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Queen Elizabeth speaks of missing her husband’s ‘familiar laugh’ at Christmas

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Queen Elizabeth speaks of missing her husband's 'familiar laugh' at Christmas
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth records her annual Christmas broadcast in the White Drawing Room in Windsor Castle, next to a photograph of the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, in Windsor, Britain, December 23, 2021. Victoria Jones/Pool via REUTERS/

By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Queen Elizabeth spoke of the loss of her husband Prince Philip on Saturday, remembering the “mischievous twinkle” in his eyes in an unusually personal Christmas message to the nation.

The 95-year-old monarch said that while Christmas was a time of happiness for many, it could be hard for those who had lost loved ones, and this year especially she understood why, having lost Philip, 99, in April after 73 years of marriage.

“His sense of service, intellectual curiosity and capacity to squeeze fun out of any situation were all irrepressible,” she said in her traditional pre-recorded festive broadcast, paying tribute to “my beloved Philip”.

“That mischievous enquiring twinkle was as bright at the end as when I first set eyes on him,” she said.

The queen said she knew Philip would want his family to enjoy Christmas, and there would be joy for them despite the absence of his “familiar laugh”.

She delivered her address seated at a desk on which stood a photograph of herself and Philip, standing arm-in-arm and smiling at each other. The photo was taken in 2007, when the couple were marking their Diamond Wedding Anniversary.

For her broadcast, the queen wore a sapphire brooch that she wore on her honeymoon in 1947 and for the Diamond Wedding portrait. Photos of her and Philip at various stages of their lives appeared on the screen while she spoke.

Elizabeth is spending Christmas at Windsor Castle, west of London, for the second year running, a break from royal tradition caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. A palace source said this reflected a precautionary approach when the Omicron variant is spreading fast.

Close family members were due to visit her, including her eldest son Prince Charles and his wife Camilla. She was not expected to make a public appearance.

Usually, all the Windsors gather for Christmas at another one of her homes, the Sandringham estate in eastern England. Their walk to a nearby church for a Christmas service is a staple of the royal calendar.

With Britain’s daily COVID infection numbers hitting records, the queen last week cancelled a pre-Christmas lunch with her family, also as a precaution.

In her message, she also spoke of her upcoming Platinum Jubilee year, which starts in February and will mark her 70 years on the throne. She is the longest-reigning monarch in British history, having in 2015 overtaken her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

She said she hoped the jubilee would be a chance for people “to give thanks for the enormous changes of the last 70 years, social, scientific and cultural, and also to look ahead with confidence”.

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More work to resume in Shanghai’s zero-COVID areas from June

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© Reuters. Women carry boxes of food on a street during lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China, May 18, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) -The COVID-19-hit financial hub of Shanghai will start to allow more businesses in zero-COVID areas to resume normal operations from the beginning of June, a deputy mayor said on Thursday as the city looks forward to the end of lockdown.

Shanghai, fighting China’s biggest ever coronavirus outbreak, has been steadily allowing more businesses to reopen and letting larger numbers of residents leave their homes for the first time in nearly seven weeks.

The city was “striving to achieve a full resumption of work and production as soon as possible”, deputy mayor Zhang Wei told a media briefing.

“The rhythm of work resumption” would be based on the epidemic prevention situation, he said, adding that for the rest of May, many workers would remain in “closed loops”, which often involves staff living at their work places.

Shanghai’s stable energy, water and information infrastructure throughout the outbreak “guarantees that the city’s pulse has the strength to beat after the slowdown, and also supports the continuous recovery of the city’s economy”, he said.

After nearly two months of disruptions, cargo deliveries were gradually returning to normal, Zhang said, with daily container throughput at Shanghai’s ports now at about 90% of levels a year ago.

Pudong Airport cargo throughput had reached 70% of last year’s levels, while freight vehicles entering and leaving the city was back to two thirds.

Yu Fulin, an official with Shanghai’s transportation commission, told the briefing the city would start to restore main cross-district public transport on May 22. The priority would be reopening routes connecting the city’s airports, railway stations and hospitals, he said.

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U.S. Senate confirms Biden nominee to be Ukraine ambassador

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Bridget Brink, nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testifies at her Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate unanimously approved veteran diplomat Bridget Brink on Wednesday to be ambassador to Ukraine, filling a critical post that has been vacant for three years as Washington works to increase support for the government in Kyiv.

Brink was approved by unanimous voice vote.

Both President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats and Republicans had urged Brink’s quick confirmation. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Brink unanimously earlier on Wednesday, after holding her confirmation hearing just two weeks after Biden announced the nomination on April 25.

The quick action underscored the desire from both parties to send an ambassador to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as he faces Russia’s invasion. Brink’s Senate confirmation came on the same day that the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv reopened after a three-month closure due to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.

The Senate also is expected later this week to approve nearly $40 billion in military and humanitarian support for Kyiv, funding that has already passed the House of Representatives.

A Michigan native who speaks Russian, Brink is currently U.S. ambassador to Slovakia. A diplomat for 25 years, she has worked in Uzbekistan and Georgia as well as in several senior positions across the State Department and White House National Security Council.

Brink was also confirmed by unanimous voice vote in 2019, when former Republican President Donald Trump nominated her for the position in Bratislava.

There has not been a U.S. ambassador in Kyiv since May 2019, when Trump abruptly recalled then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Yovanovitch later testified as Trump faced impeachment on charges of withholding military aid to put pressure on Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, then seen as Trump’s most likely opponent in the 2020 election.

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N.Korea boosts production of drugs, medical supplies to battle COVID

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© Reuters. Members of the North Korean army supply medicines to residents at a pharmacy, amid growing fears over the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo on May 18, 2022. Kyodo/via REUTERS

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By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korea is ramping up production of drugs and medical supplies including sterilisers and thermometers as it battles an unprecedented coronavirus outbreak, state media KCNA said on Thursday.

The isolated country, which has imposed a nationwide lockdown, is also increasing production of traditional Korean medicines used to reduce fever and pain, KCNA said, calling them “effective in prevention and cure of the malicious disease.”

A sweeping COVID wave, which North Korea first confirmed last week, has fanned concerns over a lack of medical resources and vaccines, with the U.N. human rights agency warning of “devastating” consequences for its 25 million people.

At least 262,270 more people reported fever symptoms, and one additional person died as of Wednesday evening, KCNA said, citing data from the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters. It did not specify how many people had tested positive for the virus.

North Korea has so far reported 1,978,230 people with fever symptoms and 63 deaths, and imposed strict anti-virus measures.

Factories are churning out more injections, medicines, thermometers and other medical supplies in the capital Pyongyang and nearby regions “in a lightning way,” while more isolation wards were installed and disinfection work intensified around the country, KCNA said.

“Thousands of tons of salt were urgently transported to Pyongyang City to produce antiseptic solution,” KCNA said.

The reports came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un criticised ineffective distribution of drugs and slammed officials for their “immature” responses to the epidemic.

Without a national vaccination campaign and COVID treatment, state media have encouraged patients to use painkillers and antibiotics as well as unverified home remedies, such as gargling salt water, or drinking lonicera japonica tea or willow leaf tea.

South Korea and the United States have respectively offered to help North Korea fight the outbreak, including sending aid, but have not received a response, Seoul’s deputy national security advisor said on Wednesday.

However, three aircraft from North Korea’s Air Koryo arrived in China and returned to Pyongyang on Monday carrying medical supplies, a diplomatic source said on condition of anonymity.

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