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B’desh to introduce e-passports this week

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Dhaka: Bangladesh is set to begin the distribution of e-passports on Wednesday, it was reported.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to launch the e-passport distribution at an event scheduled to be held at the capital’s Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, bdnews24 quoted Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan as saying on Sunday.

The President and Prime Minister will receive THE e-passports first, he said, adding that anyone can apply for it.

The delivery of e-passports will start in regional offices by the end of 2020. The services will expand in phases, the Minister said, adding that machine-readable passports will remain valid as well.

The Department of Immigration and Passports will issue 48-page and 64-page e-passports with the validity of five years and 10 years, respectively.

The decision on introducing digital passport comes less than a decade after Bangladesh switched from manual to the machine-readable passport.

The government took the initiative to introduce e-passports in the wake of more than one passport being illegally issued against one person in the absence of database of fingerprints of citizens.

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Iranian vice president tests positive for coronavirus

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Tehran, Feb 28 Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar has tested positive for the coronavirus, an official said on Thursday.

Ebtekar’s adviser Fariba Ibtihaj said the vice president tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Iran’s official IRNA news agency  reported.

“Everyone in the vice president’s team was also tested and the results will be available on Saturday,” she said.

Ebtekar is not the first high-ranking Iranian official to contract the virus.

Ebtekar, joins the deputy health minister, the head of the national security commission and a reformist MP who have been infected with the virus, reports Efe news.

She tested positive on Thursday after showing symptoms the previous day during a cabinet meeting, according to state TV.

The politician is one of the most recognizable in the Islamic Republic and previously held the position of environment minister.

Iran has reported 26 deaths from the deadly disease and 245 cases total with a dramatic surge of 106 new infections registered on Thursday, the Health Ministry said.

Tehran authorities have decided to close down schools and universities in the country to curb the spread of the disease.

Friday prayers in the capital have also been cancelled.

Amid the spread of the virus, neighbouring countries have closed their land borders with Iran and most airlines have suspended their flights or imposed restrictions on air travel to the country.

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COVID-19 cases in South Korea reach 2,022, 13 deaths

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Seoul, Feb 28 The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea increased to 2,022 on Friday, with a total of 13 fatalities as the nation aggressively counters the fast-spreading virus with massive testing, particularly for 210,000 followers of a religious sect at the centre of the epidemic.

The 256 new cases brought the nation’s total infections to 2,022, the Yonhap News Agency quoted the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) as saying.

Only two days ago, the number of infections exceeded 1,000.

More than half of newly confirmed cases were linked to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southeastern city of Daegu, 300 km southeast of Seoul.

Of the 256 new cases, 182 are in Daegu, and 49 are in the neighbouring North Gyeongsang Province.

Since raising the virus alert level to “red”, the highest level, on Sunday, health authorities have focused on halting the spread of the virus in Daegu, the epicentre of the virus outbreak in South Korea, and North Gyeongsang.

Experts said the number of confirmed cases is expected to jump in the coming days as health authorities have begun testing more than 210,000 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

The government also ordered another 1,638 Shincheonji followers to self-isolate as they have shown symptoms, Yonhap News Agency said in its report.

Since the first coronavirus case — a Chinese woman from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak — on January 20, the pace of infections had not been alarming until February 18, when a 61-year-old woman who is tied to the Daegu religious sect tested positive for the virus.

Since then, the nation has seen an explosion in infections as it accelerated virus tests on potential cases.

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5 killed in France building fire

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Paris, Feb 27 (IANS) Five people were killed and seven others injured in a building fire in the French city of Strasbourg on Thursday, the local fire service said in a statement.

According to local media, firefighters responded to the incident at 1.16 a.m. after receiving an alert that there was smoke in the seven-storey building, Xinhua news agency reported.

Some 23 people were rescued and the fire was brought under control.

The cause of the blaze was under probe.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner and Mayor Roland Ries of Strasbourg have expressed their condolences to the victims and their families on social media.

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