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WHO’s Tedros warns against over-reaction to Omicron

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WHO's Tedros warns against over-reaction to Omicron
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a ceremony to launch a multiyear partnership with Qatar on making FIFA Football World Cup 2022 and mega sporting events healthy and safe at the WHO headquarters, in Geneva, Swi

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) voiced concern on Tuesday that some countries were introducing blanket measures against the Omicron coronavirus variant that may not be necessary and penalised African nations unfairly.

“I well understand the concern of all countries to protect their citizens against a variant that we don’t yet fully understand,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“But I am equally concerned that several Member States are introducing blunt, blanket measures that are not evidence-based or effective on their own, and which will only worsen inequities.”

First reported in southern Africa a week ago, the variant has brought global alarm, led to travel bans, and highlighted the disparity between massive vaccination pushes in rich nations and sparse inoculation in the developing world.

In remarks to a closed-door meeting posted on its website, the WHO’s Ethiopian head urged the 194 member states to stick to “rational, proportional” measures.

There were still more questions than answers, Tedros said, about Omicron’s severity and the effectiveness of vaccines.

No Omicron-linked deaths have yet been reported though the WHO has said it poses a high risk of infection surges.

“Once again, I thank Botswana and South Africa for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant so rapidly,” added Tedros. “It is deeply concerning to me that those countries are now being penalized by others for doing the right thing.”

‘KNEE-JERK REACTION’

Mid-way through a three-day WHO meeting of health ministers, Namibia’s delegation on Tuesday expressed disappointment towards those states imposing travel bans on southern Africa.

“This travel ban is a knee-jerk reaction grounded in politics, not in science or guidance from the WHO Constitution,” it said. “We therefore ask why is it that other states that (detected) the variant in persons who have no travel history to southern Africa are exempted from this travel ban?”

Tanzania called for an immediate lifting of the travel curbs, which are hurting tourism in the region, while Canada voiced gratitude for regional transparency.

“Transparent international collaboration, as demonstrated by the leadership of South Africa and the South African scientists who swiftly and openly shared information on this new variant, is what is needed now more than ever,” said Leslie Norton, Canada’s U.N. ambassador in Geneva.

“Through your actions you bought the world time.”

 

 

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Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Coronavirus

NHL postpones 14 games, will not resume before Tuesday

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NHL postpones 14 games, will not resume before Tuesday
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Jan 26, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; A view of a puck and the NHL logo and the face-off circle before the game between the Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) – The National Hockey League (NHL) pushed back its return from the holiday break by another day after postponing Monday’s 14-game schedule to allow the league and teams time to complete COVID-19 tests and assess their ability to compete.

With the latest postponements taking the total to 64 games, the NHL said in a statement on Friday that it plans to resume the regular season on Tuesday.

“In order to allow the league an adequate opportunity to analyze league-wide testing results and assess clubs’ readiness to play, the target date for resumption of game play will be pushed back an additional day,” the league said.

“Teams will return to practice on Dec. 26 and it is expected that the league will provide an update on its return to play plans by the end of day on Sunday.”

The league was originally set to shut down from Friday to Sunday for Christmas but the NHL and its players’ union agreed this week to bring the shutdown forward to Wednesday-Saturday as coronavirus cases surge.

NHL players will not compete in the men’s ice hockey tournament at next year’s Beijing Winter Games due to COVID-19 concerns. The league said it would use the Olympic window to reschedule postponed games.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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Coronavirus

Two more members of K-pop group BTS test positive for COVID-19

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Two more members of K-pop group BTS test positive for COVID-19
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin and J-Hope of BTS arrive at the 2021 American Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 21, 2021. REUTERS/Aude Guerrucci

By Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – Two more members of the K-pop group BTS on Saturday tested positive for COVID-19 following their return to South Korea from the band’s first pandemic-era concerts in the United States, their management company Big Hit Music said.

Rapper RM, 27, and vocalist Jin, 29, were diagnosed with COVID-19 a day after Suga, a songwriter and rapper for the seven-member group, tested positive.

All three had completed second doses of a coronavirus vaccine in August, the company said.

Since their 2013 debut, BTS have spearheaded a global K-Pop craze with catchy, upbeat music and dances, as well as lyrics and social campaigns aimed at empowering young people.

The concerts in the United States were BTS’ first in the country since 2019, when they toured across Asia, Europe and North America.

RM, whose real name is Kim Nam-joon, and Jin, whose real name is Kim Seok-jin, initially tested negative on returning to South Korea earlier this month.

RM, who tested positive as he prepared to leave mandatory quarantine, is showing no symptoms, Big Hit Music said.

Jin tested negative a second time as he left quarantine, but was later diagnosed after experiencing symptoms, which the company said were mild.

Neither Jin or RM had any contact with other group members after their return to South Korea, the company said.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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Bethlehem celebrates muted Christmas with few pilgrims to bring cheer

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Bethlehem celebrates muted Christmas with few pilgrims to bring cheer
© Reuters. Worshipers attend Christmas morning mass at Saint Catherine’s Church, in the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, December 25, 2021. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

2/5

By Stephen Farrell

BETHLEHEM (Reuters) – The bells of Bethlehem rang out under grey skies on Christmas morning across streets whose closed pastel or green shutters were like an Advent calendar that nobody had turned up to open.

Shopkeepers and hotel owners in the Palestinian city reported far lower business than the years before coronavirus closures halted the arrival of wealthy foreign tourists, devastating the economy of the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

In Manger Square, hundreds of Christians – mostly those who live, work or study in Israel and the occupied West Bank – gathered near the tree and crib to sing carols and bring some cheer to the scene outside the Church of the Nativity.

But Joseph Giacaman, whose family has sold souvenirs around the square for a century, said business was around 2% of pre-pandemic years. “We were closed until three weeks ago. I have sold maybe two or three olive wood cribs. In normal years, we’d sell three or four each day throughout the year,” he said.

The back streets were virtually empty.

Star Street had been renovated in recent years in the aim of drawing crowds, but here as elsewhere the Omicron variant dashed those hopes in November when Israel began closing its borders.

‘OPEN HEARTS TO HOPE’

Earlier in December, Bethlehem mayor Anton Salman had sought to bolster morale by walking along the cobbled street at night, shaking hands of those selling mulled wine and olive wood carvings. But the market’s opening could not continue its momentum with no foreign coach parties to sell to.

Across town, Bethlehem’s grandest hotel, the Jacir Palace, lay closed and padlocked.

And in the nearby Nativity Hotel, receptionist Victor Zeidan said he was doing a 12-hour shift at lower pay to get a rare day’s work checking in Palestinian Christian and Filipino care workers who briefly boosted occupancy.

“I haven’t even celebrated this year, I didn’t get much work before so now I am taking the chance,” he said.

Jerise Qumsieh, of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, told Reuters that this year was better than last because there were at least some domestic visitors compared with the tighter restrictions of 2020, but that foreign tourism was “zero”.

Nevertheless, in the early hours of Saturday the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, urged a reduced midnight mass congregation to search for hope.

“In this time of health emergency and prolonged political emergency, many different voices are heard in families: some undermine confidence, take away hope, extinguish love; others, however, are more encouraging,” he said.

“We need to seek and find the voice that leads us to Jesus and to salvation, that opens hearts to hope.”

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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