This week whilst travel bans cause chaos for lorry drivers in Kent, the UK agrees a trade deal with the EU, and a couple in Malaysia hold a 10,000 guest drive-through wedding.
27 EU nations begin mass coronavirus vaccination programme in a ‘moment of unity’. Care home residents and health staff are first to get the jabs.
Cases of a new Covid variant appear worldwide. Several European nations as well as Canada and Japan detect the variant first reported in the UK.
Nations have begun to impose travel bans on the UK after it reported a more-infectious and ‘out of control’ coronavirus variant. France, Germany and Ireland are among those suspending flights. Dozens of travellers who flew in to Germany from the UK were forced to spend the night at the Hanover and Frankfurt/Main airports, after Germany imposed the new restrictions. Health officials and nurses at Hanover airport, some dressed in full PPE protection suits, administered immediate Covid-19 tests.
After over 3000 lorries are stuck in Kent, France agrees to ease the coronavirus travel ban. EU nationals and those transporting goods internationally can return if they have a recent negative test. Soldiers joined the NHS Test and Trace staff in Kent to carry out rapid tests on the thousands of stranded lorry drivers. However the backlog has meant over 1,500 lorries are still waiting to cross the channel, forcing thousands of lorry drivers to spend Christmas in their cabs.
UK and EU agree post-Brexit trade deal. ‘We have taken back control’ Boris Johnson says while EU chief negotiator calls it ‘a day of relief, but tinged by some sadness’.
Three police offers were killed and a fourth wounded by a gunman in central France. Police were investigating domestic violence in a village, and the suspect has now been found dead.
Portuguese officials have expressed outrage at the slaughter of more than 500 deer and wild boar by 16 Spanish hunters in a hunting zone in the centre of the country. Pictures of the massacre were shared on social media.
Central African Republic:
After rebels seized the town of Bambari in the Central African Republic on Tuesday, it has since been retaken by UN peacekeepers and national security forces. The government has accused the former president, Francois Bozize, of joining up with armed groups in an attempt to stage a coup, which he has denied.
Unknown assailants have killed at least 90 people in a village in Ethiopia’s western Benishangul-Gumuz state. Dozens of civilians have been killed in the state in at least four attacks since September.
Boko Haram kill villagers in an attack on Christmas Eve. The Islamist group also burnt down the church in the Christian village in northeast Nigeria.
South African scientists have said they are working with the World Health Organization to investigate a new variant of coronavirus, currently surging in many parts of the country. Local Scientists say that South Africa’s new variant appears to be unrelated to the one found in the UK.
At least 20 migrants drown after a boat sinks off Tunisia. A search continues for survivors after the boat heading to Italy capsized near the city of Sfax.
Israel makes historic direct commercial flight to Morocco. This follows the two countries’ recent agreement to upgrade their diplomatic relationship. It carried a high-level Israeli delegation for further diplomatic talks.
Asia and Oceania
Australian states and territories have begun enforcing entry bans on Sydney residents amid the growing coronavirus outbreak.
An Australian has been saved in a five-day rescue in Antarctica: Australia, China and the US worked together to medically evacuate the expeditioner.
Tokyo Olympic Games sees budget increase: the organisers will spend $900m on coronavirus measures at next year’s event.
Couple holds ’10,000 guest’ drive-through wedding. It took three hours for all guests to exchange a wave and smile with the newly weds.
Mass vaccinations begin in Latin America: Mexico, Chile and Costs Rica become the first countries in Latin America to begin vaccination campaigns.
A Pakistani rights activist has been found dead in Toronto. Karima Baloch, who was living in exile, was named in the BBC’s annual list of 100 inspirational women.
US blacklists a list of Chinese and Russian companies with alleged military ties that restrict them from buying a wide range of US goods and technology. The move is part of a wider push to increase pressure on China before Donald Trump leaves office.
Trump denounces ‘wasteful’ coronavirus aid bill. He asks lawmakers to ‘remove wasteful and unnecessary items’, calling the package ‘a disgrace’. Millions of Americans temporarily lose their unemployment benefits after the deadline for signing passes.
Nashville camper van explodes in ‘intentional act’. Three people were injured in the blast and possible human remains have been found near the site.
An Antarctic research station has reported coronavirus cases, meaning the virus has now reached every continent on the planet.
This week, authorities in Paris have been penalised for hiring too many women, the first coronavirus vaccine has been administered in the US, and more than 300 Nigerian boys return home after being kidnapped from their school last week.
Europe tightens Covid restrictions ahead of Christmas. The Netherlands, Germany, and Italy, among others, will be in lockdown over the festive period after Covid-19 cases spike.
Brexit talks ‘may go on after Christmas’ as an agreement is yet to be finalised with the EU.
Northern Ireland is to get extra £200m in peace funding post-Brexit. It’s on top of £300m announced by the government las year and £105 already pledged by the EU.
Official figures show that Scotland is edging closer to the goal of having 100% of its electricity need generated by renewables.
Paris authorities have been fined for hiring too many women. City mayor Anne Hidalgo mocks the ‘absurd’ penalty for breaking equal employment rules.
One of Epstein's ex-associate is detained over sex case: the modelling agent Jean-Luc Brunel faces accusations of rape and human trafficking, French media say.
The Humboldt Forum in Berlin opens amid debate over looted art. One of the exhibits set for the museum next year will be sculptures looted from Nigeria in 1897.
Hungary bans same-sex couples from adopting. A new law says only married couples can adopt, with some exceptions for single relatives.
Italy overtakes UK for worse coronavirus death toll in Europe. It has recorded 65,857 deaths, according to John Hopkins University in the US. Officials from the national statistics bureau ISTAT said total deaths for the year could top 700,000 - something that the organisation’s head, Gian Carlo Blangiardo, said had not happened since the height of the second World War. Travel between regions has been banned but there are calls for stricter measures.
Prime minister Ambrose Dlamini, 52, dies after contracting coronavirus.
The European Union has postponed nearly €90m in budget support payments to Ethiopia due to concerns over the crisis in the Tigray region. The United Nations, however, has announced a $35m emergency aid package for civilians caught up in the fighting. Nevertheless, it has been reported that two million children are cut off from this aid reach.
Malawi has been named country of the year for ‘reviving democracy in an authoritarian region’ by the Economist newspaper. The newspaper cites the nullification of the 2019 presidential election results that were marred by irregularites. The country held a presidential election re-run in June and President Peter Mutharika was beaten by President Lazarus Chakwera.
The number of civilians forced from their homes by conflict in northern Mozambique has quadrupled this year - to 420,000 - according to the United Nations. It links the crisis in Cabo Delgado province not just to attacks by Islamist militants, but to a perceived failure to distribute vast mineral and off-shore gas revenues to the local population.
Boko Haram has said it was behind the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolboys in Nigeria’s north-western Katsina State, hinting at the group’s continued expansive and deadly reach in recent weeks, the private Daily Nigerian website has reported.
Hundreds of the boys kidnapped from the school have been ‘freed’: the authorities say more than 300 are on their way home but it is unclear if all have been freed.
South Africa has announced new restrictions to try to contain a second wave of coronavirus. President Ramaphosa said nearly 1,000 young people had tested positive for the virus after just one day-long beach party. In response, he said, beaches in several provinces, but not those around Cape Town, would be shut during the holidays. A longer curfew will also come into force, and numbers at social gatherings will be capped.
A missing 5,000-year-old piece of the Great Pyramid puzzle has found in a cigar box in Aberdeen. The discover of small wood fragments was made by a staff member at the University of Aberdeen during a collection review.
Libyan forces free 18 fishermen based in Sicily who have been detained since September.
Asia and Oceania
Byron Bay beach ‘all but gone’ in Australia storms. Heavy rain and huge ocean swells batter popular tourist spots, prompting hundreds of calls for help.
New restrictions have been put in place in Sydney as coronavirus outbreak grows. Curbs on gatherings have been announced as authorities urge people to stay at home.
‘Sticky bomb’ kills Kabul’s deputy governor. Mahboobullsh Mohebi is the latest of several officials, journalists and activities to be targeted.
Heavy snow has been falling across Japan, and several snowfall records have been broken including Fujiwara which saw 176cm of snow in 46 hours. On the expressway connecting Tokto with Niigata, more than 1000 people were forced to spend the night in their cars due to road blockages.
New anti-rape law comes int force in Pakistan. The measure aims to speed up convictions and includes chemical castration for rapists.
The first coronavirus vaccine in America has been given to an ICU nurse in New York City.
US imposes sanctions on Turkey over the acquisition of a Russian-made missile defence system.
Biden’s victory is formalised after electors cast votes. The process formally acknowledges the election win, ending Donald Trump’s hope of overturning the result.
Biden’s Cabinet selection include some firsts: Pete Buttigieg would be the first openly LGBT cabinet member, and Deb Haaland would be the first Native American in a cabinet secretary role, overseeing public lands.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed Russia for what is being described as the worst-ever cyber espionage attack on the US government. The hack, targeting software made by US firm SolarWinds, was found last week.
This week countries across Europe impose harsher lockdowns, four lions test positive for coronavirus, and farmers in India go on strike over new laws.
After Brexit discussions break up without agreement, the original deadline has been extended as the UK and the EU have agreed to keep talking. The three main sticking points are still open, with tentative progress being made:
Trials to combine Oxford and Sputnik vaccines have begun. The aim is to see whether mixing two vaccines could improve protection against coronavirus.
Writer John Le Carré, author of ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ has died age 89 following a short illness.
From Wednesday, Denmark will impose a partial lockdown in the main cities - Copenhagen, Aarhus and Odense - and dozens of other areas. The government says the infection rate is rising exponentially. The country will close eating places, sports and entertainment facilities until 3 January.
The French cabinet has approved a bill aimed at tackling radical Islamists after a series of extremist attacks. The draft laws, part of a long-term drive by President Emmanuel Macron to uphold secular values, tightens rules on home-schooling and hate speech. Some critics, both in France and abroad, have accused his government of using it to target religion.
Germany announces a Christmas lockdown as virus spikes. The authorities have been struggling to control a growing number of infections and deaths.
Greece has extended its lockdown until 7th January: schools, restaurants and sports venues are among places shut. Travel between regions is also generally banned.
Moscow distributes the Sputnik V vaccine to 70 clinics, marking Russia’s first mass coronavirus immunisation. The vaccine has been made available to medical workers, teachers and social workers first, as they run the highest risk of exposure to the disease. However, as Sputnik V is still in the midst of trials to check that it’s safe and actually works, some Russians are wary of receiving it.
Four lions test positive for coronavirus. The animals at Barcelona Zoo are thought to have been in contact with an asymptomatic staff member.
Ethiopia has said its federal forces have freed 1,000 soldiers who were ‘kidnapped’ in the northern state of Tigray by fighters linked to the now-overthrown regional administration. The federal government had two weeks ago said the conflict was over, but the UN has warned of an ‘appalling impact on civilians’.
Nana Akufo Addo was declared winner of the presidential election: he won by a slim margin securing 51.59% of the votes, while opposition leader former President John Mahama secured 47.36%. However, the main opposition party has rejected the result claiming there are irregularities. Local and international election monitors have said that the elections were transparent, free and fair.
Around 30,000 nurses and other healthcare workers in Kenya’s public hospitals have gone on strike. Officials from the nurses and clinic officer’s unions say they will not go back to work until all their demands are met - which include more training, protective gear, and compensation for the families of healthcare workers who’ve died from coronavirus.
Gunmen are believed to be holding schoolchildren hostage in north-western Nigeria. It is not clear how many students were abducted from the all-boys school, and how many ran away during the attack and have not yet been found. Nigerian government troops have since surrounded the gunmen’s hideout in a forest. The attackers are thought to be seeking ransom, an aide to President Muhammadu Bihari has said.
South Africa’s health minister has said the country is experiencing a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The minister said there was spike in infections among teenagers ‘believed to be due to large number of parties involving young people drinking alcohol with no adherence to safety measures.’
EU powers boycott Iran forum over execution. A diplomatic row has blown up over Iran’s execution of pro-opposition journalist Ruhollah Zam. Zam ran a website that Iran accused of inciting violence.
Protestors have blocked roads in Beirut over reports that government subsidies for some basic goods will be cut.
Asia and Oceania
China bans 105 apps including TripAdvisor as the government embarks on an attempt to ‘clean up’ the internet.
A country-wide strike by farmers in India has begun amid a standoff with the government over new farm laws. Taken together, the contentious reforms will loosen rules around the sale, pricing and storage of farm produce - rules that have protected India’s farmers from an unfettered free market for decades. They also allow private buyers to hoard essential commodities for future sales, which only government-authorised agents could do previously. Farmers are mainly concerned that the reforms will eventually lead to the end of wholesale markets and assured prices, leaving them with no backup option.
Parliament’s lower house voted to legalise abortion, but the bill must pass the Senate to become law.
Donald Trump’s Lawyer Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for coronavirus and is in hospital. He has been leading the Trump campaign’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election results.
Elon Musk launches the latest prototype of his ‘Mars spaceship’, SpaceX.
Trump rushes to carry out federal executions in his final weeks as president. The executions put Mr Trump on track to be the most prolific execution president in modern history. This includes the first federal execution of a female inmate in 67 years.
A driver has been charged after crashing into BLM protest: six were injured when the car ploughed into a crowd of 50 protesters on Friday in New York City.
President Maduro’s party have won in Venezuela’s legislative elections, after being boycotted by the main opposition parties.
This week Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU continue, Russia begins vaccinations against Covid- 19, and Rome bans horse drawn carriages from its streets.
A new UK immigration system has launched. Applications have opened for people applying for visas to come and work in the UK from 1 January, when free movement from the EU ends.
Following a deadlock in Brexit negotiations, EU sources say the two sides are nearing an agreement on access to UK waters by EU fishing fleets.
Five people including a baby were killed when a drunk man drove a car into a crowded pedestrian area in an apparently deliberate attack in Trier. The driver was identified by police as a 51-year-old German from the Trier area. He was overpowered and arrested at the scene after officers took his car off the road to prevent further deaths.
Italy fines Apple €10 million over iPhone water-resistance claims. The national competition authority, AGCM, found Apple’s claims did not hold up under real world conditions. Instead, the water resistance claims were valid only with pure water in laboratory conditions.
Rome bans horse-drawn carriages from its streets. The city wants to protect the animals, but some have criticised this saying it doesn’t go far enough.
Four policemen are now under criminal investigation over the beating of black music producer Michel Zecler in Paris. The assault happened at his studio earlier in November and the video surfaced last week. There have since been huge protests across France against Article 24 of a security bill, which aims to regulate how people share film or photos of police. Christopher Castaner, the head of President Emmanuel Macrons’ group of centrist MPs in parliament, said Article 24 ‘will be completely rewritten and a new version will be submitted’.
A rare excavation south of Oslo will provide new details about Viking culture.
Covid vaccinations begin in Moscow; the home-grown Sputnik vaccine is being used.
Aid agencies say that a low cost strawberry-flavoured tablet for children living with HIV will be rolled out in African countries next year. It is to be the first generic paediatric version of a key antiretroviral therapy which will even be available for babies.
Tigray politicians release thousands of federal soldiers. The officials said they had been part of the army’s northern command but were detained when Tigrayan troops attacked a federal military base.
Boko Haram says its fighters killed 78 farmers in Zabarmari area near Maiduguri in north-east Nigeria. There has been growing outrage across Nigeria over the killings, described as the worst in recent months.
A top Iranian nuclear scientist was shot ‘by remote control gun mounted on a car’. Iran accuses Israel of a hand in the death of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Asia and Oceania
Australia bushfire spreads across Fraser Island. The fire is sweeping through the World Heritage site off the east coast, destroying unique forests.
China gets tough on firms over single-use plastics. It is part of a wider push to improve China’s ranking as the world’s biggest producer of plastic waste.
Singapore approves lab-grown ‘chicken’ meat. It is the world’s first country to approve Eat Just’s ‘breakthrough’ chicken nuggets.
An Indian village school teacher wins the Global Teacher Prize and shares the award with the runners-up. Ranjutsinh Disale, from a village school in India, was praised for improving the education of girls.
Bangaldesh ships Rohinggya to remote island. More than a million Rohingya Muslims have fled atrocities in Myanmar for tent cities in Bangladesh. Some are now being taken to a low-slung landmass in the Bay of Bengal.
Trump raises $200m for post-election legal battles.
Venezuela is engulfed in a political crisis with two rival politicians claiming to be the country’s legitimate leader.
Sources for general further reading:
Middle East: https://www.aljazeera.net
Asia and Oceania: https://asianews.network and https://www.news.com.au