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Coronavirus Live: Updates From Around the Globe



At a political congress, China aims to show it won’t be cowed by protests or the pandemic.

As China’s top leaders began a tightly choreographed legislative pageant on Friday, they made a show of strength to confront defiance in Hong Kong and the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus.

Other key goals of the National People’s Congress in Beijing include pushing back against growing international criticism over China’s early missteps in Wuhan, and outlining plans to ramp up government spending.

Yet President Xi Jinping’s government faces a new outbreak in Jilin, a northeastern province of 27 million people that sits near China’s borders with Russia and North Korea. Jilin has been put under a Wuhan-style lockdown as it has reported an outbreak that is still small — about 130 cases and two deaths — but has the potential to become a “big explosion,” experts say.

“At present, the epidemic has not yet come to an end, while the tasks we face in promoting development are immense,” Premier Li Keqiang told lawmakers at the congress on Friday. “We must redouble our efforts to minimize the losses resulting from the virus.”

The virus — which has resulted in more than five million infections worldwide, according to data compiled by The New York Times — was also presenting logistical challenges for organizers of the congress. Delegates have been made to take nucleic acid tests for the virus before being allowed to travel to Beijing; windows were to be opened to improve ventilation; and most journalists must cover the event by video link.

Every morning before dawn for the past few weeks, Yasser al-Samak, a Bahraini man, has roamed the streets in his village outside Manama, the capital, waking his neighbors for the predawn suhoor meal that observant Muslims eat during the holy month of Ramadan before their daylong fast.

“Stay home with your family, and blend your suhoor with hope, because those who rely on God, he will protect them,” he sings, according to Agence France-Presse. “Make yourself strong with prayer and wear the mask as a shield against the pandemic.”

In villages and cities around the Middle East, some “Ramadan drummers” still keep alive a tradition that in recent years has given way to alarm clocks and smartphone alerts. But under the coronavirus cloud, almost everything else about Ramadan — and the usually joyful holiday that marks its end, Eid al-Fitr, which begins this weekend — has been new, and not in a good way.

As a nod to the holy month, and in part because Covid-19 caseloads seemed to be lightening, several Arab countries slightly relaxed restrictions on gathering and commerce — only to clamp down again as cases suddenly mounted.

The Eid holiday will pose a sharp challenge to the authorities: Instead of taking part in communal prayer, feasts and parties, many people in the Middle East and across the Muslim world will be more confined than they have been in weeks.

Saudi Arabia has announced a 24-hour curfew from Saturday through Wednesday, covering the entire holiday period. Omani authorities have banned all Eid gatherings, saying that residents have still been meeting in groups in defiance of social-distancing orders. Qatar has suspended all but a few business activities during Eid. The United Arab Emirates is shifting its nightly curfew earlier.

Egypt, which never shut down its economy to the extent that other countries in the region did, is also tightening up for Eid. The national curfew will be moved up four hours to 5 p.m.; restaurants, cafes, beaches and parks will be closed.

As for prayers, the religious authorities in Egypt and Saudi Arabia have ruled that they should be performed at home.

The displacement comes weeks after António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, called for a global cease-fire to focus attention on the pandemic and lower the risk for those caught up in conflicts. But instead, hundreds of thousands of people have been pushed from their homes since mid-March, often into overcrowded and unsanitary conditions where the coronavirus can spread more easily.

The highest number of displaced by far was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than 480,000 people fled their homes in recent weeks during clashes between armed groups and the military.

Yemen has also experienced a surge in displacement despite the Saudi-led coalition’s unilateral cease-fire, but it has not suspended airstrikes, and armed operations by other parties to the conflict have continued. At least 24,000 people in Yemen have fled their homes since mid-March.

In Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Syria, Somalia and Myanmar, more than 10,000 people were displaced in each nation in the same period.

The Norwegian Refugee Council, in a statement released with the report, called on world leaders to “rise to the occasion and jointly push parties to cease their fire and unite in protecting all communities from Covid-19.”

As schools in China slowly reopen, teachers have found novel ways to protect students from the coronavirus and enforce social distancing.

In one school, that meant giving the children wings. Photos showing fourth-graders in Taiyuan, in China’s northern Shanxi province, wearing colorful wings on their backs, with the message, “Because I love you, let’s keep one-meter distance.”

The wings were designed and created by students and their parents from recycled materials. One wore wings fashioned from green cardboard and decorated with heart-shaped notes, and another was adorned with fabric feathers.

“We organized this activity as a tribute to the most beautiful people — the angels in white,” Zhao Gailing, the principle of Xinghualing District Foreign Language Primary School, told the Chinese newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily, referring to health care workers. She said it also helped students better understand social distancing as they adapt to their newfound wingspan.

The school has also arranged “breathing classes,” that allow children to take off the mandatory face masks and get fresh air outside the classroom. In late January, as the coronavirus outbreak spread in China, elementary schools were closed, but most reopened in April with strict measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

In a similar move, first graders in an elementary school in Hangzhou are wearing “one-meter hats” with plumes made of cardboard and even balloons to remind each other of social distancing.

Plans for a potential Nordic “travel bubble” that would see the neighboring nations open their borders to travel among their residents has one major sticking point: Sweden.

Allowing Swedish visitors to enter Finland could run the risk of undermining that county’s coronavirus containment measures, Finland’s top infectious disease expert said on Friday, arguing that the high numbers of cases and deaths in Sweden posed a greater threat than others.

But months into the pandemic, it has seen an extraordinary increase in deaths, throwing its strategy into question. With nearly 3,900 deaths as of Friday, Sweden has registered more than three times the number of deaths in Denmark, Norway, and Finland combined.

Mika Salminen, director of health security at Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare, told the Swedish broadcaster SVT that it would be risky to receive Swedish tourists.

“It is a political decision, but the actual difference in the spread of infection is a fact,” said Mr. Salminen, one of the experts leading Finland’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Salminen’s message echoed concerns of Finland’s interior minister, Maria Ohisalo, who has said that a travel bubble encompassing Nordic countries may be difficult to enact because the situation was “more worrying” in Sweden than in the others.

The members of Malaysia’s Parliament, wearing face masks to match their crisp white uniforms, convened this week in the vast lower house chamber for the first time this year.

Malaysia’s king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, sat on an ornate golden throne and spoke for half an hour. No questions were allowed. No votes were taken. Afterward, Parliament was adjourned until July.

Muhyiddin Yassin, the newly appointed prime minister, and his allies have benefited from restrictions intended to slow the spread of the virus, but that have also limited the ability of opponents to organize and challenge them. Mr. Muhyiddin’s government imposed social distancing measures that slowed the virus’s spread but also, conveniently, minimized opportunities for his opponents to mobilize.

He canceled Parliament’s March session because of the pandemic, and limits on public gatherings have prevented the kind of protests seen in the Najib era, when tens of thousands of people took to the streets demanding his resignation.

Mr. Muhyiddin’s office announced that he had entered quarantine at home on Friday after attending a meeting on Wednesday with an official who later tested positive for the coronavirus, but he has so far tested negative for the virus.

None of the others who attended the postcabinet meeting were identified, but all were ordered to go undergo preliminary testing and 14-day quarantines.

“We’re stuck,” said Daniela Vassallo, 52, as she walked the field and steered clear of Giulio, the escaped camel.

A former contortionist-turned-administrator, Ms. Vassallo is a member of a family that has worked in the circus for at least six generations and has owned this particular show for 29 years. The last period has been perhaps the least eventful, as she and her relatives and assorted circus performers have passed the months here hunkered down in trailers next to peppermint-striped tents.

In reality, the Rony Rollers aren’t trapped so much as unwilling to go their separate ways. Like other dynasties in Italy’s vibrant, 60-circus strong big-top culture, the Vassallos own homes and property about an hour south in Latina, a town that is to circus people what Tampa, Fla., is to professional wrestlers.

At the end of Italy’s coronavirus lockdown, one of the camels broke free.

On a narrow field surrounded by low-rise apartments, bus stops and a tangled ribbon of highway ramps, the camel scampered past lions, which leapt against their cage. It distracted the acrobats practicing their flips on an aerial hoop and sauntered toward the languid, pregnant tiger, and stalls of horses and African Watusi bulls.

An animal tamer, wearing a welding helmet as he attended to repairs, quickly chased down the camel.

While the easing of travel restrictions has left circus members free to leave with menagerie and tents since early this month, Ms. Vassallo said that Latina was packed with other circus acts and animals, and that her performers dreaded the solitude of home isolation. She said the troupe had agreed it was preferable to keep renting this land across from a cornfield and pass the lockdown training together.

“Better in the company,” she said was the consensus, “with my people.”

The British government confirmed on Friday that it would quarantine everyone flying into the country, including citizens, to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

On arrival at an airport, travelers will have to provide an address where they will be staying. Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told the broadcaster Sky News on Friday that international travelers would face spot checks by public health officials and fines of 1,000 pounds, or about $1,200, if they failed to self-isolate for 14 days.

Citizens of Ireland would be exempt, Sky reported, but not arrivals from France, as had been previously reported.

Britain’s move comes more than seven weeks after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a stay-at-home order that has since been shifted to “stay alert” and is in line with measures by other countries. The chief executive of the budget airline Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, has described the new plans as “hopelessly defective,” “idiotic” and “unimplementable,” saying that Britain does not even have enough police officers to enforce the lockdown. Airlines UK has said the measure “would effectively kill” international travel to and from Britain.

But Jonathan Ashworth, the opposition Labour Party’s shadow health secretary, told Sky that “many people had asked why we did not do this sooner,” adding, “Not taking all the measures that we should be taking is the idiotic position.”

More than 250,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Britain, with over 36,000 deaths.

Home Secretary Priti Patel was to set out more details about the new measures at a briefing later Friday, but they are not expected to come into effect until next month.

Concerns about coronavirus infections have added new dimensions to an already polarizing global debate over migration.

On Thursday in Guatemala, for example, President Alejandro Giammattei voiced frustration over U.S. deportations of people infected with the virus, saying it was causing “serious problems” for his nation’s health system.

“Guatemala is an ally of the United States, but the United States is not Guatemala’s ally,” Mr. Giammattei said. “They don’t treat us like an ally.”

There have been 119 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among people deported from the United States to Guatemala, The Associated Press reported. Some deportees have became a point of contention in Guatemala, where several community councils last month threatened to burn a government building where migrants were quarantined over concerns that they posed a health risk.

In Hungary, the government on Thursday shut down transit zones along the Serbian border where thousands of migrants have been stuck for a year or more. It freed about 300 refugees from the zones, Reuters reported, while also effectively barring future ones from applying for asylum.

Reuters quoted President Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, as saying that the zones were emptied after an E.U. court ruled that the practice of keeping migrants inside them was unlawful.

And in Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government agreed to scrap a policy that requires staff from overseas in the country’s vaunted National Health Service to pay a surcharge — nearly $500 per year for migrants who aren’t from the European Union — to help fund the system in which they work.

Mr. Johnson had previously resisted calls to exempt the workers, saying on Wednesday that his government “must look at the realities” of funding the N.H.S.

But after public pressure mounted, Britain’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, said on Thursday that the workers would be exempted “as soon as possible.” Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, called it “a victory for common decency.”

Correction: An earlier version of this briefing misidentified Matt Hancock, a British official. He is the health secretary, not the prime minister’s spokesman.

For many, baking serves as a respite from chaos. “One of the ways to interrupt anxiety is to let other senses take over,” the British culinary author and television star Nigella Lawson told The Guardian.

For the Wessex Mill in Oxfordshire, that has meant an unprecedented boom in production. The family-owned mill found itself fielding nearly 600 calls a day in mid-March, and it has ramped up its output fourfold during the crisis.

Emily Munsey, who runs the business with her father, has hired more staff and added shifts to keep the mill running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the first time in its 125-year history.

“It’s been very challenging as a company. The amount of work we’ve all had to do has increased a huge amount,” said Ms. Munsey, who has also had to scramble to source packaging to hold the flour. “Demand remains consistently obscene.”

Of course, the outbreak has also ignited demand for flour in other countries. In France, market research by Nielsen showed that demand doubled in March. In Italy, it reached its highest level since World War II.

As Britain begins to ease restrictions, Ms. Munsey hopes that new customers will continue to use the mill’s flour, find new skills and maybe take up more home baking.

The packages were opened by border officers in Sydney in early May. In the first, about two pounds of methamphetamines were hidden under boxes of face masks and bottles of hand sanitizer. In the second, the drugs were stashed inside sanitizer bottles.

It was no surprise that criminals were taking advantage of the pandemic to smuggle drugs into the country, officials said. “We are continuing to detect and stop illicit substances coming into Australia, no matter how they’re being concealed,” said John Fleming, a Border Force superintendent who oversees mail and cargo.

Two weeks ago, much of Australia kicked off a three-stage reopening plan, in which many schools are reopening and cafes, restaurants and pubs are allowed to seat limited numbers of patrons. Officials said today in New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, that the number will be increased to 50 by June 1.

Travel restrictions in the region will also be lifted on that date, they said earlier this week, for the first time in two months.

The call to prayer rang on a recent afternoon from Jamia Mosque, a landmark in downtown Nairobi with green and silver domes and multiple minarets. There should be worshipers converging there during this sacred month of Ramadan, but the mosque’s doors remained shut, its prayer halls empty since closing in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With no congregation to join, I sat in the car, rolled down the windows and listened to the muezzin’s voice, a mellifluous sound that instantly made me cry.

This is a Ramadan like no other. The pandemic, which in Kenya has infected at least 1,109 people and killed at least 50 others, has given us the gift of loneliness. Isolated under a partial lockdown in Nairobi and a nationwide curfew that stretches from dusk to dawn, millions of Muslims in Kenya and beyond have exchanged sprawling banquets for dining alone and observing the evening taraweeh prayers from home.

I chafe at the imposed restrictions sometimes because, with 21 siblings and 17 nephews and nieces, the iftar meal to break the daily fast has always for me been a bustling family affair. We would start with dates, then gorge on spicy samosas and chicken biryani, pass around my mother’s legendary camel meat, and share cakes and sweet chai.

Many times, particularly when we were young, we would even watch an episode or two of the historical epics or weepy melodramas that are a mainstay of Arab television during Ramadan. But this year, we are getting more than enough drama from real life.

And so we stay physically apart but find unity in the rituals of fasting and feasting. Things might be falling apart, but I have come to find comfort and continuity in the small things: the paneer samosas sent by a friend’s mom, the afternoon runs at a nearby, almost-empty forest, the messages from loved ones checking in from all over the world — and the sound of the azan, the call to prayer, broadcast from the tops of minarets.

President Trump, who has defiantly refused to wear a mask in public despite the recommendations of federal health officials, toured a Ford plant in Michigan on Thursday with his face uncovered. That was against the factory’s guidelines and the direct urging of the state’s attorney general.

During his visit, Mr. Trump continued to press for the further easing of social-distancing restrictions. He blamed Democrats for keeping the economy closed and suggested voters would punish them in the presidential election and view it as “a November question.”

Here’s what else happened on Thursday in the United States:

Reporting contributed by Elian Peltier, Megan Specia, Jason Horowitz, Bella Huang, Vivian Wang, Austin Ramzy, Yonette Joseph, Vivian Yee, Geneva Abdul, Evan Easterling, Isabella Kwai, Abdi Latif Dahir, Javier C. Hernández, Keith Bradsher, Chris Buckley, Mike Ives, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, James Gorman, Cade Metz and Erin Griffith.

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Thursday briefing: 10,000 excess deaths at home since June | World news




Top story: Care home admissions fall

Good morning and welcome to this Thursday briefing with me, Alison Rourke.

Some 10,000 more deaths than normal have happened at homes across the UK in the past three months, which experts say may suggest people have been avoiding hospitals or sending loved ones to care homes. “Deconditioning”, which is caused by decreased physical activity among older people shielding at home, for example not walking around a supermarket or garden centre as they might normally, is also thought to be a factor. David Leon, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, says lower infection figures during the period means much of the excess can be excluded as being related to Covid. “So what we see is probably more to do with decisions that are being taken by families, by individuals, their GPs and also hospitals’ willingness to admit.”

Meanwhile, a new study has shown that fears over contacting GPs during Covid could be fuelling a rise in missed or delayed diagnoses. It comes as government sources warned that take-up of the NHS contact tracing app could be as low as 10%. On Thursday the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, will announce fresh measures to halt job losses and business failures amid government fears that a second wave could lead to a double-dip recession. He will use his statement to MPs to announce an extension of business loan schemes and a package of employment support to replace the government’s furlough scheme, which is due to end next month. A new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research found ethnic minorities are at greater risk of financial hardship during the pandemic, as well as experiencing disproportionate health impacts.

Abroad, and our correspondent in Rome, Angela Giuffrida, writes about how the devastating first wave has led to the widespread adoption of Covid rules in Italy, and an excellent tracking and tracing system has left the country faring better than some of its European neighbours. You can stay up to date on all the global news on our live blog.

Sir Harold Evans dies – The trailblazing newspaper editor, whose 70-year career as a hard-driving investigative journalist, magazine founder, book publisher and author made him one of the most influential media figures of his generation, has died at the age of 92 from congestive heart failure. A former editor of the Sunday Times and the Times, Evans championed causes either overlooked or denied. He and his team uncovered human rights abuses and political scandals, and advocated for clean air policies. One of his most famous investigations exposed the plight of hundreds of British thalidomide children who had never received any compensation for their birth defects.

Sir Harold Evans died in New York onWednesday.

Sir Harold Evans died in New York onWednesday. Photograph: Felix Clay

Xinjiang – China has built nearly 400 internment camps, with construction on dozens continuing over the past two years, even as Beijing claimed their “re-education” system was winding down, an Australian thinktank has found. The information has been made public, including the coordinates for individual camps, in a database that can be accessed online, the Xinjiang Data Project. “Camps are also often co-located with factory complexes, which can suggest the nature of a facility and highlight the direct pipeline between arbitrary detention in Xinjiang and forced labour,” the report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said.

Breonna Taylor killing – Protests erupted in more than a dozen US cities on Wednesday in response to the announcement that three officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor would not be charged over her death. One officer was charged with wanton endangerment for firing shots that went into another home with people inside, but jurors didn’t indict any of the officers on charges directly related to Taylor’s killing. The protests came as Donald Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he wins in November. “We’re going to have to see what happens, you know that. I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.” The reporter pressed the president: “I understand that, but people are rioting. Do you commit to make sure that there’s a peaceful transferral of power?” Still Trump refused to commit: “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.”

Labour – The party has sacked three junior shadow ministers who joined with Jeremy Corbyn and 14 other Socialist Campaign group MPs in breaking the party’s whip by voting against the second reading of a controversial armed forces bill, that aims to introduce a presumption against prosecution for British soldiers serving abroad. Sources close to the party’s leadership said that the three MPs, Nadia Whittome, Beth Winter and Olivia Blake, were warned in advance that they could not remain in their posts as parliamentary private secretaries if they voted against the bill.

DrFrostMaths –A London maths teacher has been shortlisted for a $1m (£780,000) international teaching prize after his tuition website went global during lockdown. Dr Jamie Frost, who is maths lead at Tiffin school, an all-boys grammar in Kingston-upon-Thames, is a top-10 finalist for the 2020 Global Teacher Prize. His website, DrFrostMaths, became a lifeline for pupils – and teachers – during lockdown, offering teaching resources, videos and a vast bank of exam questions free of charge as schools around the world were forced to close and move lessons online.

Today in Focus podcast: Is the UK ready for a Covid second wave?

From hospitals to care homes to community testing, the first wave of Covid-19 infections was met with unprecedented national efforts but also with panic, errors and delays. As infections begin to rise again, is the country better prepared?

a covid sign outside a bar

Is the UK prepared for a second wave? Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA
Today in Focus

Is the UK ready for a Covid second wave?

Lunchtime read: BLM co-founder: ‘I do this because we deserve to live’

Seven years ago Opal Tometi helped to create what is possibly the biggest protest movement in US history. She tells the Guardian’s Ellen Jones what the critics of BLM get wrong, how her family’s story made her an activist and why she is certain the movement will succeed.

Opal Tometi is a human rights activist, writer, strategist, and community organiser, and a co-founder of Black Lives Matter movement.

Opal Tometi is a human rights activist, writer, strategist, and community organiser, and a co-founder of Black Lives Matter movement. Photograph: Bethany Mollenkof/The Guardian


Arsenal won 2-0 at Leicester to set up a Carabao Cup fourth-round tie against Liverpool or Lincoln while there were big wins for Chelsea against Barnsley and Newcastle against Morecambe. Stephen Vaughan has warned Premiership rugby clubs will have to make drastic cuts in a struggle for survival unless the government agrees to a compensation proposal. The EFL is expecting to receive funding from government to help avert immediate catastrophe in English football. West Indies unsuccessfully attempted to inject some fire into their Twenty20 series against England, but ultimately fell short in a 47-run defeat. A Los Angeles Chargers doctor punctured the lung of the team’s starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, while attempting to give him a pain-killing injection. And New Zealand Rugby has voiced its disappointment over date changes for an upcoming match against bitter rivals Australia that means All Blacks players are set to spend Christmas in quarantine.


Ahead of Rishi Sunak’s announcement today on measures to shore up businesses and job losses, we ask what cancelling the budget means for the government, how Whitehall will cope, and what kinds of precedents there are. Larry Elliot also looks at whether Sunak could do worse than follow Germany furlough scheme, called Kurzarbeit (“short work”), where Berlin tops up wages of those put on reduced working hours. Meanwhile, a quarter of British pubs and restaurants fear collapse before Christmas without further government support, according to a wide-ranging survey that warns the pandemic could cost 675,000 jobs in the hospitality sector by February.

The pound is buying €1.09 and $1.27.

The papers

The Guardian front page 24 September 2020.

The Guardian front page 24 September 2020. Photograph: The Guardian

Several papers splash on the chancellor dumping the budget. “Sunak axes budget in scramble for urgent measures to save jobs” is the Guardian’s headline. The Telegraph has “Wage subsidies to replace furlough”. The FT says “Sunak scraps Budget to focus on emergency jobs package” and the Times leads with “Sunak puts billions into new Covid rescue plan”. The Express describes the chancellor’s plan as a “Jobs lifeline to save economy”. The Mail says the bailout will be a “Price we can’t afford to pay”. The Mirror carries a large photo of the PM with the headline: “The blame lies here …”, and the i says “Students get Christmas lockdown warning”.

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Canadian PM Trudeau promises ‘ambitious’ recovery plan




Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to the National Anthem prior to the Speech from the Throne on September 23, 2020, in Ottawa, CanadaImage copyright
AFP via Getty Images

Image caption

The pandemic was the main focus of PM Justin Trudeau’s Throne Speech

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unveiled an “ambitious plan for an unprecedented reality” amid rising Covid-19 cases.

His expansive new legislative agenda includes new investments and initiatives to help the country recover from the pandemic.

It came with a vow to support Canadians “through this crisis as long as it lasts, whatever it takes”.

Opposition parties have criticised the Liberals’ plan.

The Conservatives said it lacked a commitment to fiscal restraint and failed to address the needs of “everyday Canadians”.

The four-pronged approach to the pandemic and the recovery was delivered on Wednesday by Governor General Julie Payette, the Queen’s representative in Canada, in a Speech from the Throne.

Mr Trudeau warned Canadians in a televised address following the speech that a second wave of the pandemic was “already under way”.

“We’re on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring,” he said.

What are some of the promises?

The Liberal federal government said it would work with Canadian provinces to improve testing capacity.

There were also vows to assist in the economic recovery, including a plan to create more than a million jobs, a commitment to extend wage subsidies until next summer, and support for industries hardest hit by Covid-19, like the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors.

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Media captionCanada Throne Speech: “This is our generation’s crossroads”

There was a promise to make a significant, long-term investment in childcare, which is seen by some economists as key to helping women fully return to the workforce.

Long-term care homes were especially hard hit early in the pandemic in Canada, highlighting issues of inadequate care within the system. The speech included commitments to bring in national standards of care and tougher penalties for cases of neglect.

Image copyright
Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Image caption

There have been growing wait times for testing in the province of Ontario

Climate initiatives were billed as the “cornerstone” of the recovery efforts, including the creation of green jobs.

Canada’s chief public health officer said this week the country was at a “crossroads” because of the accelerating national count of Covid-19 cases.

In the last week, an average of about 1,100 cases were reported daily, compared to 380 cases reported each day in mid-August.

There have been over 146,000 cases in Canada and over 9,200 deaths.

What was the reaction?

While the speech made no specific spending commitments – those will come later – it said this was “not the time for austerity”.

Opposition Conservatives quickly panned the speech for failing to include more support for small businesses and measures to control government spending, and to address issues of national unity.

Image copyright
Toronto Star via Getty Images

Image caption

The pandemic has increased calls for reliable and affordable childcare

Earlier this year, Canada projected its largest budget deficit since World War Two – C$343bn, with more than C$212bn in direct Covid-19 support.

“We support Canadians but there has to be some fiscal stability,” said Conservative MP Candice Bergen.

The Bloc Quebecois said the plan did not respect provincial jurisdiction over healthcare and did not address the request from provinces for increased healthcare transfers.

Mr Trudeau’s Liberals formed a minority government last autumn, when they won more seats than any other party at a general election but failed to secure an overall majority in parliament.

The speech will prompt a confidence vote in the House of Commons – a key test of whether a sitting government has the “confidence” of the majority.

The Liberals will need the support of at least one other federal political party to avoid possibly triggering a snap election. That vote could happen as early as next week.

New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh said on Wednesday his party had yet to decide whether it will support the government.

The NDP will push for more support for Canadian workers who lost work due to the pandemic and for paid sick leave, he said.

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Saudi King’s Rare Address to UN Showcases Monarch in Charge | World News




By AYA BATRAWY, Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s King Salman made a rare address to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, using the moment to highlight the foundational notions of his regime — his steadfast commitment to the Palestinians, his stature as custodian of Islam’s holiest sites and his assertion that Iran is responsible for much of the region’s instability.

The prerecorded speech to world leaders suggested that the 84-year-old king, who delivers only a handful of public remarks each year, retains oversight of high-level policies despite the immense powers amassed by his son, the crown prince.

In delivering his remarks, he became only the second Saudi king to deliver a speech to the world assembly. The first was his late brother, King Saud, in 1957 at U.N. headquarters in New York. And like his brother’s speech 63 years prior, King Salman noted the sacred role of Islam in Saudi Arabia and the importance that entails.

“We in the kingdom, due to our position in the Muslim world, bear a special and historic responsibility to protect our tolerant Islamic faith from attempts by terrorist organizations and extremist groups to pervert it,” Salman said.

He emphasized at the top of his speech that he was speaking from “the birthplace of Islam, the home of its revelation” — a reference to the Muslim belief that the word of God was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad some 1,400 years ago in the mountainous caves of Mecca.

Those words carry political undertones as well. Saudi rivals Turkey and Iran also profess to champion Muslim causes worldwide as part of a broader struggle for leadership of Muslims globally.

The king oversees a nation that is the Arab world’s biggest economy and the planet’s most prolific oil producer. Saudi Arabia has long been a close U.S. ally in the region and a strategic partner, though some in American politics worry where the relationship will go in coming years given the unpredictability of the brash Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Reading from a piece of paper and seated at a desk under a large portrait of his father, King Abdulaziz, the current monarch reiterated his support for Palestinian statehood as a prerequisite for recognition of Israel.

He said the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel full ties with Arab states in exchange for concessions that lead to a Palestinian state, provides a basis for resolving the region’s longest-running conflict. That 2002 initiative stands in stark contrast to the White House’s Middle East Peace plan, which has been rejected outright by the Palestinians as one-sided in favor of Israel.

The king made no mention of recent deals struck by neighboring United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to formalize ties with Israel. The agreements were brokered by the Trump administration and branded by the Palestinians as acts of betrayal.

Despite the appearance Wednesday that Salman was in control of major policies, there are indications that change is already underway with Israel under the guidance of the crown prince. The divergent messages on the possibility of Saudi ties with Israel reflect what analysts call a generational divide between the world views of the prince and the king.

Salman hails from an era of leadership that holds with high regard the ideals of pan-Arab and pan-Islamic multilateralism. He was born just four years after his father founded the country by unifying tribes and establishing control over the western Hijaz region, where Mecca is located. He also witnessed the country’s oil-fueled transformation, and as the governor of Riyadh helped to turn the desert capital into a city teeming with skyscrapers, highways, universities and malls. His reign marks the final chapter of power being passed from brother to brother from among the sons of King Abdelaziz as a new generation prepares for the throne.

The crown prince, on the other hand, reflects a cohort of younger Gulf Arab rulers whose policies prioritize national interests and greater self-reliance. He’s pushed for localizing the production of defense equipment, transforming the economy to be less dependent on oil exports and overseen efforts to supplant a religiously conservative Saudi identity with one rooted in hyper-nationalism.

King Salman has backed his son by elevating him from near obscurity and handing him day-to-day decision making powers. He’s stood by him amid the protracted Yemen war, international fallout from the killing of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 and as Prince Mohammed moved to crackdown on dissidents, businessmen and sideline more experienced and senior royals in the line of succession.

It’s unclear how much the king knows about controversies, such as the November 2017 debacle with then-Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whom top Lebanese officials at the time said had been forced to resign and was being held in Saudi Arabia against his will before France’s president personally intervened.

What was clear as Salman spoke Wednesday, though, was that his nation’s views on nearby Iran remained unwavering. He blamed Iran for targeting Saudi oil facilities with missiles and drones last year, saying: “It demonstrated that this regime has total disregard for the stability of the global economy or stability of oil supplies to international markets.”

Yemeni rebel Houthis claimed responsibility for that attack and Iran has denied involvement. A U.N. probe concluded the missiles were of Iranian origin. The king said Iran interfered in Yemen by backing the Houthis when they ousted the internationally-backed government from the capital in late 2014, prompting the Saudi-led war there.

Salman said Saudi Arabia has tried to extend its hand over the years to Iran, “but to no avail.”

For observers of the kingdom with no access to the inner workings of the royal court, the U.N. speech was Salman’s first public statement before cameras since he was discharged from the hospital for gall bladder surgery in late July.

Follow Dubai-based Associated Press journalist Aya Batrawy on Twitter at

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