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China to slap visa restrictions on Americans over Hong Kong

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visa restrictions on Americans
Riot police stand guard as demonstrators take part a singing song protest at Mong Kok, in Hong Kong. (photo by Reuters)

China says it will slap visa restrictions on Americans with bad records in Hong Kong-related issues, criticizing Washington for attempts to throw a wrench in a national security law planned to be introduced in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

“China has decided to impose visa restrictions against American individuals who have behaved egregiously on matters concerning Hong Kong,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said during a press briefing on Monday.

The move comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that it was restricting US visas for a number of unspecified Chinese officials for allegedly infringing on the autonomy of Hong Kong.

The spokesman did not specify which US individuals have been targeted.

“The US is attempting to obstruct China’s legislation for safeguarding national security in the HK SAR (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) by imposing the so-called sanctions, but it will never succeed,” he told reporters.

“In response … China has decided to impose visa restrictions on US individuals with egregious conduct on HK related issues,” Lijian said.

The announcement comes as China’s parliament — the National People’s Congress Standing Committee — is looking into the national security bill drafted with the aim of countering sedition, secession and subversion in Hong Kong against the mainland.

China to slap visa restrictions on Americans

Reports say the bill has overwhelming support among the Chinese legislators.

Several protests have been held in Hong Kong over the past week against the draft law. Washington has openly voiced support for the anti-Beijing demonstrations, angering China.

Last week, the US Senate approved a bill that would impose mandatory sanctions on people or companies that, Washington claims, back efforts to restrict Hong Kong’s autonomy.

It includes secondary sanctions on banks that do business with anyone backing any crackdown on the territory’s autonomy.

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Violent clashes erupt in Belgrade as thousands protest against new COVID-19 lockdown

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Violent clashes erupt in Belgrade
Demonstrators are seen amid tear gas during a protest at the Serbian parliament building against a lockdown planned for the capital this weekend to halt the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Belgrade, Serbia July 8, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

Violent clashes have erupted between protesters and police forces in Belgrade as thousands protest against new COVID-19 restrictions in defiance of warnings.

Serbian police fired tear gas at protesters after being pelted with flares and stones on Wednesday as thousands protested in front of the Belgrade parliament despite warnings such gatherings could spread coronavirus infections.

The evening before, violence erupted when a crowd stormed parliament in protest at plans to re-impose a lockdown following a new spike in COVID-19 cases. Forty-three police officers and 17 protesters were injured and there were 23 arrests.

Hours before Wednesday’s protest, President Aleksandar Vucic called on people to stop attending anti-government rallies to avoid a further spread of the coronavirus, warning there were no beds left in hospitals.

Violent clashes erupt in Belgrade

“There are no free beds in our hospitals. We will open new hospitals,” he said in an address to the nation. He accused far-right groups and unspecified regional “intelligence officials” of orchestrating riots to “undermine Serbia’s position”.

Most of the protesters on Wednesday evening wore face masks, blew whistles and shouted “Vucic leave!” as they faced off with riot police guarding the parliament complex. Some threw stones and flares at police who responded with volleys of tear gas.

Protesters also skirmished with police in the northern city of Novi Sad.

Although he had on Tuesday said a new lockdown would be imposed in Belgrade this weekend, Vucic said on Wednesday he had ultimately advised the government and health authorities not to introduce it. The government will announce a new set of restrictive measures on Thursday, he said.

Serbia, a country of 7 million, has reported 17,076 COVID-19 cases and 341 deaths. Health authorities say hospitals are running at full capacity and staff are exhausted. The number of new infections rose to 357 on Wednesday from 299 on Tuesday.

Critics say the government’s decisions to allow soccer matches, religious festivities, parties and private gatherings to resume, and parliamentary elections to go ahead on June 21, are to blame for the new surge in infections.

The government blames a lack of sanitary discipline among the public, especially in nightclubs.

Violent clashes erupt in Belgrade

(Source: Reuters)

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Pandemic may push 50 million Africans into extreme poverty: AfDB

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50 million Africans
A resident of Plot 323 in Wilgespruit, Johannesburg, pauses on May 8, 2020 in front of a wooden shack during a ministerial visit aimed to ensure that the vulnerable residents of the informal settlement are soon properly accommodated in temporary residential units. (Photo by AFP)

Nearly 50 million Africans could be driven into extreme poverty in the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, the African Development Bank (AfDB) said Tuesday.

Roughly a third of the continent — 425 million people — was already expected to live below the international poverty line of $1.90 per day in 2020, the AfDB said in its African Economic Outlook, forecasting that the situation would further deteriorate.

After Oceania, Africa is the least affected continent in the pandemic, recording nearly 500,000 infections and almost 11,700 deaths, according to an AFP tally on Tuesday.

But the health crisis and ensuing lockdowns have destroyed jobs, crippled incomes and devastated economies continent-wide.

“Between 28.2 and 49.2 million more Africans could be pushed into extreme poverty” this year and next, the AfDB report said, with the first figure the baseline prediction and the latter the worst-case scenario.

The Abidjan-based institution, one of the world’s five largest multilateral development lenders, expects Africa to suffer a major recession, with GDP forecast to contract between 1.7 percent and 3.4 percent this year.

That would be 5.6 to 7.3 percentage points lower than pre-pandemic forecasts.

Late last month, the International Monetary Fund forecasted that sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP would shrink by 3.2 percent, and that incomes would drop to levels last seen in 2010.

The AfDB said that between 24.6 and 30 million jobs would be lost this year due to the virus crisis.

Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, would see the greatest rise in poverty, it said.

Between 8.5 and 11.5 million of its 200 million population were forecast to fall into extreme poverty this year, as a drop in oil prices compounds the economic impact of the pandemic.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, where 72 percent of the 90 million inhabitants already live below the poverty line, would see between 2.7 and 3.4 million more extreme poor.

50 million Africans

(Source: AFP)

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Top Israel health official resigns, blasts regime’s performance vs. virus

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Israel health official resigns
Picture taken on May 09, 2020 shows an Israeli protester, wearing a protective mask that bears the slogan "crime minister," during a demonstration in Tel Aviv amid the new coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by AFP)

A senior Israeli health official has resigned, blasting the regime in Tel Aviv for its lax performance in the face of the new coronavirus outbreak and for turning a deaf ear to her relevant pieces of advice.

“For a few weeks now, our compass for dealing with the pandemic has become disoriented,” Siegal Sadetzki, the health ministry’s director of public health services, wrote in a Facebook post while announcing her decision to resign.

“Despite repeated warnings in different forums, we are watching with frustration as our window of opportunity [to contain the virus] is running out,” added the epidemiologist.

Top Israel health official resigns

“I’ve reached the conclusion that, in a new context where my professional opinion is not being accepted, it is no longer in my capacity to help prevent the pandemic’s spread,” she wrote.

As of Tuesday morning, Israel had recorded more than 31,000 coronavirus’ cases, including 338 deaths. In recent weeks, the occupying entity has regularly registered between 500 to 1,000 new cases each day.

Israel began loosening anti-virus restrictions after introducing precautions in March and April. The re-opening spree has involved event venues, clubs, bars, gyms, and public pools.

Sadetzki said the regime had negated the effects of the lockdown by “the swift and broad opening of the economy.”

Also in April, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the Shin Bet internal spy service to halt its use of phone-surveillance technology in the battle against the virus.

The regime’s ultraorthodox health minister Yaakov Litzman resigned the same month amid mounting criticism over his lack of seriousness in fighting the virus.

Litzman had been found appearing ill-prepared at news conferences and reportedly resisting proposals to tighten some lockdown measures. An ally of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with no formal medical training, Litzman tendered his resignation after himself was diagnosed with the virus.

Top Israel health official resigns

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