norm (and) voyeurism is a constant.”

 

Immersive Shows

One advantage of pandemic-era online presentations is that they have given viewers time to really appreciate the clothes.

Dior embraced that idea, using an elaborate gameshow-style rotating stage which allowed the models and their outfits to be seen from multiple angles.

Christian Louboutin, creator of the famous red-soled pumps, offered a fully immersive experience, plunging the audience into digital landscapes before presenting the shoes on podiums, jazzed up with digital effects, while dancers put them through their paces.

 

Face-To-Face

Young French star Marine Serre, who has put on spectacular shows in the past, opted to stick with an online presentation this time.

But she also screened the film for several hundred guests at a special evening in Paris “to give it some warmth and appreciation,” she said.

 

A model presents a creation by Chanel as part of Paris Fashion Week in Paris, on October 5, 2021. (Photo by Lucas BARIOULET / AFP)

 

The clothes were on display to see and touch, while Serre herself was on hand to discuss directly with guests.

British veteran Paul Smith also took an intimate approach, inviting guests to his headquarters.

He offered commentary on each outfit, saying: “I think the way we’ve done it today is correct for the house. It’s nice to have a one-to-one.”

 

Ethical Concerns

Though the fashion industry is often accused of empty posturing on the environment, some designers insist they are determined to really make a difference.

Stella McCartney displayed the first-ever bag made from “Mylo” mushroom leather.

It was part of a collection that went heavy on natural vibes, with even the music being inspired by fungi.

Gabriella Hearst also highlighted her green credentials, saying 58 percent of her designs for Chloe were from low-impact materials.

And Dutch label Botter used recovered plastic waste from the sea for its aquatic-inspired collection.

AFP

Paris To Charge Motorbikes Parking Fees From 2022

People cycle with their bike down the Rue de Rivoli, by the Louvre museum, in Paris on May 19, 2020 as France eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus). THOMAS COEX / AFP
File: THOMAS COEX / AFP

 

The owners of motorbikes and motorised scooters will have to pay to park their rides in Paris starting next year, a city hall official said Tuesday.

Deputy mayor David Belliard, a member of the Greens party, said the two-wheelers could use marked car parking spots and rates would be half of those charged to automobile owners.

At their current level, this would translate into 2 euros ($2.40) per hour of street parking in the centre of Paris for motorcycles, falling to 1.20 euros nearer the outskirts.

Some 100,000 people ride their motorbike or scooters every day in Paris, according to Le Parisien newspaper.

Electric vehicles, including e-scooters, will continue to park free in the French capital, Belliard said.

Paris will also add around 5,000 dedicated parking spots for motorcycles and scooters to the current 40,000, Belliard said.

Pavement parking, a major headache in a city with mostly narrow sidewalks, will still be banned, he said, warning that police would “severely” sanction offenders.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo promised to introduce motorcycle parking fees during her 2020 re-election campaign.

Last month, she announced that car traffic would be drastically reduced in the heart of Paris next year, the latest step in her goal of greening one of the densest urban landscapes in Europe.

The plan would ban most vehicles from the Paris Centre district, formerly the first four arrondissements of the capital, that includes the two islands on the Seine river and the winding narrow streets of the Marais.

Critics blame her anti-car policies for traffic headaches for residents and for people living in suburbs lacking viable public transport options for getting to work in the city.

Belliard also said Tuesday that the city would convert half the capital’s roughly 65,000 car parking spots into cycling paths, green areas and terraces, or use the space to widen pavements.

But handicapped motorists, car sharers, delivery workers and taxis will get more dedicated parking spaces than now, he said.

AFP

Federer Set For French Open Pullout And End Four-Decade Paris Stretch

Switzerland's Roger Federer serves the ball to Germany's Dominik Koepfer during their men's singles third round tennis match on Day 7 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 5, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
Switzerland’s Roger Federer serves the ball to Germany’s Dominik Koepfer during their men’s singles third round tennis match on Day 7 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 5, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Roger Federer could end his French Open career which has stretched over four decades with an injury-enforced withdrawal on Sunday as the 39-year-old rests his weary bones for an assault on his primary objective, a ninth Wimbledon title.

The 20-time Grand Slam title winner, who will be 40 in two months’ time, battled over three and a half hours until 12:45 Sunday morning to reach the last 16 in Paris.

He is due back on court on Monday to tackle Matteo Berrettini for a place in the quarter-finals.

However, having undergone two knee surgeries in 2020, the Swiss star admitted there are doubts he’ll make it.

“I don’t know if I am going to play,” said Federer who is likely to be playing his last French Open.

“I have to decide whether or not to continue. Is it too risky to keep putting pressure on the knee? Is it a good time to rest?

“Every match I have to reassess the situation and see the next morning in what state I wake up and how my knee is doing.

“It may be even more true after a match as long as the one tonight.”

If his knife-edge 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 win over 59th-ranked Dominik Koepfer was his last match in Paris, it will be remembered as a gripping affair on the court, but soulless off it.

Wimbledon target

Due to a government-imposed Covid-19 curfew, Court Philippe Chatrier was devoid of fans and atmosphere.

Federer is playing only his third tournament since last year’s Australian Open and has always said Wimbledon is his main goal.

He is chasing a ninth title at Wimbledon which starts on June 28.

He is also scheduled to play the warm-up grass court tournament in Halle beginning on June 14, the day after the French Open ends.

Federer, who made his Roland Garros debut in 1999 and was champion in 2009, was playing a night session for the first time.

However, the almost empty 15,000-capacity court was eerily silent.

“I might have been more nervous if the stadium had been full,” added Federer.

“All the matches I’ve played since the injury are information for the rest of the season.

“It gives me real pleasure to be able to play 3hr 30min at a high level against a very good player. It shows that I’m on the right track.”

As Federer weighs up leaving a tournament where Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were always the title favourites, fellow veteran Serena Williams resumes her bid for a historic 24th Grand Slam title.

Serena eyes history

Seeded seventh, the 39-year-old Williams is the second-highest ranked player left in the women’s draw.

After Naomi Osaka’s shock withdrawal, Simona Halep missing the event through injury and early losses for Bianca Andreescu and Angelique Kerber, none of the players who have beaten Williams in Grand Slam finals since her last title at the 2017 Australian Open are still in the competition.

The former world number one, still just one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record of major trophies, takes on Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Williams has not gone beyond the fourth round in Paris since losing the 2016 final to Garbine Muguruza.

She arrived at this year’s French Open with just one win on clay this term.

“I’ve had a rough clay court season thus far, so I’m happy to get some wins on the clay,” Williams said after beating fellow American Danielle Collins in round three.

Tamara Zidansek on Sunday became the first Slovenian woman to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam when she defeated Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (7/4), 6-1.

The world number 85, who knocked out former US Open champion Andreescu in round one, will face either 2019 Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrousova or Paula Badosa for a place in the semi-finals.

The 23-year-old had never previously got beyond the second round of a major.

Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas is seen as a favourite to reach his first Grand Slam final, with Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all in the other half of the men’s draw.

A semi-finalist at the past two majors, Tsitsipas was beaten in a thrilling five-setter by Djokovic in Paris eight months ago.

On Sunday, he faces 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta.

He could then meet twice Grand Slam finalist and second seed Daniil Medvedev, the Russian who plays Chile’s Cristian Garin in the last 16.

AFP

France Savours New Freedoms As Cafes, Museums Reopen

The Eiffel Tower is reflected in a puddle as a man runs, on December 24, 2020 in Paris. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP)

 

The French on Wednesday joyfully made their way back to cafes, cinemas and museums as the country loosened restrictions in a return to semi-normality after more than six months of Covid-19 curbs.

Cafes and restaurants with terraces or rooftop gardens can now offer outdoor dining, under the second phase of a lockdown-lifting plan that should culminate in a full reopening of the economy on June 30.

Museums, cinemas and some theatres are also reopening after being closed for 203 days.

Bad weather across much of the country failed to dampen the spirits of customers who beat a path back to their favourite cafes and cultural haunts from the early morning.

“It’s a form of liberation,” Didier Semah, a music producer, told AFP jovially as he sipped an espresso with a friend on the terrace of Felix Cafe in eastern Paris, shielded from a downpour by the awning.

For Sabine Dosso-Greggia, a 45-year-old accountant who was having a mid-morning cigarette and coffee at the next table, it was about enjoying the “small daily pleasures” again.

“It’s about being with others and indulging in the things that make up life in Paris, like going to a restaurant with friends or taking the kids to an exhibition,” she said.

In the western city of Rennes, Patricia Marchand, the manager of the Cafe des Feuilles, said she had reservations even for aperitifs. “It feels good. There is a sense of euphoria in the city centre.”

In a boost for the economy, non-essential businesses from toys to clothes shops, which had been closed since early April, also reopened on Wednesday.

– ‘The French way’ –

With TV cameras rolling, President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Jean Castex enjoyed a first coffee at a cafe close to the presidential palace in Paris, with the head of state hailing “a little moment of freedom regained”.

“The art of living the French way,” tweeted Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, posting a picture of himself reading the sports newspaper L’Equipe at a corner cafe.

But with showers forecast for much of the day, and most venues allowed to use only half of their outdoor seating, some restaurants decided to delay reopening until June 9, when they will be allowed serve clients indoors.

And while many people have booked outdoor tables for dinner or drinks on Wednesday evening, the party will wind up early due to a curfew, even if it was pushed back Wednesday from 7 pm to 9 pm.

Stephanie Mathey, owner of three Paris bistros, told AFP she was treating this stage of the reopening as a dress rehearsal for the summer.

“Like a diesel engine, we’ll be warming up slowly,” she told AFP.

– Mona Lisa revisited –

While going to a cafe spelt freedom for some, for others it was the chance to see the Mona Lisa again.

“I missed her over the past seven months. I’m glad to see her again,” said 47-year-old Frederic Destival, who was among the first visitors to the Louvre museum when it reopened at 9 am to applause from those queueing outside.

Across the Seine river at the Musee d’Orsay, Isabelle Berthonneau said she had felt so starved of art over the past months she took a week’s holidays to cram in exhibitions.

“We have to starting living again,” 54-year-old Berthonneau said.

Cinemas, also shut for the last six months, have a huge backlog of movies to show and some film buffs were up early to get their fix.

Luce Van Dam, 17, started her day in the capital with a screening of the French comedy “Mandibules” at 8:20 am and had plans to see two or three or more films.

But many concert halls and theatres remained closed, saying their productions could not be profitable given the 35-percent-capacity limit imposed by the government for the next three weeks.

The loosening of the restrictions comes as a severe third wave of Covid-19 infections continues to abate with the number of patients in intensive care falling to 4,015 on Tuesday, down from around 6,000 a month ago. More than 17,000 new infections were recorded on Tuesday, with the number falling almost 20 percent over the last week.

Meanwhile, the government’s vaccination drive has accelerated after an initially slow start, with 21 million people, a third of the population, having received at least one shot.

“If we manage to organise ourselves, vaccinate and maintain collective discipline, there is no reason that we cannot continue to progress,” Macron said, adding that Covid-19 figures in France were “heading in the right direction”.

AFP

President Buhari To Depart For Paris On Sunday

FILE: President Muhammadu Buhari climbs the stairs of the Presidential Jet as he embarks on a medical trip to the United Kingdom on March 30, 2021.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari will leave Abuja on Sunday for Paris, France, on a four-day official visit to attend the African Finance Summit.

Spokesman Garba Shehu revealed this in a statement on Saturday.

The Summit is to be hosted by French President, Emmanuel Macron.

According to Shehu’s statement, the Summit “will be focused on reviewing African economy, following shocks from Coronavirus pandemic, and getting relief, especially from increased debt burden on countries.”

READ ALSO: Buhari Calls Erdogan, Seeks Stronger Ties With Turkey

It will also attract “major stakeholders in the global finance institutions and some Heads of Government, who will, collectively, discuss external funding and debt treatment for Africa, and private sector reforms.”

During the visit, President Buhari is expected to meet with Macron “to discuss growing security threats in Sahel and Lake Chad region, political relations, economic ties, climate change and partnership in buoying the health sector, particularly in checking spread of Covid-19, with more research and vaccines.

“Before returning to Nigeria, President Buhari will receive some key players in the oil and gas sector, engineering and telecommunications, European Council and European Union Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and Commission, and members of the Nigerian community.

“The President will be accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, Minister of Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, and Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire.

“Also on the trip are: National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Mohammed Monguno (rtd) and Director General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Amb. Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.”

France To Impose Quarantine On Arrivals From Four Countries

Medical workers tend to a patient at the intensive care unit for patients infected with the Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) at the AP-HP Ambroise Pare hospital in Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris on March 8, 2021. (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP).

 

France will impose a 10-day quarantine on arrivals from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and South Africa over concerns about variants of the coronavirus, the prime minister’s office announced Saturday.

Although flights from Argentina, Chile, and South Africa will not be suspended, all arrivals from those countries will have to submit to the quarantine or face fines.

Flights from Brazil were suspended until at least next Friday because of concern about the P1 variant of the coronavirus, which is more contagious than the original strain and can also re-infect those who have had the original virus.

READ ALSO: Young And Infected: COVIDd-19’s New Patients As India Battles Huge Surge

Justifying the decision not to ban flights from the other three countries, Paris said that those variants had not reached the levels observed in Brazil.

The new quarantine measures will be gradually introduced over the coming days until they are fully enforced by next Saturday.

The new measures will also restrict arrivals from the named countries, mainly to French and their families as well as other EU nationals and others who are French residents.

Arrivals from French Guyane and the Antilles will also be subjected to tests before and after their flights, said the statement.

France has recently tightened restrictions in its fight against the third wave of the coronavirus, imposing an overnight curfew, closing non-essential shops, and restricting travel inside the country.

AFP

COVID Death Toll Passes Three Million As India Cases Surge

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 21, 2020 Worker move a coffin with the body of a COVID-19 victim out of a refrigerated container before its cremation at the El Angel crematorium, in Lima. – The new coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 600,000 lives worldwide, an AFP tally showed July 18. (Photo by Ernesto BENAVIDES / AFP)

 

 

The global COVID-19 death toll passed three million on Saturday as the pandemic speeds up despite vaccination campaigns, leading countries like India to impose new lockdowns to fight spiralling infection numbers.

It is the latest grim milestone since the novel coronavirus first surfaced in central China in December 2019 and went on to infect more than 139 million people, leaving billions more under crippling lockdowns and ravaging the global economy.

An average of more than 12,000 deaths were recorded globally every day in the past week, shooting the overall toll past three million on Saturday, according to an AFP tally.

For comparison, three million people is more than the population of Jamaica or Armenia — and three times the death toll of the Iran-Iraq war, which raged from 1980-1988.

And the pandemic is showing no sign of slowing down: the 829,596 new infections reported worldwide on Friday is the highest number yet, according to AFP’s tally.

The daily average of 731,000 cases registered over the last week is also close to being a record.

India’s capital New Delhi went into a weekend lockdown Saturday as the world’s second-most populous nation recorded 234,000 new cases and 1,341 deaths.

– South Asian ‘wake-up call’ –
India now has three times the daily cases of the United States, the world’s worst-hit nation, and families are clamouring for drugs and hospital beds.

Some doctors say they are alarmed at how many young people are now getting seriously ill — like Raj Karan, who got sick while campaigning for elections in the northern city of Luckno.

The 38-year-old died soon after.

“I am devastated… I could only see him via a video call,” his friend Ajay Singh Yadav, told AFP.

Hopes that South Asian countries might have seen the worst of the pandemic have been dashed, with India recording over two million new cases this month alone and Bangladesh and Pakistan imposing new shutdowns.

Udaya Regmi of the International Red Cross said the “truly frightening” South Asian surge was a “wake-up call to the world”.

Richer countries that have waged mass inoculation efforts have seen their virus numbers plummet.

Britain, which has given 60 percent of the population at least one vaccination dose, now records around 30 deaths a day — down from 1,200 in late January.

Olympic fears

Thailand recorded its fourth consecutive day of more than 1,000 new cases on Saturday, its spiralling infections linked to a nightlife district of the capital Bangkok earlier this month.

Alcohol sales will be banned in Bangkok restaurants from Sunday, while entertainment venues will be shuttered nationwide for two weeks.

In Japan, rising virus cases have stoked speculation that the Olympic Games — postponed last year due to the pandemic — could be cancelled.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first meeting with US President Joe Biden, said his government was listening to experts and doing its “utmost” to prepare for the Tokyo games in July.

The virus continues to hit events around the world.

On Saturday, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II bid farewell to her husband, Prince Philip, coronavirus restrictions meant only 30 people could attend his funeral.

Family members — all masked — sat socially distanced in the church, with bottles of hand sanitiser placed among the floral tributes inside.

In Brazil, the country with the third-highest death toll in the world, night shifts have been added to several cemeteries as diggers work around the clock to bury the dead.

“We try not to get upset in our work, but it is sad, it is a lot of people,” said one gravedigger in Vila Formosa, the largest cemetery in Latin America.

More than 365,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Brazil.

Despite the high infection rates there however, the government of Brazil’s most populous state Sao Paulo announced it would allow businesses and places of worship to reopen from Sunday.

‘Cautious optimism’ in Europe

France, which banned flights from Brazil last week, on Saturday announced compulsory quarantine for anyone arriving from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and South Africa, because of concerns about their coronavirus variants.

Earlier Saturday, Spain extended the mandatory quarantine of passengers arriving from 12 countries in South America and Africa, including Brazil and South Africa.

A day after Italy announced a partial easing of coronavirus restrictions for schools and restaurants from April 26, entertainment industry workers marched in Rome Saturday calling for more state support — and a calendar for the reopening of the country’s arts venues.

In more good news for Britons after the partial reopening of society this week, Germany on Friday removed the United Kingdom from the list of risk zones for coronavirus infections, meaning that travellers will no longer need to quarantine upon arrival.

Israel announced it was scrapping the obligation to wear masks outside from Sunday.

Libya launched its vaccination drive on Saturday, prioritising the elderly and health care workers.

Paris Enters New COVID-19 Lockdown As Europe Resumes Astrazeneca Jabs

Parisians arrive to catch trains leaving from the Gare Montparnasse serving the west and southwest of France, in Paris on March 19, 2021.  Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

A third of France’s population was under a new partial lockdown Saturday to stop the spread of COVID-19, as some European countries resumed AstraZeneca vaccinations following an all-clear from EU regulators and the WHO.

The pandemic is still speeding up worldwide, with the number of new global coronavirus infections rising by 14 per cent over the last week compared to the previous week, according to AFP data.

Fighting to prevent yet another wave of the virus, several countries in Europe went back into partial lockdown on Saturday — with Poland, parts of Ukraine and some French regions all waking up too tight new restrictions.

Parisians packed trains leaving the capital and crammed into shops ahead of the new restrictions coming into force, which will apply to Paris and several other regions for a month.

The mayor of Yerres, just outside Paris, told AFP he had told businesses there to remain open, defying the “totally incomprehensible” restrictions.

“Why would we catch Covid more in a shoe store than a bookshop?” he asked.

READ ALSO: Paris Residents Flee As New COVID-19 Lockdown Looms

Bookshops are considered essential under the new measures, and later Friday the government added florists, chocolate shops and cobblers to the list.

Signs of lockdown weariness abounded in cities across the world, with protests against restrictions popping up in Vienna, Sofia and Montreal.

Some 20,000 people were expected at a demonstration in the German city of Kassel on Saturday, raising fears it would turn into a superspreader event.

Infection rates are once again rising exponentially in Germany, with the vice president of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases warning of signs of a return to “many severe cases and deaths, and hospitals that are overwhelmed”.

Belgium and Switzerland, where cases are also soaring, put off lifting restrictions on Friday too.

 AstraZeneca jabs resume

Worries that AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine may cause blood clots had seen countries pause its use recently.

But after the European Medicines Agency said it was “safe and effective”, Germany and Italy announced they were using the jab again as of Friday.

France also brought it back into use — but just hours later, the national health regulator recommended its use only for over-55s, given the reported blood clots were only seen in younger people.

World Health Organization vaccine safety experts said “available data do not suggest an overall increase in clotting conditions” among vaccinated people.

The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Indonesia are also ending their suspensions, while Ireland’s advisory committee is recommending the following suit.

Seeking to reassure their populations, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his French counterpart Jean Castex received their first AstraZeneca dose on Friday.

“I literally did not feel a thing. It was very good, very quick,” Johnson said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi also committed to getting the AstraZeneca vaccine soon.

‘We’re not scared’

 

While political leaders were enthusiastic, some members of the public remain reluctant.

“I’m a bit anxious of course, but what can you do? We have to do this,” said 42-year-old teacher Valentina at a vaccine centre at Rome’s Termini station.

In Spain, 22-year-old medical student Florentino Quinteiro said he wasn’t worried after receiving an AstraZeneca dose last month.

“The population isn’t always familiar with the situation, but we’re not scared,” he said of his colleagues.

“In pharmacology, there’s always a trade-off between benefit and risk,” he added.

Denmark, Norway and Sweden are yet to bring the jab back into use, pending further review, while Finland said Friday it would pause for at least a week “until there is more information”.

However, the use and production of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine have been ramping up, with the Philippines becoming the latest country to give it the green light Friday, and Indian drugmaker Stelis Biopharma signing on to produce 200 million doses.

Germany said it would order the Sputnik vaccine if the EU authorises its use.

‘Not stopping now’

The United States marked a major milestone in its inoculation drive on Friday, administering its 100 millionth vaccine dose to meet President Joe Biden’s goal weeks ahead of schedule.

“We did it in about 60 days,” he said. “We’re not stopping now.”

With infection rates falling, there are hopes that the world’s worst-hit country, which has seen more than 540,000 deaths, is headed for a powerful rebound.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where the former president has been living since leaving the White House, was partially closed after some staff members tested positive for Covid.

In Brazil, Rio de Janeiro’s famed beaches will be closed as the city’s mayor said the situation was “very critical,” with a 95-per cent occupancy rate in intensive care units at public hospitals.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who has railed against stay-at-home measures and face masks, criticised the measure.

“Vitamin D is a way to prevent the virus from seriously affecting you. And where do you get vitamin D? From the sun. Such hypocrisy,” said the far-right leader.

AFP