FILE PHOTO: A medical staff member administers a PCR test to a nursing home worker during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Durango, Spain, January 14, 2021. REUTERS/Vincent West
January 21, 2021
MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa will resign next week to campaign in regional elections in Catalonia, an official from his party said on Thursday, while national authorities reported a record 44,357 new daily coronavirus cases.
“By Thursday of next week at 12 midnight, he will have given up his portfolio,” Miquel Iceta, the secretary of the Catalan Socialist Party, said in a news conference.
Illa, who has overseen Spain’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, had said he would step down when campaigning got underway for the election, which is set to take place on Feb. 14.
Spain has been routinely reporting record daily coronavirus infections since the end of December, but a top health official said the recent surge appeared to be stabilising.
“The increases we are seeing are getting smaller every day, which implies that we have reached an inflection point,” Fernando Simon, the country’s health emergency chief, said in a separate news conference to present the data.
Despite that optimism, the nationwide incidence of the virus as measured over the past 14 days climbed to a new high of 796 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday from 736 cases the previous day.
Simon warned that pressure on hospitals would likely continue into at least the next week.
The latest figures brought the cumulative total of coronavirus cases in Spain to 2,456,675, while the death toll increased by 404 to 55,041.
(Reporting by Nathan Allen and Joan Faus, Editing by Andrei Khalip and Paul Simao)
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Muslim Americans across the U.S. are celebrating President Biden’s day-1 reversal of former President Trump’s travel ban that targeted several Muslim-majority countries.
The big picture: The repeal of what many critics called the “Muslim ban” renews hope for thousands of families separated by Trump’s order.
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In the San Francisco Bay Area, Mina Mahdavi, a Campbell-based cybersecurity engineer, has renewed hopes that her mother, who lives in Iran, could spend time with her grandson, who was born months after Trump signed the ban, ABC7 reports.
In New York, Nashwan Mozeb, a bodega worker from Queens, hopes to see his wife, who is in war-torn Yemen. He’s been trying to bring her to the U.S. since 2016, according to The City.
“Every day I pray to God to get together because it’s too hard,” Mozeb told The City, saying he hopes his wife’s visa application will be approved quickly.
In Chicago, Jihad Al-Nabi, a Syrian refugee who works as a pastry chef, is hopeful he will be able to reunite with his family, he told ABC7 Chicago.
In Los Angeles, Mania Darbani called her mother, who is in Iran, on the night of Biden’s inauguration as they remembered his promise to repeal the ban, Reuters writes.
But, but, but: The coronavirus pandemic may prevent some families from gathering as travel and visa restrictions are in place.
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The world’s largest frozen yoghurt franchise is looking to open in Mackay, and now is your chance to be in on the delicious venture.
Tutti Frutti is searching for a franchisee to open a store in Mackay with the backing of the brand’s marketing team.
“This unique opportunity is located in sunny Mackay, where the climate is warm and the locals love delicious cold treats to cool down,” the listing says.
“This is a perfect simple business model for a franchisee keen to own a rewarding business in Mackay.”
The franchise is on offer for $200,000, and the chain’s established business model operates with low overheads such as staffing levels.
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“Tutti Frutti operates their stores easily and efficiently – no experience is required,” the listing says.
“The business operates with a few staff which reduces wages and has an extremely high margin on yoghurt sales with low to no wastage – a perfect start for someone who is keen to take on a rewarding business and be part of the day-to-day running.
“With an easy to operate business model, you’ll be able to keep a great work-life balance.
“Bring your strong work ethic, hands-on attitude, positive outlook and smile to work, and you’re good to go.”
Tutti Frutti has more than 700 stores worldwide and its range offers more than 80 flavours which is continuously added to as more are created.
The business was established in Los Angeles and the chain first opened in Australia in 2011, and has six stores across Victoria and Queensland.
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“Determined to adapt to local conditions and, therefore, maximise the brand potential in Australia and New Zealand, we have spent countless hours and worked with numerous consultants in areas covering store operations, design and marketing, financial modelling, franchising and property sourcing,” the listing says.
“Tutti Frutti did not happen by chance, it is a brand built on strong fundamentals that we believe are key drivers to the success of the business.”
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Exactly one year after it thrust the word “lockdown” into the global conversation, Wuhan passes the anniversary on Saturday with a mix of pride at recovering from the coronavirus and caution over a possible relapse.
A year ago Saturday, Wuhan shocked the world by ordering 11 million anxious citizens be confined at home, beginning a traumatic 76-day lockdown that underscored the growing threat of a then-mysterious pathogen emanating from the city.
One by one, adjacent metropolises in hard-hit Hubei province quickly followed suit, as did cities and entire countries worldwide as Covid-19 went global.
Anxiety lurks below the surface as localised clusters multiply across China, reviving memories of Wuhan’s ordeal AFP / Hector RETAMAL
But while the world’s pandemic struggles continue, Wuhan today is nothing like that locked-down ghost town of a year ago, with traffic humming, sidewalks bustling, and citizens packing public transport and parks.
Yet anxiety lurks below the surface as localised clusters multiply across China, reviving memories of the city’s ordeal.
They remain vivid for Huang Genben, 76, who spent 67 days in hospital fighting Covid-19 last year, spitting up blood and expecting to die.
While the world’s pandemic struggles continue, Wuhan today is nothing like that locked-down ghost town of a year ago AFP / Hector RETAMAL
“When I closed my eyes at night I didn’t know if I would open them again,” Huang told AFP.
Like many Chinese, he expresses pride at the “great efforts” made by the Beijing government and citizens to contain the pandemic, exemplified by hard-hit Wuhan.
The virus has killed at least two million people globally and continues to spread, but in China less than 5,000 deaths have been reported by authorities, the vast majority coming in Wuhan at the pandemic’s outset.
The government has pushed an official propaganda narrative — starring Wuhan — focusing on a “heroic” Chinese response and recovery AFP / Hector RETAMAL
And the city’s relaxed scenes — elderly dancers spinning in parks and crowded bars selling “Wuhan Stay Strong” craft beer — contrast with the rolling lockdowns, surging death rates and overwhelmed hospitals overseas.
There are no known lockdown commemorations planned Saturday by Beijing, which remains tight-lipped on the pandemic’s early days AFP / Hector RETAMAL
“We can tell from the results that the policy of the government was correct, the cooperation of (Wuhan) citizens was correct. I feel pain seeing the epidemic all over the world,” Huang said.
The government has pushed an official propaganda narrative — starring Wuhan — focusing on a “heroic” Chinese response and recovery.
But there are no known lockdown commemorations planned Saturday by Beijing, which remains tight-lipped on the pandemic’s early days amid accusations it covered it up or mishandled the outbreak, allowing it to spread.
The virus is generally believed to have spread outward from a Wuhan wet market where exotic animals were sold as food.
But China has otherwise released little information on its origins, fuelling calls in the west for more transparency.
The lockdown anniversary comes with World Health Organization experts just days from completing a two-week quarantine in Wuhan before launching a planned investigation into the coronavirus’s origins.
The WHO said Friday it was too early to draw any conclusions as to whether the pandemic started in China.
“All hypotheses are on the table,” said WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan.
While other nations, notably the United States, have dithered on their coronavirus response, Wuhan shut down completely, plunging its economy into recession.
State media reports — and activity on the streets — attest to an impressive recovery, but some say it remains incomplete and many residents voice wariness of a viral resurgence.
Xu Jiajun, a 58-year-old street vendor of local foods, drinks, and other items, said times remain tough.
“The situation is not good. I don’t have a stable income like I did before. Things have changed,” he said.
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Carnival Cruise Line and its sister line Costa Cruises both announced Friday that they would cancel more cruises into spring.
Carnival Cruise Line said in a statement shared by spokesperson Vance Gulliksen that all U.S. departures through April 30 have been canceled.
“Unfortunately, we have determined it’s going to take a while longer, and the situation in Europe will also impact Mardi Gras’ departure to the U.S., and Carnival Legend’s itineraries in Europe,” Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, said in the statement.
Carnival is also canceling Australian sailings through May 19 and European itineraries for Carnival Legend that had been scheduled to start in May and continue through Oct. 31. The cruise line has also delayed the start date for sailings on its new ship, Mardi Gras. Its maiden voyage is now scheduled for May 29.
Costa Cruises said in a statement that following a careful evaluation of Italian government measures that they have decided to continue its operational pause, which started with the cancellation of holiday sailings, until March 13.
“The company believes that the current set of restrictive measures does not allow its guests to enjoy an adequate on-shore experience and the ability to fully explore the itinerary’s destinations,” Costa said, noting it supports the “collective effort” Italy is making to face the pandemic.
All sailings scheduled on Costa Deliziosa, Costa Firenze and Costa Luminosa between Feb. 1 and March 12 are canceled.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. announced Tuesday that it would cancel sailings on all three of its cruise lines until May.
“The suspension now includes all voyages on Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises embarking through April 30, 2021,” Norwegian said in a news release. “The Company will continue to work in tandem with global government and public health authorities and its Healthy Sail Panel expert advisors to take all necessary measures to protect its guests, crew and the communities visited.”
Norwegian continues to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention toward a return to cruising.
And it’s not the only cruise company to have canceled cruises into spring.
Royal Caribbean Group cancels cruises
Royal Caribbean Group announced earlier in January that it would cancel more cruises on its cruise lines into the spring, including on subsidiary Azamara, which was sold to a private equity firm, the company announced Tuesday.
The company, which is also parent to flagship Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea Cruises, said the cancellations were necessary as Royal Caribbean Group continues to focus on a safe return to cruising.
“As we work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and government authorities around the world toward this shared goal, we are extending the suspension of certain sailings for our cruise lines,” Royal Caribbean said in an announcement posted to its website.
The schedule changes for each Royal Caribbean Group cruise line are as follows:
Royal Caribbean International
All sailings canceled through April 30, including Spectrum of the Seas from Feb. 16-28
Carnival Cruise Line isn’t the only Carnival Corp. Line to have canceled more cruises.
Princess Cruises has announced it will cancel all cruises from U.S. ports through May 14 — more than a year after the industry came to a standstill in the middle of March last year.
Princess itself was impacted by the pandemic early on: two of its ships, the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess, were among the first vessels to quarantine passengers because of coronavirus infections.
The further suspension also applies to European cruises scheduled prior to May 15, Negin Kamali, spokesperson for Princess Cruises, told USA TODAY.
Holland America Line has also canceled all of its departures through April 30 as it prepares to meet the CDC’s guidelines, according to a statement provided by Roger Frizzell, Carnival Corp. spokesperson.
“The line also will cancel all Alaska cruises through mid-May, Alaska departures on three ships through early June, any Land+Sea Journeys connected with canceled Alaska sailings, Mediterranean cruises through early June and Zaandam’s Canada/New England itineraries through August,” Holland America said in the statement.
Another Carnival Corp. subsidiary, P&O Cruises Australia, also announced Wednesday cancellations of its New Zealand cruises into April.
“P&O Cruises Australia is extending its rolling pause in operations in New Zealand to departures on and before 25 April, 2021, as the cruise line and the wider industry continue to work with government and public health authorities on the appropriate time to restart sailing,” the company said in a statement provided by spokesperson Lindy Lamme.
The cruise line plans to return to New Zealand in July 2022 for a 150-day season in the area.
“We know that much better days lie ahead and we remain positive about the resumption of cruising. While we’ve paused operations, P&O Cruises together with the wider industry has been using the time wisely to plan for cruising’s return,” Sture Myrmell, president of the cruise line, said in the statement.
Carnival Corp.’s German line, AIDA Cruises, also canceled more sailings, extending their pause in operations through the end of February after Germany extended its lockdown through the end of January, the cruise line said in a release provided by Lamme.
AIDA hopes to resume cruising in multiple locations after February concludes with several voyage departure dates set for March 6.
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Britons hoping to escape to Spain could have their holiday plans cancelled following reports the Spanish prime minister said the country would not welcome international tourists until the “end of summer”.
Speaking at a meeting of the World Tourism Organisation, Pedro Sanchez reportedly said he did not expect holidaymakers to visit Spain until nearly all of the population has been vaccinated.
He said the country would “progressively” prepare to welcome international tourists once 70% of Spain’s population had been vaccinated, which he expected to be by the end of this summer, local media sites including Euro Weekly News have reported.
It will be a blow for the tourism sector, which closed its worst year since the 1970s in 2020 with revenues falling by more than 75%.
Spain reported its highest daily number of coronavirus infections yet on Thursday, recording 44,357 cases.
A further 404 deaths were also reported, taking the country’s total to 55,041 deaths and 2.5 million cases.
Spain is not the only popular holiday destination closing its doors to British tourists, as Portugal has said it will be suspending all flights to and from Britain from Saturday onwards.
Only repatriation flights will be allowed between the two countries, Prime Minister Antonio Costa told a news conference.
Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News ministers were keeping the idea “under review” and “can’t rule anything out for now” – although they believed the current restrictions were “sufficient”.
Asked whether people should be booking foreign holidays for this summer, Home Secretary Priti Patel refused to give an answer and said it was “far too early” to speculate on restrictions.
But some Britons have already begun booking their breaks, with holiday firms saying they had seen a spike in bookings from older people planning trips following the vaccine roll-out.
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The UK’s largest tour operator TUI said half of bookings made so far have been made by over-50s.
A study by travel company Club Med showed it was the fifth most popular destination, behind the Maldives, Mexico, Thailand and Turkey.
Earlier, European Union leaders held an online summit to discuss potential coronavirus measures, including further border restrictions.
While a number of EU leaders said they would not rule out border closures, Spain and Greece backed an idea for a common approach to “vaccine passports”.
The system would allow people to travel if they had received the vaccine, although EU diplomats said the measure was premature as it is not yet clear if vaccinated people could still pass on the virus to others.
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FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Business Secretary Alok Sharma arrives at number 10 Downing in London, Britain, December 14, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo
January 21, 2021
LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry spoke to Britain’s head of the United Nations COP26 climate conference on Thursday, agreeing that the two countries would work together to raise global efforts ahead of the meeting in November.
Kerry and Alok Sharma, Britain’s former business minister, agreed that there was no time to waste and noted that the two countries were once again tightly aligned on the issue.
“The pair agreed that their respective officials should work together closely,” a British statement said. “They looked forward to speaking regularly in the run up to G7 and COP26, and to meeting in person at the soonest possibility.”
(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
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The race to lead Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) came down to a conservative, a modernizer and a continuity candidate.
What happened: The party of Angela Merkel opted for continuity on Sunday, picking North Rhine-Westphalia Governor Armin Laschet, a centrist Merkel ally. With Merkel set to step down later this year after 16 years in power, Laschet is now the frontrunner to lead the German center-right into September’s elections.
Like Merkel, Laschet is seen as a champion of German industry who backs close economic ties with China and Russia, but “the tide is turning” on those issues, says Sudha David-Wilp of the German Marshall Fund.
Laschet has come under scrutiny for his positions on allowing Huawei into Germany’s 5G networks and maintaining good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We have to look at what he said in the past as a reflection of his role as the governor of a state with lots of business interests with China and Russia, but now he’s in a new role,” she says.
“He’ll still have to support German business, but voters in Germany are starting to see Russia and China in a new light.”
The state of play: The CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, will pick a joint chancellor candidate this spring.
As CDU leader Laschet would be the traditional pick, but there could still be a twist if he’s seen as “a drag on the party” in upcoming regional elections, David-Wilp says.
“The CDU is very pragmatic and shrewd and they’re going to go with a winner.”
Laschet would bring a stylistic change from Merkel, David-Wilp says, in that he’s a “real retail politician” unlike the reserved Merkel.
What to watch: David-Wilp says Germans aren’t fully prepared for the “political earthquake” coming later this year.
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The 13-year-old was serving a 10-year sentence handed down by an Islamic court for comments about God.
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