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Hollande Seeking to Extend France’s State of Emergency



Echoing security concerns as terror threats resurfaced, French President Francois Hollande is seeking lawmakers’ approval to extend the state of emergency for another three months.

Hollande has announced a bill to prolong the state of emergency would be presented during a cabinet meeting scheduled for Feb. 3, hoping to win large endorsement of his draft law “on protection of the nation,” Xinhua news agency reported.

On November 19, the National Assembly voted for the government’s proposal to extend state of emergency to three months which is expected to expire on February 26.

To his followers, prolonging state of emergency was the adequate measure to ensure security at home and foil any potential terrorist attack in the country which is among the top targets of militant cells due to its military offensive in Syria, Iraq and Sahel region.

“I think prolonging state of emergency is a good idea and it’s useful right now, because it contributes to our security. We need to constantly be vigilant against everyday threats,” French Defene Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France 24.

Gunmen stormed simultaneously restaurants, coffees shops, theatre hall and stadium in Paris on November 13, 2015, killing 130 people. Hollande declared a state of emergency a day later.

Speaking to the BBC from Davos, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: “We cannot always live all the time in a state of emergency. But as long as the threat is there, we must use all available means.”

By intensifying air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq, Hollande announced a war against terrorism and boosted security measures at home, Xinhua said.

According to a YouGov survey for iTele new channel published earlier this month, 77 percent of respondents reported they are in favor of the state of emergency which empowers the police to conduct house searches without judicial warrants and arrest suspects.

Since November 2015, the police have conducted more than 3,800 raids seizing 500 weapons. Some 300 people were placed into custody, according to official figures.

However, the proposed constitution reform to make it easier to impose a state of emergency also gives fuel to Hollande’s domestic critics who say the law would undermine the Republic values and freedom of expression and gathering.

Pierre Laurent, head of French Communist Party, said: “This measure is useless in fight against terrorism and dangerous for the future of the Republic.”

In a statement posted on its website on Friday, the French Human Rights League expressed its objection to the government’s law, which it said was “the path of arbitrariness and violation of fundamental rights”.

According to a group of UN experts on human rights, the state of emergency measures “do not seem to adjust to the fundamental principles of necessity and proportionality”.

They noted a “lack of clarity and precision of several provisions of the state of emergency and surveillance laws,” adding they “impose excessive and disproportionate restrictions on fundamental freedoms”.

A nationwide protest against the government’s constitution reform is scheduled for January 30.




Japan’s Abe lifts state of emergency




Tokyo, May 25 (IANS) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday lifted the countrys nationwide state of emergency, ending restrictions in the remaining areas where the order was still in effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had very stringent criteria for lifting the state of emergency. We have judged that we have met this criteria,” the BBC quoted Abe as saying said in a televised address to the nation on Monday.

He said the country had managed to control the spread of COVID-19 since issuing the order in some areas on April 7, then later extending it nationwide.

Japan has been easing restrictions since mid-May, but kept several areas, Tokyo included, under watch to ensure the outbreak had been contained.

Unlike other major economies, Japan has endured a relatively limited outbreak of OVID-19, recording 820 coronavirus-related deaths and 16,550 infections as of Monday.

Initially, Japan was criticised for its handling of the pandemic, prompting the prime minister to declare a state of emergency in metropolitan areas on April 7, later expanding it nationwide.

Monday’s decision came after the number of infections and the situation of the health system in Tokyo, the three neighbouring prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama and the northern Hokkaido, the only ones where the state of emergency remained in effect, reports Efe news.

The group of experts advising the government appreciated the efforts made by citizens to comply with the recommendations to achieve the target of reducing interpersonal contact by 80 per cent, top government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference on Monday.

The recommendation for citizens to avoid unnecessary trips outside and the request for non-essential businesses to close were not mandatory nor accompanied by fines or other penalties for non-compliance, unlike the stricter containment measures implemented in other countries.

The government had already decided to lift the emergency in 39 prefectures on May 14 after they reported a marked decrease in the number of infections, leaving out the more populated regions such as Tokyo and Osaka.

To avoid new outbreaks of the virus, Abe has urged people to become accustomed to a “new lifestyle” that includes maintaining social distancing, the use of masks outside as well as a series of guidelines for the reopening of shops, restaurants and public facilities.

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UK PM aide’s row overshadows plans to ease lockdown




Boris Johnson

London, May 25 (IANS) Pressure was mounting on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to act over his senior aide Dominic Cummings’ lockdown trip, as the cabinet is slated to met on Monday to discuss plans to ease the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Cummingss, the former Vote Leave chief who was the architect of Johnson’s Brexit strategy, is facing calls to resign after it emerged that he travelled from London to his parents’ home in Durham with coronavirus symptoms during the lockdown, reports the BBC.

Speaking at Sunday’s Downing Street briefing, Johnson said he believed Cummings had “no alternative” but to make the journey at the end of March for childcare “when both he and his wife were about to be incapacitated by coronavirus”.

The Prime Minister said he held “extensive” discussions on Sunday with Mr Cummings, who he said “followed the instincts of every father and every parent – and I do not mark him down for that”.

However, the BBC report said that the Prime Minister was finding it difficult to shift the political focus away from his key adviser.

Speaking to the BBC, Acting Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said that the row over Cummings was “preventing the government from getting on and doing its job, and doing it better”.

He said that Johnson should sack Cummings “so the government has more credibility in what it says about public health”.

“The instruction the Prime Minister gave us all to stay at home has been breached by his top adviser and that’s what you can’t get away from in this story, its pretty simple.

“I hope the prime minister will come to his senses, recapture his judgement and reinstall authority on this crisis by acting,” he told the BBC.

Meanwhile, some of the scientists that advise ministers were also concerned that Johnson’s decision to back Cummings would undermine the message on controlling the virus.

Stephen Reicher, a professor of social psychology who has advised the government on behavioural science during the pandemic, told the BBC that trust was vital to maintaining public health measures, adding: “You can’t have trust if people have a sense of them and us, that there’s one rule for them and another rule for us.”

Also responding to the row, Bishop of Leeds, the Right Reverend Nick Baines, said Johnson was treating people “as mugs” and the Bishop of Bristol, the Right Reverend Vivienne Faull, accused the Prime ,inister of having “no respect for people”.

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Seoul kindergarten student tests COVID-19 positive




covid-19 test

Seoul, May 25 (IANS) A kindergarten student in Seoul has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the South Korean capital city’s education office said on Monday.

The development comes just two days ahead of the planned second-phase resumption of South Korean schools, including kindergartens, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The six-year-old student is believed to have contracted the virus from his art teacher at Young Rembrandts, a private art school in Magok .

The teacher, who tested positive on Sunday, had taught 35 students at the institute until Friday and had contact with three other staff members.

The teachers all wore masks and followed the institute’s quarantine guidelines and social distancing rules, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.

The art school’s 91 students, three teachers and two parents have been tested for the virus and are awaiting their results, which will come out on Tuesday.

The teacher’s 38 contacts have been ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days, and 13 educational institutes in the same building as the art school will be closed for disinfection.

The boy’s kindergarten, 10 nearby kindergartens and five nearby elementary schools will remain closed for two days for disinfection and other precautionary measures, said the Yonhap News Agency report.

Under the government’s phased school reopening plan, schools are scheduled to resume in-person classes for the two lowest grades of elementary school, kindergarten students, middle school seniors and second-year high school students on Wednesday.

High school seniors returned to school last week after more than two months of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has so far infected 11,206 South Koreans and killed 267 others.

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