“Boldest” North Korean Missile Test, Olympic COVID Spread, Frozen Iguanas
Welcome to Monday, where COVID cases are rising among Beijing Olympics athletes and staff, North Korea conducts its “boldest” missile launch in years and the weather forecast for Florida is chilly with a chance of falling iguanas. Meanwhile, we turn to Iceland, whose “business-as-usual” way of handling the pandemic is proving surprisingly successful.
[*Galician - Spain]
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🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• North Korea missile tests: North Korea carried out its boldest ballistic missile test since 2017. It was confirmed on Monday that the missile the previous day was an intermediate range Hwasong-12, capable of reaching the U.S. territory of Guam. Japan and South Korea both condemned the test as a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
• Ukraine update:Britain says it will enforce new legislation to broaden the scope of sanctions applicable to Russia. The U.S. says it is very close to reaching a deal in Congress to sanction Russia, in the event that Moscow takes action against Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Sunday it wants “mutually respectful” relations with the U.S., and denied posing a threat to Ukraine. The UN Security Council is due to meet in public on Monday, at the request of the U.S., to discuss Russia’s actions at the border with Ukraine.
• COVID update: China has detected 119 cases of COVID-19 in the past four days among athletes and staff linked to the Beijing Winter Olympics. Authorities enforced a “closed loop” bubble in order to keep participants, personnel and media away from the public. In Canada, thousands of protesters against the COVID-19 mandate for truck drivers crossing the U.S.-Canada borders brought the city of Ottawa to a standstill for a second straight day on Sunday, as part of the “Freedom Convoy in Ottawa”. Scientists are on alert over a rise in cases caused by a close cousin of Omicron BA.1, known as BA.2, in parts of Europe and Asia. Some early reports indicate that BA.2 may be even more infectious than the Omicron variant.
• UAE intercepts Yemen’s Houthi missile as Israeli president visits: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) intercepted and destroyed a missile launched by Yemen's Houthi rebels early Monday, as Israeli President Isaac Herzog was visiting the country on his first official visit to the Gulf state.
• Portugal's ruling Socialist Party wins parliamentary election: Portugal’s governing Socialist Party won an unexpected outright party majority in snap elections on Sunday, for the second time in its history, securing a new mandate for the Prime Minister, Antonio Costa.
• Sergio Mattarella re-elected Italian President: Italian President Sergio Mattarella, was elected for a second seven-year term as head of state, after political parties failed to agree on an alternative. Mattarella, who is 80, had said he didn’t want to serve another term.
• “Falling iguanas alert”: The U.S. National Weather Service has warned Florida residents that immobilized iguanas may fall out of trees due to unusual drops in temperatures across the state.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
Spanish sports daily Mundo Deportivo celebrates tennis star Rafael Nadal’s Australian Open victory against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, and his record 21st Grand Slam title. The 35-year-old has moved past Roger Federer and Novak Djovokic, who both claim 20 titles. The tournament also saw the victory of Ashleigh Barty in the women’s singles, who became the first Australian to win her home Grand Slam in 44 years.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Iceland shows a different approach to “living with COVID”
Iceland has been one of Europe’s COVID-19 hot spots the past few months, but citizens’ vaccination status doesn’t affect their access to public spaces. And it seems the strategy is working, reports Dominik Klaus in German daily Die Welt.
🇮🇸🦠 Iceland is one of the countries in Europe where, up until recently, everything seemed to be almost back to normal. The island was the envy of many other European countries, successfully navigating its way through various waves with relatively few restrictions and a low death rate. Its isolated position in the North Atlantic wasn’t the only factor. Experts say the country’s effective contact-tracing system and testing strategy were key. Until Omicron arrived on the scene. The new variant sparked the country’s biggest wave since the start of the pandemic.
❌ Last week, the government responded by tightening restrictions, although these remain mild compared to other European countries. But one thing will not change: anyone can go shopping, catch the bus or go to a restaurant without having to show a COVID pass. In November, the country's Chief Epidemiologist Thorolfur Gudnason explained his objections to COVID passes. He said at the time there was “no basis” for discriminating between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, and that doing so could lead to “other problems” and make people less accepting of coronavirus measures.
💉 Even without putting pressure on unvaccinated people, the vaccination rate in Iceland is very high. Around 78% of the population is vaccinated (compared to 73% in Germany), and among over-12s, it's even higher at 91%. The government believes that the proportion of people who are unvaccinated is low enough to reduce the risks. “We’ve dealt with the whole thing peacefully,” says Government advisor Thor Aspelund. “Because there was such an overwhelming majority in favor of vaccination, we never needed COVID passes.”
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#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
In 2021, Russia’s population declined by 1.04 million, following a drop of 688,700 in 2020 — a record since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the statistics agency Rosstat reports. The demographic crisis the country has been struggling against for several decades was aggravated by the pandemic, with figures showing that more than 660,000 deaths in Russia were related to coronavirus.
"Will we ever see justice? Never, especially not from Boris Johnson."
— Charlie Nash, who saw his 19-year-old cousin William Nash killed by members of the British Parachute Regiment in Derry on January 30, 1972, told AFP, as Northern Ireland commemorated the 50th anniversary of the massacre known as “Bloody Sunday”. British troops opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing 14 and triggering three decades of violence in Northern Ireland. An ex-paratrooper was charged for his part in the killings in 2018, but the charges were eventually dropped in 2021. The families’ victims are still seeking justice.
✍️ Newsletter by Jane Herbelin and Anne-Sophie Goninet
Nadal is “el mejor de la historia” on the Spanish front pages. We’ll check the Serbian papers now. Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!
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