Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced yesterday he has tested positive for COVID-19. The President, who is 67 years old, said on Twitter that his symptoms were mild and he is not worried. Mr López Obrador says he will continue working from home, including speaking to President Vladimir Putin about a Russian-made vaccine.
In the United States, President Joe Biden reversed a Trump administration policy that banned transgender individuals from being in the United States military.
"This is reinstating a position that the previous commanders, as well as the secretaries, have supported, and what I am doing is enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform, and essentially restoring the situations existed before, with transgender personal if qualified in every other way, can serve their government in the United States Military."
Former President Donald Trump first ordered the ban in 2017.The ban was challenged in court as discrimination, but eventually was put in place. A 2016 US Defense Department study showed that allowing transgender people to serve would have no real impact on the effectiveness of the military.
In the UK, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday that the new variant of the coronavirus is spreading 30-70% faster than the original.
"There is no question that the new variants have made this fight a whole lot tougher. And the new variant that was first discovered in Kent, which comprises now a significant number of our cases, it is spreading 30 to 70 percent more easily than the existing variants. There is a realistic possibility that this variant may be associated with increased mortality compared to the old variant as well as increased transmission. It reinforces the critical message that we must be cautious, for all of us our response must be extra careful."
Scientists in the pharmaceutical company Moderna has said their COVID vaccine works against variants found in the UK and South Africa. But like other scientists, the company plans to redesign the vaccine, to be more affective for the newer variants. The UK has already approved the use of Moderna's vaccine, but the 17 million pre-ordered doses will only arrive in the Spring.
In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte has condemned the riots that took place this weekend as “criminal violence’. Rioters attacked police and set cars and bikes on fire to protest against a curfew introduced on Saturday. Protesters also threw fireworks, stole from supermarkets and smashed shop windows. More than 200 people have been arrested. The police announced yesterday that people were arrested for criminal violence, not for protesting.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin yesterday called the protests in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny as "illegal and dangerous.” In Moscow, riot police were seen beating and dragging away protestors. The foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are demanding "stronger measures against Russian officials responsible for arrests”. Poland's President has urged the EU to step up sanctions on Russia following the arrest of Mr Navalny.
In Sri Lanka, the United Nations has urged the government to stop forced cremations of coronavirus victims. The burning of dead bodies is a practice that goes against the beliefs of the Sri Lanka’s Muslim and minority population. Sri Lanka made cremation mandatory in March last year for people who died from coronavirus. The UN’s human rights experts said yesterday that there has been no medical or scientific evidence that burial of dead bodies led to increased risk of spreading diseases such as COVID-19.
In China, the bodies of nine workers killed in explosions at a gold mine were found yesterday. This has raised the death toll from the accident earlier this month to 10. The 22 workers in the mine were trapped after an explosion on January 10th. Eleven were pulled out alive on Sunday.
In Egypt, rights groups have called for the immediate release of an Egyptian cartoonist. The artist wrote on Facebook he was being arrested after posting a video tribute to Egypt’s 2011 uprising, which overthrew a longtime ruler. Yesterday, two security sources confirmed he had been detained. The artist has be charged with misusing social media sites and spreading false news. More than 100 journalists have been arrested or falsely imprisonment since January 2014.
In Zimbabwe, a spokesman for the government who called doctors in the Zimbabwe "medical assassins" has apologised. Nick Mangwana said that four ministers who died in recent months of coronavirus had in fact been killed. Zimbabwe's medical association were angered by his comments and insisted their staff were working hard, with few resources and little pay, to fight the pandemic.
And finally, IKEA has purchased 11,000 acres of forest in Georgia that would have been destroyed by development. This is part of the company’s strategy to reduce more carbon than it creates.
And that’s your world news in 7 minutes! You can read the transcript of today's episode, or listen to past episodes at send7.org. I’m Namitha Ragunath, and tomorrow you will be with Stephen devincenzi. Have a great day!